The Invention Of Hugo Cabret
Brian Selznick

More Information About The Invention Of Hugo Cabret

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Reading Activities

Reading Strategies

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  • Paul Clee's Book
    Paul Clee. Before Hollywood: From Shadow Play to the Silver Screen. New York: Clarion, 2005.
    Before we read the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the students need some knowledge about the historical context of early film-makers. As the above book is for ten-year-olds, we can read this book together as a class (192 pages including pictures). Especially highlight the passages about Georges Melies by giving them a quiz on this section. Discuss the creative lives of early filmmakers using the names from the book. Do a series of writing activities describing an early film-maker of their imagination: Give him a name, describe the early film-maker’s workspace might look like, one dream of this same film maker, what this film-maker’s family is like, etc. Do a short writing assignment describing the student’s favorite things (food, color, activities, etc.), and do another short activity describing this imaginary early film-maker’s favorite things.
  • A Trip to the Moon
    Le Voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon). Dir. Georges Melies. Georges Melies. 1902.
    To supplement their background knowledge and to help them gain an appreciation of the difficulty of film-making in the early 1900’s, watch the film together as a class. Do an assignment describing what happened in the film in detail. Discuss the elements involved because of the time period and do a worksheet that describes how these elements were possible with so few resources. In groups, have the students write a storyline for a film as if they were making one in the early 1900’s, keeping in mind the resources that were available, and describing what they will use to make their storyline come to life on the screen.
  • Millardet’s Automaton
    Read the first two pages of the acknowledgements in The Invention of Hugo Cabret as homework, and give a five-question quiz in class asking what the automaton could do, where it was found, how it had been damaged, how they found out who invented it, and what the inventor’s name was. Supplement this by going to the website. This will allow students to visualize the automaton and it will make the automaton in the book seem more real to them. Do an in-class partner writing activity describing what an automaton would do if it was made by the student’s partner. Include aspects of the personality of the student in the assignment. For example, if it draws a picture, it should draw a picture of a horse if the student’s partner loves horses. As they read the novel later they will be more interested in what the automaton does and in who invented it because then they can make the connection.
  • The Missing Link
    In order to learn more about the story, the students can go to this website and find out more about Georges Melies. There are about ten different links on this site involving Georges Melies. The class will be divided into groups and each group will do a project on a different section. The projects will include a presentation that includes a game, a group paper, and an individual poster, all of which will be to teach the rest of the class what each group learned. This will help us to identify with the character that is patterned after the real Georges Melies in the book. Later, we can write a short entry about why the main character is Hugo instead of Georges.
  • Gaby Wood's Book
    Gaby Wood. Edison’s Eve: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life. New York: Vintage, 2002.
    Read only the part that discusses Melies collection of automata. Discuss the aspects of an automaton. Write individual stories about what happens to the automaton after it is thrown away. Present these to the class or to the teacher in private. Include these aspects in the story: Where it ends up, what it can do, who finds it and how, and how that person figures out what the automaton can do. These assignments will help them to understand how the author came up with the story of the book, as well as giving them information on the invention of an automaton and on Georges Melies so that they can make connections to the story.
  • Picture-text Switch

    In order to enrich the students’ understanding of the graphic nature of the novel, the students need to develop an appreciation for the placement of pictures. While reading the book, have the students go through the most recent chapter and write the story for the pictures in that chapter. Later, have them do the opposite. They do not have to draw their pictures, but they should describe what the pictures look like. So, they should have a version of that particular chapter with the text being pictures and the pictures being text. Later, do a writing assignment describing why they think the author had pictures in place of text in this chapter, and why there was text instead of pictures in other places. Have a writing activity describing the advantages of this placement, and another describing the advantages of the students’ version of the chapter. Have a class discussion about which version they like better, and why they chose that version. Then, have the students write a short response on their opinion of the picture placement after every chapter done together in class.
  • Class Picture Story

    So that the students see the rich contribution that the graphics give to the novel, and also to give them a chance to use creative writing skills, have them write a short story, either on a specific topic or on a topic of their choice. Set this aside for now. Have the students come up with a class plot. Start the plot for them, and then let the story circulate around the room while the class quietly reads a chapter of the novel to themselves. Tell them that each student can has to write at least one sentence, but not more than six sentences. They may stop in the middle of the sentence, and the next student must continue this. This may not take a whole class period, or it may take a couple of days. Use the time to let the students read. When they are done, read the story aloud to the class. Copy it for them, and hand each student a copy the next day. Assign a homework assignment, with plenty of time, to recreate the story using only pictures. These pictures can be from a newspaper, magazine, or the internet; wherever the student finds them. Absolutely no writing can be in the pictures. Each student will then present the picture story in class while the teacher reads the class story aloud.
  • Connecting to the Novel with Themes

    So that the students can feel more connected to the text, they need to be able to draw associations from the text to something familiar. Ask them to fill out a worksheet that has them name two movies and two books that remind them of the novel. The students will include summaries of the movies and books, and short reasons for why the novel reminds them of these things. When they have finished the worksheet, have them get into groups and do an assignment that asks them to do a list of books and movies with a specific theme that connects with the novel in any way. If they cannot come up with a theme, look at the lists that they have and come up with a theme for them (which will probably not be as fun for them). They can speak with each other about the books and movies that they have, and come up with a common theme, listing only books and movies with that connection. For example: “Trains” theme could have Harry Potter, “Anastasia”, “Castle in the Sky”, Heidi, etc. Have them share their themes with the class and the connections made between the novel and their list of books and movies.
  • New Creations from Six Simple Machines
    In order for the students to gain knowledge about the machinery (the clocks and the automaton) in The Invention of Hugo Cabret and its complicated nature, the students can do a unit based on simple machines. First, they can observe and identify the types of simple machines by conducting research and gathering data. They can then get into partners and share their observations and gathered data with each other. They can demonstrate their knowledge by designing and constructing a model of an obstacle course, utilizing simple machines, in their partnerships. In a writing assignment, the students will describe in sequence the obstacle course, the simple machinery involved, and how it will work. Then, have them write a short essay on how they think the automaton in the novel works. It does not have to be accurate or thorough, but they should apply basic knowledge learned through their research and observations.
  • Reading Rockets
    In order to spark the students’ excitement to read the novel, have them do a unit on writing short stories, including character development and rising action. Have the class write short stories, using these elements. They will do rough drafts, revised drafts, and final drafts. When this has been done with their stories, have them write an “author bio,” describing where they got their inspiration for their story, using specific examples of texts or experiences that influenced their writing, and how they were able to develop the characters in the story. Then, show the Interview of Brian Selznick in class, letting the students see from where the inspiration for The Invention of Hugo Cabret was derived. Finally, have them write a comparison between where they got their inspiration for their story and where Selznick got his inspiration for the novel. Focus on how they connect to the character, how the inspiration differs, and how it is the same.
  • All About Adolescent Literacy
    In order to assess the students’ understanding of the text, have them each write a summary (two copies, one to hand in and one for in-class edit). Divide them into partnerships and have the partnerships edit each others’ summaries. Then, have them turn in a revised draft. Grade on the improvement of the summary, the content, and the understanding of the text. Hand their summaries back and divide them into groups. Assign each group a portion of the text, making sure that each portion contains pictures. Using their “Picture-text Switch” assignments from the “during” connections, have them write a summary about only this section, again with two copies. Have them turn in one copy, and use a magnet to stick the other summaries to the board, forming a straight line (adapt this to the classroom. For example, if the magnets are not possible, use pins to stick them above the board, or even put them into a line on the floor in front of the classroom). Using whatever teamwork they choose, have the class somehow organize the summaries into chronological order. Have each group choose a group member to tell what is in their summaries, in the order that the class designed in order to see if they are correct. Grade this on accuracy, teamwork, and participation.
  • All About Adolescent Literacy
    In order to make connections to The Invention of Hugo Cabret and also to help the students’ comprehension of the novel, have them look at their “Connecting to the Novel with Themes” assignment. Tell them to each choose a book from their list on the assignment (try to get them to each choose a different book. If some students have the same choice, have them choose from a list that you wrote using all of the assignments and your own connections. If they have not yet read the book, perhaps offer bonus for reading it especially for the assignment) and write an essay comparing that particular book with The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Have them include historical context for each novel, or context about the authors’ lives, using the “Inspiration of an Author” assignment, so that they can discuss the inspiration of each author. Teach them each part of the writing process by having them hand in a thesis statement and at least three topic sentences, an outline with citations (give them a handout showing them how to create an outline), a rough draft, a first draft, an edited first draft using red pen, a revised draft, and a final draft along with a works cited page. When the papers have been handed in a graded, tell them to present their papers to the class (3-5), each of them signing up for a particular day (3-5 students per day). They can merely speak, they can do a power-point, they can use pictures, or they can bring handouts.
  • Connecting Students, Hugo, and Orphans Project

    To help the students to develop a connection to Hugo and the world around them, the students will complete a worksheet:

• List eight difficulties in your typical day • List five things that make you happy • List eight difficulties faced by Hugo after his father dies (Examples: Abused, no money, no way to cash checks, has to hide, can’t go to school, has to steal, lives alone, no love, etc). • List five things that made Hugo happy after his father died, but before he moved in with Goerges Melies.

For the next part of the worksheet, the students can go to the computer lab and do research for two days. If they do not finish, the rest can be done at home. Teach them how to correctly cite an internet source, and tell them to incorporate this into the next part of the assignment.

• List eight things that are difficult about a modern orphan’s life (cite two sources). • List five things that make a modern orphan happy. They will then write a three to four-page essay comparing their lives to Hugo’s and to modern orphans around the world. They will use the five-paragraph method, with correct citations.

  • Developing Sentences from Images to Develop Images from Sentences

    To help the students connect the words to pictures in their imagination, have them use the graphics in the novel to create sentences. The students will go through the book and choose twenty pictures, citing the page numbers. They will write two verbs, two adjectives, and two nouns that goes with each picture, along with a brief explanation for each picture, describing why they chose those words. Using all of these words, the students will write a short story using these words, and keeping these pictures in mind. Use the writing process (outline, rough draft, revise). Each student will share the final draft of the story with the class, and the class will draw one picture that goes with each story, or write a detailed description and use stick figures if they are not comfortable with drawing.
  • The Missing Link
    Read the acknowledgements and page 533 at the end of the novel. The students can go to the lab and research the real Georges Melies at this web site. After they do their research, have them write a short story (at least three pages) about Georges Melies, giving him a different personality and different circumstances than those given by Brian Selznick. Give them the following worksheet beforehand to use as a guide, but tell them to complete the worksheet after they finish the story.

Worksheet: • List three adjectives that describe the personality of the Georges Melies in your story that cannot describe the personality of the Georges Melies in the novel. • Describe three physical characteristics that are different between your Melies and Selznick’s Melies. • Describe three circumstances that are different in your character’s life in contrast to the life of Selznick’s Melies. For the next part of a worksheet, have them trade stories and worksheets with a member of a group, having them read each others’ stories and answer the questions on the worksheet of the person whose story they read. • List three adjectives that describe the Georges Melies in this student’s story. • Could they be used to describe the Georges Melies in The Invention of Hugo Cabret? • List two physical characteristics describing how the two Georges Melies (from the novel and from the story) are similar? • List two physical characteristics describing how the two are different. If you did not know that the character in the student’s story was Georges Melies, would you be able to make connections from him to the Georges Melies in the novel?

6 Word Memoirs
Automaton Card Discussion
Book Maps--Free Choice
Compare and Contrast
Concept Analysis
Constructing Support--During Reading
Constructing Support
Gallery Walk
Literacy Mandala
Personal Narrative
Unit Plan
Vocabulary Strategy