A set of classroom activities and study materials for H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine
- Literary Devices: Frame Story in The Time Machine
- The Time Machine and the Theory of Evolution
- Evolution vs. Progress in The Time Machine
- Themes & Thematic Analysis
- Fiction as Argument
- Picturing the Future?
- Discussion Questions
- Multiple Choice Quiz
Literary Devices: Frame Story in The Time Machine (2 pgs)
Offers a definition of frame story as a literary device and invites students to think about how the frame story is used in at least two ways in The Time Machine – (1) as a way to develop the thematic tension between belief and disbelief and (2) as a way to encourage the reader to suspend disbelief.
This activity then asks students to pull quotes from the novel that support this view of the frame story and connect it to the thematic idea of credulity as it’s presented in The Time Machine.
The Time Machine and the Theory of Evolution (1 pg)
Evolution is a fundamental idea in Wells’ novel, but it is presented in ways that challenge popular misunderstandings of Darwin’s theory. Instead of associating evolution strictly with the idea of “progress,” Wells uses The Time Machine to show that natural selection can weaken as species just as quickly as it might strengthen a species. Evolution, for Wells, becomes a central logic behind his social argument about what happens when social class divisions become entrenched.
This activity briefly explains these ideas and has students focus on the evolution of the Eloi into elfin creatures too delicate to defend themselves, looking specifically at how the adaptations of this species might reflect progression and regression at the same time.
(The instructional text for this activity has also been published in a slightly more elaborate version on Medium.)
Evolution vs. Progress in The Time Machine (1 pg)
This activity asks students to further explore the disconnect between evolution and progress by analyzing the relationship between evolution and class division as portrayed in the novel.
Themes & Thematic Analysis (2 pgs)
Offers an overview of two central themes in the text to help students identify some of the big ideas Wells puts forward. Also offers a brief list of additional themes in the text.
A thematic analysis activity asks students to review the novel and identify three episodes in the text that can be connected to one theme. This is a nice way to prepare students for an essay on the text.
Fiction as Argument (1 pg)
This activity engages directly with the idea that fiction is not only entertainment but sometimes is used as the vehicle for argument. A brief set of examples prepares students to assess the argument Wells makes in The Time Machine about the merits and/or costs of social class division and labor conditions for the working class in turn-of-the-century England.
Picturing the Future? (1 pg)
This activity can be used as a pre-reading activity or as a fun discussion starter. It asks students to list a few things they would expect to see in the distant future and the distant past then compare their lists to what they find in Wells vision of the future. Thinking about how The Time Machine’s dystopian future more closely resembles human history instead of human future can help students to understand the ways in which the novel depicts a regressive future for mankind.
Discussion Questions (1 pg)
Six discussion questions that guide students in analyzing important elements of the text, invite complex critical thinking, and prepare students to engage in sophisticated analysis of the text.
Multiple Choice Quiz (2 pgs plus answer key)
A 15 question multiple choice quiz. This activity can be used as a reading-check assessment or as tool for class discussion. Quizzes are always a great way to clarify plot and thematic ideas.
Interested in just getting the quiz? A stand-alone quiz is available too.
This packet is designed primarily for the early college classroom but many high school teachers will find these resources appropriate for their students.
As with so many instructor resources, these activities are designed as plug-and-play, ready to be printed and given to your students. But also there is quite a bit of potential additional value here as the source of new ideas. You can use these resources as-is AND use them to generate new ideas of your own for how to teach The Time Machine.
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