The Giver is a great book for students to read as an early introduction to dystopian literature. The story will prompt important discussions about certain themes, the concept of freedom, and more. The activities in this lesson plan will help students create fun and visual responses to the story, and can be extended to the rest of The Giver series if desired!
Student Activities for The Giver
Essential Questions For The Giver
- What are the benefits and disadvantages of conformity?
- What is true freedom, and do we have it?
- What makes for a perfect society, and is it realistic?
- Why should we embrace diversity and individuality?
The Giver Summary
Jonas is a typical 11 year old who lives in a seemingly perfect community. There is little pain, and no crime. People are polite, and everyone belongs to a supportive family. However this utopia comes at a price; there are no choices, emotions are forbidden, and life in the community is dictated by strict rules. In this society, Elders match spouses, and assign children to them before birth. Everyone looks similar in skin color and dress. Everyone in the community is also assigned a job.
When it is Jonas time to learn his job, he is chosen to be the new Receiver. This is the person who holds all the memories of the world for their society. Over time, Jonas learns about color, nature, beauty, pleasure, love, and family. As well as painful memories of loss, loneliness, poverty, injury, war, and death. The former Receiver (the eponymous Giver) explains that the community is founded on the principle of likeness, which requires the consistency of a world without emotion and memory to survive. He adds that these memories give the Receiver the true wisdom needed to guide the committee in all their decisions.
Before the resolution of the novel, Jonas learns how people in the community die, and he plans an escape so that Gabe (a toddler his family is caring for) will not be ‘released’ (killed). Jonas wants to give all the memories he possesses to everyone, despite warnings from the Giver that doing so could have devastating consequences. Jonas becomes upset and feels that, without memories, his family and friends live in ignorance.
This escape plan takes Jonas and Gabe on a journey. Jonas struggles with the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that the Giver has shared with him, before they reach a place that was in Jonas's first received memory. In the snow, Jonas and Gabe sled down a hill, happy for a moment.
More Activity Ideas for The Giver
- The Giver is a classic example of a Bildungsroman novel. Have students keep track of the different elements of Bildungsroman literature through storyboarding! Students can create a storyboard chart with illustrations and descriptions of each Bildungsroman stage.
- Storyboard what the ending of the novel meant to you, personally. Since the ending is somewhat ambiguous, and can mean so many things to different people, reflect on what it means to you.
- Create an alternate ending to the novel with a storyboard that shows and tells the story from a different perspective.
- Complete a storyboard showing the rules that Jonas’ has as Receiver.
- Depict your favorite part of the novel using storyboards and share with your classmates.
- Make a storyboard depicting how Jonas' world seems perfect and what is it lacking.
- Add a presentation to any storyboard project.
How To Incorporate a Dystopia into the Curriculum
Introduce the Concept of Bildungsroman
A bildungsroman is a coming of age novel where a young character grows up and starts to make some personal choices for their actions and their life. In The Giver, Jonas realizes that the society in which he lives is not all it is cracked up to be and he has to make a bold move for justice.
Read The Giver With Students
The Giver is an accessible dystopia for students that is easy to understand but will also make them think. Help students to follow Jonas and his family as the plot unfolds, and he grows more uncomfortable with the society in which he lives.
Discuss Freedom, Diversity, Conformity
The Giver is ripe with big ideas for young students, and you can lead a discussion about the importance of freedom, diversity, and conformity, so students can better understand why Jonas does what he does in the novel.
Use a Storyboard to Explain Literary Elements
Assist students in analyzing theme, plot, conflict, and other elements of stories by utilizing storyboards. When students are actively engaged with drawing and writing, they will better grasp the difficult concepts of a dystopia.
Frequently Asked Questions about The Giver by Lois Lowry
What is a dystopia?
A dystopia is a created society that is trying to seek equality for all, but instead creates a non-perfect world where individuality is stifled and the world crumbles. In trying to create perfection, the government ends up with too much power.
How do you define true freedom?
True freedom is the ability to personally make choices without retribution from the government or worry for the future. True freedom means being yourself.
How important is individuality?
Individuality is what makes a society great, that everyone has the freedom to think, work, and act for themselves and with their own ideas. Without individuality, there is no personal freedom.
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