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Teaching Guide

Teaching Inferno

There are way more than nine circles of Shmoop.

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You've heard that Hell is other people. It is: namely, Dante.

But instead of doling out punishments, we're going to dole out lesson plans.

In this guide you will find

  • an activity asking students to create an alternate ending to the journey.
  • reading quizzes for every circle of Hell.
  • very literary pop culture connections from Super Bowl ads to video games.

Dante had Virgil; you have Shmoop. You got the better deal, if you ask us.

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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: Exploring 14th century epic poetry might not be at the top of your students' high school bucket lists, but by the time they've finished reading Inferno, you can bet that some of them will actually kind of like it. And some, of course, will hate it. But here's the real question: Do they think it's worth reading (or worth having read)? And should future students continue to read Inferno as part of the high school curriculum? 

They'll be contemplating this question in class, and writing persuasive arguments in the form of letters to future students, telling them either why they should read Dante's Inferno at this particular time in their lives or avoid it at all costs. They will then use their letters to debate the merits of reading (or avoiding) Dante's Inferno in a high school English class.

Length of Lesson: 2 class periods

Step 1: After students have read Inferno, ask them why they believe the text is on the syllabus for their class.  Let them kick this idea around for a bit and then follow up by asking if  they agree with the choice to include it.

Step 2: With the whole class, brainstorm the following issue: Should Inferno be kept on the syllabus? Make a list of pros and cons.

Step 3: Divide the class in half. You will ask both groups to imagine an English class sometime in the future—they may specify how distant that future date actually is. One group must persuade these future students that the poem is worth reading; the other group must persuade them to boycott the poem at all costs. In order to do this, each group should use not only their own reasons as support for their argument, but evidence from the text as well.

Step 4: Students can start their letters in class and finish them for homework.

Step 5: The next day (or a couple days later), when all of the letters are complete, stage a debate in class by letting members of each group take turns reading their letters aloud. Allow a bit of time for discussion after all of the letters have been read, and then take a class vote to see if your students would keep Inferno or give it the boot. 

Psst! Don't forget to collect the letters for assessment, if necessary. 

(California English Language Arts Standards Met: Grades 9 & 10: Reading 3.6, 3.7, 3.11, 3.12; Writing 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.6, 1.9, 2.2, 2.4; Written and Oral English Language Conventions 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5; Listening and Speaking 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.6, 2.2, 2.4. Grades 11 & 12: Reading 3.1, 3.2, 3.4, 3.6, 3.7, 3.9; Writing 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.9,2.1, 2.2; Written and Oral English Language Conventions 1.1, 1.2, 1.3; Listening and Speaking 1.6, 1.8, 2.3.)

Instructions for Your Students

Did you love reading Inferno, or do you think the experience could constitute a new punishment in Hell? 

Either way, for this assignment you will write a persuasive argument in the form of a letter to future students, telling them whether they should read Dante's Inferno at this particular time in their lives (high school, that is)—or not. And then you're going to debate it with your classmates to see if you and your peers would ultimately keep Inferno in the curriculum or give it the boot. 

Step 1: You've read Inferno, which means it was on the syllabus for your English class this year, but... why? Take a minute to think about why this text is on the syllabus and share your ideas with your class. Do you agree with the choice to include it?

Step 2: Brainstorm with the class on the following issue: should text be kept on the syllabus? Make a list of pros and cons.

Step 3: Now your teacher will divide the class into two groups. Both groups will be asked to imagine an English class sometime in the future—you may specify how distant that future date actually is. One group must persuade these future students that the poem is worth reading; the other group must persuade them to boycott the poem at all costs. Whichever side you're on, your goal is to be persuasive, and in order to do that, you'll need to use not only your own reasons as support for your argument, but evidence from the text as well.

Step 4: Get writing! Pen your letter to the future English class persuading them to read/not read Inferno. You can start your letter in class and finish it for homework. 

Step 5: Once the letters are complete (the next day or the day after that), get ready to participate in a class debate. You and your classmates will take turns reading your pro-Inferno and anti-Inferno letters aloud to the class. You'll have a little time for discussion after the letters have been read, and then it's time to vote. What do you think? Should Inferno stay, or should it go? 

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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.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.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.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.2
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.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.10
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.10

WANT MORE HELP TEACHING INFERNO?

Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

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