Shelley's Ghost for teachers
Suggested classroom activities based on the content of Shelley's Ghost online
As part of this online exhibition we have created some free activity sheets targeted at Y7-13 pupils to illustrate just some of the many ways that this unique content can be used to enrich learning in the classroom. All activities are summarised below and are downloadable in PDF format. Please use and distribute this content freely.
We would also welcome all your stories and feedback on using Shelley's Ghost and any of these activities in your teaching.
Vindication of the Vindication
Summary: Read a passage of the Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Rewrite it as an article for the national media, from the point of view of a modern feminist.
Suggested groups: Y12-13
It's all Greek to Shelley!
Summary: Shelley famously died with a copy of Sophocles in his pocket. What influence did ancient Greek literature have on him? Read the poem Epipsychidion and at least one other Shelley poem. Write a short account of how Greek language, literature and culture is used in these poems. You should consider similarities and differences.
Suggested groups: Y11-12
Summary: People such as William Blake illustrated their own poetry, in such a way that the illustrations were part of the poem. Choose one of the poems in the exhibition and illustrate it yourself.
Suggested groups: Y9-13
Summary: An unknown woman called Mary Shelley has come to you with drafts of a crazy new novel she’s calling Frankenstein. You would like to help the young idealist, especially as her mother is a famous writer whose work you admire, so you suspect the novel will be good. You decide to take her under your wing. Go through the first couple of pages to give her corrections and feedback so that she can go away and improve the rest of the novel. You might like to compare any drafts of different versions of the text she gives you, so that you can suggest which the best versions are.
Suggested groups: Y11-12
Frankenstein needs filling in
Summary: In a world where Mary Shelley was never famous, you come across the manuscript of Frankenstein. You decide it would make good reading for the general public, but, frustratingly, one page has been partly torn out and covered in coffee stains. Looking carefully at the pages either side of the gap (lacuna), try to write a missing page of your own, so that the audience will not realise there is a problem.
Suggested groups: Y11-13
Summary: You are a servant copying out the manuscript of Frankenstein in order to send a spare copy to another printer. Transcribe a page of Mary Shelley’s original manuscript and compare it with the printed version. Comment on the differences.
Suggested groups: Y12‐13
Summary: Perform a monologue or dialogue from the point of view of objects in the exhibition. What has the mirror in Mary Shelley’s travelling case seen of love and life? Who has worn the hair necklace? Can the necklace speak with Mary Shelley’s voice? Did the rattle know that its owner would be famous? Has it stayed with Percy throughout his life, a childhood comforter watching his progress? Can we imagine the voice of Sophocles or his characters speaking to Percy and inspiring him as he carried the book in his pocket, with lines of verse declaiming his death as he drowned?
Suggested groups: Y10
A response to Ozymandias
Summary: Write your reply to the statue, as though you were the stranger passing by.
Suggested groups: Y10 or 12
Summary: Take a short poem or an extract of a poem and re‐configure it. This could be as simple as putting the existing words into a new order. It might also include summarising it down or expanding into a limerick / rap / haiku / new verse form. Ozymandias may be used as a relevant part of the syllabus. For extension activities, however, other poems might make better choices.
Suggested groups: Could be tailored to Y7‐13. Target group Y11 English
A defence of poetry
Summary: Many people have written about poetry in order to defend it as a meaningful genre and explain why it remains valuable to the author’s time. Reading Mary Wollstonecraft’s On Poetry and Percy Shelley’s A Defence of Poetry. How well do these work as a defence of poetry? Write your own piece to defend poetry. You should write either a short poem (under 20 lines) or a comment piece in newspaper style (maximum 200 words).
Suggested groups: Y10‐13
Modern day meetings?
Summary: Construct an online dating profile for Mary Shelley based on the information you can glean from her letters, writings, possessions and portraits in the exhibition. Some questions to think about: What does she like to do? What does she like to read? How friendly does she seem? What physical characteristics does she have?
Suggested groups: Y9‐11
From daughter to mother
Summary: Read the letters to / from Mary Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft. Write your own letter from daughter to mother.
Suggested groups: Y11‐13
Summary: Mary Shelley came up with the idea for Frankenstein when staying in the Swiss village of Cologny, which overlooks Lake Geneva, in the company of people such as Lord Byron. Read the Byron correspondence and look at Percy’s sketches of Lake Geneva, for example. The Neo‐Gothic genre of which Frankenstein forms a part is heavily dependent on ideas of ‘gloomth’ to set the atmosphere. A new travel agency has asked you to write a 400 word description of the place to go in their new brochure of inspirational literary locations. Research and write a piece on the literary importance of this Swiss location.
Suggested groups: Y11‐12