Center for Education in Law and Democracy

U.S. History Activities: Interactive Learning Strategies and Enrichment Projects
by John Zola and Ron Schukar (Paperback - Apr 3, 2010) from

In this interdisciplinary lesson, students use the story of the Frankenstein monster to consider analogies between Dr. Frankenstein attempting to form a living being from inanimate matter and the framers of the Constitution and their efforts to create a strong national government that won't overpower state governments. The lesson can be used as a culminating lesson in which students review what they have learned about the debates that occurred at the Constitutional Convention in 1787.


At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to:
• develop several analogies between the being created by Dr. Frankenstein and the Constitution created by the Framers, using historical content from history and government texts;
• develop an essay in which their analogies are conveyed;
• illustrate these analogies in a way that suggests research, creativity, and bold experimentation.


• Handouts:
It's Alive!; How Much Power is Enough?; Essay Directions; Sample Student Illustrations, and Scoring Rubric.

• Online resource: Federalist Papers (#1, #2, and #51).
• Art supplies-- posting paper, markers, colored pencils, rulers, etc.
• government texts; copies of Constitution.
• copy of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein (Frankenstein movie poster or comic book, if possible).

Approximately 4-5 class periods with homework.


1. Begin by asking students what they know about the Frankenstein story. Ask students to consider the themes presented in the story and descriptive characteristics about the main characters. Write their ideas on the board. Then read the excerpt from the novel Frankenstein (Handout, "It's Alive!")by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley published in 1818. Ask students to add to their list, based upon the excerpt. In general, make sure students have a basic understanding of the Frankenstein story before you continue with this lesson.
2. Next, ask students to reexamine their list as they consider the question, "What do Dr. Frankenstein and the framers of the Constitution have in common?" (Possibilities: experimentation, power, borrowed resources as "parts," something for the future, etc.)
3. Introduce the term, analogy (correspondence in some respects between things that are otherwise dissimilar). Again using their list, encourage students to make analogies between the story of Frankenstein and the framers. Select several students to share their ideas to make sure they can make several analogies using what they know about the story of Frankenstein and the Constitutional Convention.
4. As a homework assignment, students should complete questions 1-3 on the handout, How Much Power is Enough? Tell students to begin to think about ideas for question #4 and to begin sketching out preliminary ideas.
5. On the next day, distribute art supplies for student pairs to begin their illustrations. Explain to student pairs that they should discuss their list of powers with their partners. Allow class time for students to begin to sketch their ideas. Allow students to view samples of students' illustrations.

6. Assign accompanying writing assignment. Students should now begin to "block out" their ideas. Help students to develop topic sentences for their introductions and suggest ways in which students can order their analogies (by importance, by chronology, etc.). As a homework assignment, students should develop a topic sentence to introduce their essays.
7. Ask students to read the scoring rubric. Explain that 3 of the 5 criteria of the rubric pertain to the writing (individual) assignment and 2 pertain to the illustration component of this assignment. To make sure students understand the levels of performance, make up some hypothetical examples and ask students to consider how they might rate the essay or illustration given what you have told them.
8. On the turn in day, review the rubric again. Help students to "double check" for finishing touches to their illustrations. Also ask them to share their essays with the partners who worked on the illustration. Are the analogies that students developed in their essays similar? Do their essays "match" their illustrations?
9. Post illustrations throughout the classroom. Allow time for students to view one another's work and to respond to questions from other classmates. Determine which analogies were cited most frequently in student essays by creating a full class list. Why were some cited more frequently than others? Which analogies convey important historical content? Is the content accurate? Which analogies did students find most difficult to convey? Finally, ask students for feedback on the entire lesson-- was it easy, difficult, interesting, important, fun?