InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Cli-Fi: Climate Science in Literary Texts > Unit 3: Communicating Climate 2: Literary Representations of Climate Change
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Unit 3: Communicating Climate 2: Literary Representations of Climate Change

Authors: Jennifer Hanselman (Westfield State University), Rick Oches (Bentley University), Jennifer Sliko (Pennsylvania State University at Harrisburg), Laura Wright (Western Carolina University)

These materials have been reviewed for their alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards as detailed below. Visit InTeGrate and the NGSS to learn more.


In this unit, students assess differences in the way climate change is presented in different genres of writing, including peer-reviewed scholarly papers, newspaper articles, blogs, and trade journals. The unit makes use of knowledge of climate change and focuses on the ways information can be presented.

Science and Engineering Practices

Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information: Evaluate the validity and reliability of and/or synthesize multiple claims, methods, and/or designs that appear in scientific and technical texts or media reports, verifying the data when possible. HS-P8.4:

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Global Climate Change: Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming). Reducing the level of climate change and reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depend on the understanding of climate science, engineering capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities. MS-ESS3.D1:

  1. This activity has been selected for inclusion in the CLEAN collection.

    This activity has been extensively reviewed for inclusion in the Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network's collection of educational resources. For information the process and the collection, see

  2. This material was developed and reviewed through the InTeGrate curricular materials development process. This rigorous, structured process includes:

    • team-based development to ensure materials are appropriate across multiple educational settings.
    • multiple iterative reviews and feedback cycles through the course of material development with input to the authoring team from both project editors and an external assessment team.
    • real in-class testing of materials in at least 3 institutions with external review of student assessment data.
    • multiple reviews to ensure the materials meet the InTeGrate materials rubric which codifies best practices in curricular development, student assessment and pedagogic techniques.
    • review by external experts for accuracy of the science content.

  3. This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

    This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

    • Scientific Accuracy
    • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
    • Pedagogic Effectiveness
    • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
    • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

    For more information about the peer review process itself, please see

This page first made public: Mar 7, 2016


After being introduced to scientific communication in Unit 2, students will continue by exploring different literary representations of climate change during this unit. Students will analyze various kinds of textual genres—including peer-reviewed journal articles, trade journal publications, editorials, works of fiction, and blogs—that engage with the concept of climate change in order to articulate the differences between different types of texts and the audiences for each. They will complete a formative analytical exercise that measures their ability to differentiate between types of texts and the ways that those texts engage with climate change issues.

Learning Goals

Learning Goals:

Students are introduced to climate change literary genres through class discussion. Students will complete a brief rhetorical analysis and will be able to distinguish differences in types of texts and describe how those texts engage different audiences about climate change concepts.


By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  • demonstrate an understanding of the goals and audiences of different types of genres (blog, editorial, short story, and peer-reviewed journal article).

  • identify rhetorical argumentative strategies present in different types of texts (e.g. editorial, blog, short story, peer-reviewed article).
  • discuss the ways that various genres engage with climate change concepts.

Context for Use

If this module is being taught in a science course, it is recommended that students be given an opportunity to explore the resources provided. If this module is being taught in a humanities course in which the students have some background in literary terminology, this section may serve as a supplement for those students who need the extra preparation.

This unit can follow Unit 2, or it can be taught as a stand-alone unit that focuses on literary terminology, climate change issues as represented in fiction, and rhetorical analysis.

The activities in this unit can fit in one 50-minute class period and the first portion of the following period, with homework.

Description and Teaching Materials

This section contains pertinent handouts about the defining rhetorical characteristics of different types of texts and a preliminary formative assessment activity. You can utilize this slideshow (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 1.1MB Mar20 16) of literary terms, rhetorical concepts, and characteristics of specific genres for both this unit and for Unit 4. Here is a sample rhetorical analysis (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 164kB Mar20 16) of "Diary of an Interesting Year" for instructors only.


Prior to Class

Have the students read each of the five readings (listed below). You will discuss these readings, about which students will write their analyses, in class. Here is a

set of questions

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with a group work activity to guide the discussion—you may give these questions out ahead of time or in class as desired.

In Class

Start by providing an introductory discussion of different types of written genres. Allow students to read through the handout on sample genres and the sample passages from different genres of writing that deal with climate change sample genre examples (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 133kB Mar20 16). Let them very briefly discuss the primary differences that they notice in each. (~10 min)

Break students into groups and have them read through Part 1 of the activity handout Unit 3 Parts 1 and 2 Activity (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 112kB Mar20 16). Have them discuss the sample passages under "in-class practice." Ask that they answer the following questions in this formative assessment: What kinds of differences do you see in terms of tone, word choice, and purpose? Who is the speaker? Who is the audience for the passage? Follow this with a full-class discussion. (~30 min)

In the same groups, assign all of the students in each group one of the five texts that they have read for class today and have them discuss the rhetorical aspects of the text. Be sure to mention that they will be completing their own rhetorical analyses for homework and should not copy their group members' work. (~10 min)


Assign the formative assessment Unit 3 Part 2 activity for homework to be turned in at the next class period (included in the handout).

In Class

In the first part of class, have the students divide into groups of four students. Information about rhetorical analysis (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 64kB Mar20 16) can be discussed with the class. Each student in the group will have read and completed a rhetorical analysis on a different reading. Allow students time to discuss their rhetorical analyses with the class, allowing the students to hear about and discuss their peers' analyses of the other types of climate change readings.

Teaching Notes and Tips

Having students read definitions and learn literary terminology as homework assignments will allow them to better engage with this material in class. The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University provides an extensive literary terminology glossary.

We have included two blogs as readings for Unit 3. The first is by Anthony Watts, a climate change denier. He uses data selectively, but in a way that appears convincing. We include this piece because it is important that students understand that they should read blogs carefully and critically—and to allow a comparison to the second, a blog by Roz Pidcock, a scientist with a PhD in physical oceanography. Her piece contains a more complete picture of the global situation with regard to climate change.


The students will write a rhetorical analysis on the four texts referenced above, which can be assessed using this rubric (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 19kB Mar20 16).

Criteria for assessing the initial rhetorical analysis:

  • The students should be able to identify the type of writing (expository, persuasive, descriptive, narrative, etc.).
  • The students should be able to identify the intended audience for the piece.

  • The students should be able to discuss the way that each text addresses climate change. Students should reference the specific climate change concepts and discuss if/how climate system components are incorporated.
  • The students should be able to describe the credibility of the text. Students should comment on why the text is/is not credible, citing specific examples.

References and Resources

All sources below are referenced and described in the above material:

Dell'Amore, Christine. 7 Species Hit Hard by Climate Change–Including One That's Already Extinct. National Geographic. April, 2014.

Emmerich, Roland. The Day After Tomorrow. Twentieth Century Fox, 2004. DVD.

Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism: The New Critical Idiom. London and New York: Routledge, 2011.

Glotfelty, Cheryll and Harold Fromm, eds. The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996.

McEwan, Ian. Solar. New York: Anchor, 2011.

Simpson, Helen. "Diary of an Interesting Year." I'm with the Bears. Ed. Mark Martin and Bill McKibben. New York: Verso, 2011. 101-115.

Thiess, Derek J. "On The Road to Santa Fe: Complexity in Cormac McCarthy and Climate Change." ISLE 20.3 (2013): 532-552.

Tuhus-Dubrow, Rebecca. "Cli-Fi: Birth of a Genre." Dissent, Summer 2013.

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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »