Time Machine


In this activity, inspired by Burke’s The English Teacher’s Companion (1998), students write a scene or story in which the character(s) travel out of the book into today. The purpose of this activity is to help students compare and contrast the character with their own lives. This activity can be an individual writing activity or a group activity where students write and perform a skit.

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Inferring
Experience A Text, Text-Self / Text-Text / Text-World Connections

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Synthesis

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Speaking

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Academic Vocabulary
  • Balancing Informative and Literary Texts
  • Text-Based Answers


Select a text set in the past Decide whether students will work alone (independent writing) or in groups (skit), or whether they can decide themselves. Create samples to uses as models. Create a planning tool or guide with requirements for the story or skit that include setting, character, compare/contrast, and creativity.

Activity Steps 
  1. Introduce Time Machine.

    Ask students, “If you could travel to the future for one day, would you do it? Why or why not?” Ask students to turn and talk with a neighbor. Explain the activity to students.

  2. Share samples with students.

    Depending on what format you select, share a model story and/or a video of a student skit.

  3. Mini-lesson on compare/contrast.

    Give a mini-lesson on compare/contrast. This could include showing a video clip of a different time period and asking students to compare and contrast the character from the clip to their own lives today. Discuss as a whole class.

  4. Review planning tool and requirements.

    1. Setting: Each story/skit must take place today. 2. Character: The actions and description of the character must be based on the character in the text. If the character hates dogs in the text, he can’t suddenly love dogs in the skit. The story or skit must be true to the original character.

  5. Review planning tool and requirements.

    1. Compare/Contrast: The story or skit must show how the character’s life compares and contrasts to today. · What things are similar or different? · What are the things that we struggle with as humans across generations? · What things are specific to our time period? 2. Be Creative: For example, if students are reading a story about a farmer in the 1700s, a story or skit could be about his first trip to the grocery store. If they are reading a story about a young girl growing up as a slave in the Caribbean, then the story or skit could be about her spending a day at Spelman College.

  6. Complete planning guide.

    The planning guide should include all four of the categories above. For categories 2 & 3 (character & compare/contrast) students should use evidence from the text to support their decisions. For example, “Character X will do ____ because in the text she ____.” The evidence shows that the writer is being true to the character.

  7. Write the story or skit.

    Individually or in groups, students write the story or skit. The length and time requirements of the story will depend on your allotted time frame for the activity. A two-page story and a three-minute skit, as opposed to a three- to five-page story and a 10-minute skit, will vary for each teacher.

  8. Revise.

    Students revise their writing, specifically looking at the required elements. · Does the story take place today? · Am I being true to the character? · Do I compare and contrast to life today? · Is the story creative?

  9. This can be done in pairs with feedback or using feedback from the teacher in conferences. Teachers may want to make this a two-day activity so they are able to give feedback and return the writing the next day for revision.

  10. Share story or skit.

    Depending on the length, stories can be shared during a dramatic reading or on the class website, or posted in the classroom. Skits can be performed for the class or videos can be shared on the class website.

  11. Conduct peer evaluation.

    When reading a story or watching a skit, students evaluate each performance using the four-part criteria (setting, character, compare/contrast, and creativity). If shared on a class website, this can be a homework assignment where students can explore their classmates’ work and complete an evaluation form.

  12. Reflect.

    Students can reflect individually or as a group, orally or in writing. · How did writing and reviewing your classmates’ stories or skits help you better understand the character(s) from the reading? Be specific.

Downloadable Resources 
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