Without a doubt, the fall is my favorite time of year.  Here in the Midwest, we have L.L.Bean picture-perfect-catalog days:  decadent leaves scattered in swirling piles, families in matching vests picking apples and pumpkins at the farm, and of course, pumpkin spice everything.

In my classroom, however, another favorite seasonal dream is coming true.  October, in my classroom, is synonymous with Gothic fiction.

From Poe to the Brontee sisters, I love everything about the mysteries and madness that unravel in gothic fiction.  Let's dig in to a few tips, tricks and suggestions for making your October rich with discussion over important works of literature that are especially delicious this time of year. 

Tip #1:  If you can't decide, JIGSAW!

When it comes to Gothic fiction, sometimes it can be overwhelming to choose which story to use in class.  So, I say, why choose?  Assign as many as you like and have your students JIGSAW!  For a refresher on jigsaw, check out this great explainer video from none other than the master herself, Jennifer Gonzalez.  Basically, the goal of a jigsaw is to create two experiences for students:  one, students become and expert in their assigned text (a Gothic narrative in this case), then two, students "jigsaw" (mixup) so that their new group contains one member from each "expert" group.  Now, students can teach the others in their group about the story that they got to experience.  

Tip #2:  Explore non-fiction connections

Gothic fiction is deeply interested in exploring the human condition.  Although it is fictional, many Gothic narratives at their core are trying to explain something about our desires, our greed, our obsessions, and our deepest darkest secrets.  Check out this fascinating read: "Here's Why We Love Serial Killers" by Psychology Today or even take a listen to this rad podcast Sword and Scale that explores true crime and how "the worst monsters are real".  Can you see a lesson that draws parallels between Frankenstein's monster and Ted Bundy?!  Hello, contemporary, relevant, and awesome discussion!  Yes, please!

Tip #3:  Craft a sexy essential question

Yep, I said it.  Make your questions sexy!  Essential questions that are alluring, complicated, challenging and even "playing hard to get" will provide discussion and analysis that gets deeper and deeper with each and every text you keep adding to the arsenal.  Consider some of these to help you start crafting your Gothic unit:

  • To what extent does Gothic fiction capture the human condition?
  • How does one define a "monster"?  
  • At what point does obsession turn to madness?

Want more Gothic fiction goodies?

Check out our new project, Teach Box!  We are giving away our October Box for free, and, you guessed it, it's all about Gothic fiction!


This article is part of a series of other secondary English educators writing about this topic!  Be sure to check them out below!