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Teaching Guide

Teaching A Clockwork Orange

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In this guide you will find

  • resources to help you navigate the violence and other tough stuff this book presents (which is especially important when answering parents' questions or complaints about the reading material).
  • quizzes and study questions to help your students keep up with the reading.
  • lesson plans that explore specific themes and symbols in the book (hello, darkness and nighttime imagery).

And plenty more, of course. So pour yourself a glass of milk and get ready to bring this iconic dystopian novella into the 21st-century classroom.

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Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 13-18 Common Core-aligned activities to complete in class with your students, including detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes for every chapter, act, or part of the text.
  • Resources to help make the book feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop’s teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the text and how you can overcome the hurdles.

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Instructions for You

Objective: The sound that goes bump in the night, the silhouette lurking in the shadows, the dark, dank basement. Whether we want to admit it or not, there is something foreboding about darkness… that's why Abe Donsky invented night lights.

Literature and film are both well known for using dark and light imagery to set the mood of a scene. Burgess takes this to another level in A Clockwork Orange. The night and day are as different as, well, night and day. They are two different worlds that Alex comments on throughout the novel. For Alex, the night is safer than the day… that's different. This effective use of imagery by Burgess raises questions about human nature and how we react to the dark/light, day/night. What makes an early bird different from a night owl? (Why are birds used in so many analogies?)

In this lesson, students will analyze the characters and events in A Clockwork Orange in terms of light/dark imagery. They'll investigate how this imagery relates to and reveals Burgess's themes, and they'll give a formal presentation of their findings at the end of the lesson. Not like suit and tie formal, you know, just a bit more structured than a quick share/discuss.

You can expect to spend between two and four hours of class time on this assignment.

Materials Needed:

  • Computer with Internet for research
  • Word processing software
  • Some sort of projection or presentation unit

Step 1: Who's afraid of the dark? Facilitate a brief discussion regarding the day/night, dark/light imagery in the novel, just to warm students up. This is like the easy stretching before the real work-out begins.

  • What does day/light represent in the novel? What kinds of people are most comfortable in the light? Who has power in the light?
  • What does night/darkness represent in the novel? What kinds of people are most comfortable in the dark? Who has power in the dark?
  • Where are examples of Alex's affinity for night/darkness? Why does he prefer dark over light?
  • What do the representations of day/night tell us about the society of the novel?
  • How does light/dark imagery relate to and reveal some of Burgess's other themes, such as violence, morality, power, and good vs. evil?

You can also refer them to Shmoop's analysis section of A Clockwork Orange, most notably Night and Darkness & Day and Lightness.

Step 2: Now it's time for the heavy lifting:

Students will select four passages from A Clockwork Orange that are between ten and fifteen lines in length. Two passages should illustrate dark/night imagery, and two passages should illustrate light/day imagery. Then students will write a one to two-paragraph analysis of each passage.

Because Shmoop loves specifics, here's exactly what your students should include in each analysis:

  • Identify the specific language Burgess uses to convey darkness/light in this passage.
  • Identify the key details/purpose for this passage. What is Burgess's point?
  •  Explain the actions of the main characters in the passage. Connect the character's action to the time of day that it occurs. What does this say about the character and his/her place in society?
  • Compare the events in the passage to your own experiences or real-life events (feel free to do some research if you need to). Keep the context in mind (dark/light, day/night).

Step 3: Time to show off those muscles:

Once students have completed their analysis, they will present two of their passages. These presentations should be a bit more formal; the purpose here is for students to educate one another about the light/dark imagery they discovered. Students will hopefully have chosen a wide variety of passages and they will each have slightly different interpretations, so there are lots of opportunities here to discuss, ask questions, and hold students accountable for supporting claims with text evidence.

Feel free to structure these presentations any way you like, but we recommend that students:

  • Refer to a projection of the passage with their annotations. (This is a great time to discuss annotations if you haven't already.)
  • Dictate a summary of their analysis. (And this is a great time to discuss the difference between summary and analysis. Sometimes students rephrase a text and call that an analysis; emphasize that true analysis means taking the text apart to understand how it works, not simply rephrasing what it says.)
  • Answer any questions at the end of their presentation. (Here is where you'll want to make sure students support their answers and opinions with text evidence.)

Instructions for Your Students

The sound that goes bump in the night, the silhouette lurking in the shadows, the dark, dank basement. Whether we want to admit it or not, there is something foreboding about darkness… that's why Abe Donsky invented night lights.

Literature and film are both well known for using dark and light imagery to set the mood of a scene. Burgess takes this to another level in A Clockwork Orange. The night and day are as different as, well, night and day. They are two different worlds that Alex comments on throughout the novel. For Alex, the night is safer than the day… that's different. This effective use of imagery by Burgess raises questions about human nature and how we react to the dark/light, day/night. What makes an early bird different from a night owl? (Why are birds used in so many analogies?)

Also, think about this: Out of all the stupid things you've done, have you done more during the day or more at night?

In this lesson, you will analyze the characters and events in A Clockwork Orange in terms of light/dark imagery. You'll investigate how this imagery relates to and reveals Burgess's themes, and you'll give a formal presentation of your findings at the end of the lesson. Not like suit and tie formal, you know, just a bit more structured than a quick share/discuss.

Step 1: Who's afraid of the dark? Let's start with a brief discussion regarding the day/night, dark/light imagery in the novel, just to get warmed up. This is like the easy stretching before the real work-out begins.

  • What does day/light represent in the novel? What kinds of people are most comfortable in the light? Who has power in the light?
  • What does night/darkness represent in the novel? What kinds of people are most comfortable in the dark? Who has power in the dark?
  • Where are examples of Alex's affinity for night/darkness? Why does he prefer dark over light?
  • What do the representations of day/night tell us about the society of the novel?
  • How does light/dark imagery relate to and reveal some of Burgess's other themes, such as violence, morality, power, and good vs. evil?

You can also refer to Shmoop's analysis section of A Clockwork Orange, most notably Night and Darkness & Day and Lightness.

Step 2: Now it's time for the heavy lifting:

You will select four passages from A Clockwork Orange that are between ten and fifteen lines in length. Two passages should illustrate dark/night imagery, and two passages should illustrate light/day imagery. Then you will write a one to two-paragraph analysis of each passage.

Because Shmoop loves specifics, here's exactly what you should include in each analysis:

  • Identify the specific language Burgess uses to convey darkness/light in this passage.
  • Identify the key details/purpose for this passage. What is Burgess's point?
  • Explain the actions of the main characters in the passage. Connect the character's action to the time of day that it occurs. What does this say about the character and his/her place in society?
  • Compare the events in the passage to your own experiences or real-life events (feel free to do some research if you need to). Keep the context in mind (dark/light, day/night).

Step 3: Time to show off those muscles:

Once you have completed your analysis, you will present two of your passages to the class. These presentations should be a bit more formal; the purpose here is for you to educate one another about the light/dark imagery you discovered.

During your presentations, you should:

  • Refer to a projection of the passage with your annotations (in other words, your notes on the text and the use of imagery).
  • Dictate a summary of your analysis. (Remember that true analysis means taking the text apart to understand how it works, not simply rephrasing what it says.)
  • Answer any questions at the end of your presentation. (Be sure to support your answers and opinions with text evidence.)

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Common Core Standards  

The following standards are covered in this course:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.10

WANT MORE HELP TEACHING A CLOCKWORK ORANGE?

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Intro    Summary    Themes    Quotes    Characters    Analysis    Questions    Quizzes    Flashcards    Best of the Web    Write Essay    
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