Fahrenheit 451

Students read Fahrenheit 451, their first exposure to the genre of science fiction at the high school level, and discuss the author's messages about humanity, censorship, and technology.

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Unit Summary

This unit on Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury marks students’ first exposure to the genre of science fiction at the high school level. As they read about the lives of the characters in Bradbury’s dystopian futuristic society, they will explore how he uses the genre of science fiction to convey his messages about humanity, censorship, and technology. Additionally, close attention will be paid to Bradbury’s use of structure, diction, and figurative language to paint a vivid picture of the life in the society he has created. Students will read, discuss, and take a stand on such issues as censorship, technology, and knowledge. They will defend their positions with evidence from the novel, other supplementary texts read in class, as well as their own personal experiences. The target tasks emphasize short written responses to questions about the literature. Students will, therefore, have multiple short at bats at improving their writing on an almost daily basis. Since providing written feedback on this volume of writing can be prohibitive depending on the number of students a teacher teaches in a day, it is recommended that the teacher place an emphasis on providing enough time for students to respond to the target tasks in class while the teacher can circulate and provide feedback. Additionally, several target tasks in this unit ask the students to evaluate a position or argument. If this skill is new to students, they may need some additional instruction on how to craft a written response that thoroughly evaluates an author or character’s position.

At Match, students have a Composition class 4 days per week in addition to English class. Below, we have included Supplementary Composition Projects to reflect the material covered in our Composition course. For teachers who are interested in including these Composition projects but do not have a separate Composition course, we have included a “Suggested Placement” to note where these projects would most logically fit into the English unit. While the Composition projects may occasionally include content unrelated to English 10, most have both a skill and content connection to the work students are doing in their English 10 class. 

These accompanying Composition projects build upon each other to prepare students for the culminating project of the unit: an original argument essay about the role of free speech and censorship in society. In order to prepare to write their own argument essay, students will first spend time analyzing techniques used by a variety of authors and speech makers. The rhetorical analysis students will do includes elements of both reading and writing with an overarching focus on developing the bank of techniques students are able to recognize, analyze, and ultimately use themselves.

Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Supporting Materials


This assessment accompanies Unit 3 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep


  • Read and annotate Fahrenheit 451
  • Read and annotate this unit plan.
  • Take the exam and write an exemplar response for the exam essay.
  • Read and annotate the paired fiction and nonfiction, making note of ways in which these works will deepen students’ understanding of Bradbury’s novel and/or the thematic topics it raises.
  • Create anchor charts for each thematic question and hang in the classroom. Leave space for student thoughts to be added on or around each chart.
  • Create a character list to be posted in the classroom.
  • Read the Composition Projects affiliated with this unit plan and annotate with connections to the novel and themes read in this unit.

Essential Questions


  • Freedom of Speech: Is censorship, in any form, justified?
  • Technology and Humanity: Is more technology always a good thing? What are the costs and benefits of technology?
  • Knowledge: Why are reading and knowledge important for society? What are the dangers that can come with a lack of knowledge?

Writing Focus Areas


English Lessons Writing Focus Areas

Within this unit of study, the writing prompts are largely literary analysis, with very few lengthy writing assignments and more emphasis on producing small bursts of writing on daily target tasks. This focus on shorter amounts of writing can allow the teacher to focus on very specific grammar or writing points. Some suggested teaching points are listed below, but the teacher should use our Composition Writing Rubric and his or her own students’ writing to select the most appropriate teaching points.

  • Using precise and advanced vocabulary
  • Using transition words effectively
  • Selecting short quotations and/or references to the text to support arguments

Composition Projects Writing Focus Areas

The composition projects paired with this unit focus on rhetorical analysis. In a rhetorical analysis writing, we explain the techniques a speaker uses to persuade an audience in a particular context. 

  • Analysis: Demonstrates clear and logical reasoning
  • Analysis: Framing of evidence is effective and smoothly incorporated
  • Coherence: Structure and organization align with the purpose
  • Diction: Includes precise language and advanced vocabulary
  • Conclusion: Conclusion ties to and supports the topic/position



Literary Terms

simile, metaphor, diction, irony, metaphor, symbol, characterization, theme, allusion, dystopia, anti-hero, science fiction

Roots and Affixes

ped- (pedestrian); con- (contemptible) sub- (subaudible)


corruption (whole novel), stolid (1), singed (2), pedestrian (7), subconscious (8), refracted (8), pulverized (11), olfactory (22), muzzle (23), antisocial (26), transcription (27), proclivities (30), objectivity (33), odious (33), condemnation (37), jargon (39), stagnant (41), cacophony (42), mass (51), melancholy (53), censorship (55), dictum (55), exploitation (55), censor (56), breach (56), titillation (56), tactile (58), torrent (59), sieve (67), subside (68), philosophies (73), toil (75), diverted (77), profusion (79), insidious (82), cowardice (86), contemptible (87), subaudible (92), honed (100), distilled (100), reckoning (102), discourse (104), rigidity (108), perpetual (109), anesthetized (114), phosphorescent (119), dilate (127), cadence (140), rarity (141), avenged (142), incriminate (145), bombardment/bombardier (151)

Idioms and Cultural References

minstrel man (2), centrifuge (42), praying mantis (45), water under the bridge (48), pratfall (53), Little Black Sambo (57), Uncle Tom’s Cabin (57), flue (57), Caesar (82), Praetorian Guard (82), Vesuvius (89), cesarean section (92) , holier-than-thou (108), valise (129), séance (131), status quo (150), Ecclesiastes and Revelation (144 & 153), phoenix (156)

Content Knowledge and Connections


Students will need to fully understand what censorship is and that it has many forms. Students will also learn about the concept of a utopia and a dystopia and the genre of science fiction.

Previous Fishtank ELA Connections

Future Fishtank ELA Connections

Lesson Map


  • “I Am Very Real”

Analyze Vonnegut’s message on censorship.


  • Fahrenheit 451 pp. 38 – 45

Analyze and interpret Bradbury’s use of structure.


  • Fahrenheit 451 pp. 55 – 59

Complete analysis of Beatty’s speech.


  • Fahrenheit 451 pp. 81 – 88

Identify and evaluate Montag and Faber’s plan.


  • Fahrenheit 451 pp. 107 – 119

Evaluate Montag as an anti-hero.


  • Fahrenheit 451 pp. 119 – 133

Explain how Bradbury creates suspense through his use of structure. 


  • Fahrenheit 451 pp. 138 – 158

Analyze the symbolism of the river and the phoenix. 



Composition Projects


4 days



Explain how Barack Obama persuades his audience in the opening of his 2008 “A More Perfect Union” speech. Use evidence and examples from the speech to support your analysis.

An effective rhetorical analysis:

  • Identifies the rhetorical technique
  • Explains how the author uses the technique
  • Provides an example of the technique
  • Explains what makes this technique appropriate for the audience
  • Concludes by connecting back to the overall purpose of the speech 




Analyze how Senator Murkowski uses structure to persuade the audience in her 2013 speech “We Need New Ways to Fund Our National Parks.”

An effective rhetorical analysis:

  • Identifies structure as the rhetorical technique
  • Explains how the author uses structure
  • Provides an example of the structure of her speech
  • Explains what makes this structure an appropriate technique to persuade her audience
  • Concludes by connecting back to the overall purpose of the speech


3 days



Reread the speech given by Captain Beatty on pp. 51–59 of Fahrenheit 451. Write a well-developed essay in which you analyze the persuasive techniques used by Captain Beatty to convey his attitude toward society and convince Montag of his position. 

An effective rhetorical analysis:

  • Accurately identifies the literary devices (metaphor, simile, imagery, symbolism, personification, etc.), rhetorical devices (repetition, rhetorical questions, anaphora, parallelism, etc.), rhetorical appeals (ethos, logos, pathos), and powerful diction used by Captain Beatty.
  • Explains how Beatty uses the techniques
  • Provides examples of each technique
  • Explains what makes each technique appropriate/effective for the audience
  • Concludes by connecting back to the overall purpose of the speech 


5 days



In his letter “I Am Very Real,” author Kurt Vonnegut writes, “If you are an American, you must allow all ideas to circulate freely in your community, not merely your own.” 

Consider the value that Vonnegut places on the free circulation of all ideas. Then write an essay in which you develop your own position on censorship and the free circulation of ideas. Use appropriate, specific evidence to illustrate and develop your position.

An effective argument essay:

  • Identifies the author’s position and claims
  • Provides examples to support each claim
  • Addresses possible counter-claims
  • Is structured purposefully to support the development of the claims
  • Utilizes powerful diction and other rhetorical devices and appeals
  • Concludes by connecting back to the author’s original position and claims

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.9-10.4 — Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 9—10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.9-10.1 — Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • RL.9-10.2 — Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • RL.9-10.3 — Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.

  • RL.9-10.4 — Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).

  • RL.9-10.5 — Analyze how an author's choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.

  • RL.9-10.7 — Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment (e.g., Auden's "Musée des Beaux Arts" and Breughel's Landscape with the Fall of Icarus).

  • RL.9-10.9 — Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work (e.g., how Shakespeare treats a theme or topic from Ovid or the Bible or how a later author draws on a play by Shakespeare).

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.9-10.1 — Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9—10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

  • SL.9-10.3 — Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, identifying any fallacious reasoning or exaggerated or distorted evidence.

Writing Standards
  • W.9-10.1 — Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

  • W.9-10.10 — Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

  • W.9-10.1.a — Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

  • W.9-10.1.b — Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience's knowledge level and concerns.

  • W.9-10.1.c — Use words, phrases, and clauses to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims.

  • W.9-10.1.e — Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.

  • W.9-10.4 — Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

  • W.9-10.5 — Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.

  • W.9-10.6 — Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology's capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.

  • W.9-10.9 — Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.