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Activity Overview


Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify themes and symbols from the story, and support their choices with details from the text.


Themes to Look For and Discuss

Total Equality

The ideal of equality has been fought for and is still being fought for all over the world. “Harrison Bergeron”, however, imagines what true equality, with the erasure of individuality altogether, might look like. The absence of differences in abilities, appearance, and intelligence paints a very grim picture of the world. Everything is boring, the same, and nothing needs to be questioned or discussed. While equality itself is an important ideal, it must be achieved without eliminating individual identity.


The Dangers of Losing Free Thought

Even though everyone in “Harrison Bergeron” is now officially “equal”, the government must maintain this through thought control. They achieve this by interrupting the thought processes of people with high intelligence, and maintaining the intelligence levels of those who are incapable of contemplating something profound. Without thought, there is no innovation, curiosity, or desire. In the absence of these things, there is also no rebellion, which allows the government to maintain complete control over its citizens. The story is a warning of what can happen when emotions, intelligence, and distinct characteristics are taken away from the basic human experience, leaving the oppressors in charge.



Motifs & Symbols to Look For and Discuss

The Handicaps

The handicaps are assigned to people who go above the threshold of “normal”, according to the government. The handicaps perpetuate the idea of “sameness”, and those who don’t conform to this ideal are punished severely by the government. The handicaps provide a certain feeling of safety, where people no longer have to compete, think, or feel, allowing the government to remain in control.


The Ballerinas

The ballerinas are assigned various handicaps, including the use of masks to hide their differing beauty. George watches the ballerinas and it comes to him that perhaps they shouldn’t be handicapped… they are so clumsy and hindered by their handicaps, that George’s mind instinctively understands something isn’t right. However, before such a treasonous thought can take hold, he is interrupted by his radio transmitter noise. His moment of free thought is suppressed by those in charge.


Television

The television is where the people of this dystopia receive their news and entertainment from. It is the propaganda machine of the government, who use the opportunity to paint Harrison’s abilities – “a genius and an athlete, under-handicapped” – as a danger to the population. Hazel, after watching her son’s murder on live television, is unable to remember why she is so upset. She is confused by the darkened screen, and knows that something she saw on the TV was sad. She doesn’t seem to grasp that what she witnessed was a real experience, displaying the control that the TV has over her life and mind.


Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 9-10

Difficulty Level 3 (Developing to Mastery)

Type of Assignment Individual or Partner

Type of Activity: Themes, Symbols & Motifs

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/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
  • [ELA-Literacy/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
  • [ELA-Literacy/SL/9-10/2] Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source


Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)



Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in ”Harrison Bergeron”. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the theme(s) from ”Harrison Bergeron” you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for examples that represents this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.



Rubric

(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)



Themes, Symbols, and Motifs (Grades 9-12)
Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes, symbols, and/or motifs in the story. Illustrate instances of each and write a short description that explains the example's significance.
Proficient Emerging Beginning Needs Improvement
Identification of Theme(s), Symbol(s), and/or Motif(s)
All themes are correctly identified as important recurring topics or messages in the story. Symbols are correctly identified as objects that represent something else at a higher level in the story. Motifs are correctly identified as important recurring features or ideas in the story.
Most themes are correctly identified, but others are missing or incomplete. Most symbols are correctly identified, but some objects are missing or incomplete. Some motifs are correctly identified, but others are missing or incomplete.
Most themes are missing, incomplete, or incorrect. Most symbols are missing, incomplete, or incorrect. Most motifs are missing, incomplete, or incorrect.
No themes, symbols, or motifs are correctly identified.
Examples and Descriptions
Quotes and examples are accurate to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) that are being identified. Descriptions accurately explain the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) and highlight their significance to the story.
Most quotes and examples are accurate to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motifs that are being identified. Descriptions mostly accurately explain the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s), and highlight their significance to the story.
Most quotes and examples are minimal, incorrect, or unrelated to the theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) that are being identified. Descriptions contain inaccuracies in their explanations, or do not highlight their significance to the story.
Examples and descriptions are missing or too minimal to score.
Depiction
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are accurate to the story and reflect time, effort, thought, and care with regard to placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are mostly accurate to the story. They reflect time and effort put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Depictions chosen for theme(s), symbol(s), and/or motif(s) are inaccurate to the story. The depictions may be rushed or show minimal effort, time, and care put into placement and creation of the scenes.
Most depictions are missing too many elements or are too minimal to score. Little time or effort has been put into placement and creation of the scenes.
English Conventions
There are no errors in spelling, grammar, or mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions reflect careful proofreading and accuracy to the story.
There are a few errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. All writing portions show accuracy to the story and some proofreading.
There are several errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics throughout the storyboard. Most writing portions do not reflect proofreading or accuracy to the story.
Errors in spelling, grammar, and mechanics in writing portions of the storyboard seriously interfere with communication.




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