Activity Overview

Utopian and dystopian literature is a rapidly growing sub-genre of popular fiction. Authors often use utopias to convey a message about the world we live in today.

Dystopias are extremely flawed societies. In this genre, unlike other literature genres, the setting is often a fallen society, usually occurring after a large-scale war, or other horrific event, that caused chaos in the former world. In many stories this chaos gives rise to a totalitarian government that assumes absolute control. The flaws in this sort of a dystopia are centered around oppression and restrictions on freedom by central authorities.

Jonas’ Community

Have your students create storyboards where they choose a stance on the community. Is it dystopian or utopian? In the storyboard, the student can depict the elements of a utopia or dystopia, and explain their reasoning.

This storyboard uses examples from the article "Teaching Dystopia".

Examples of Dystopia in The Giver

No Independent Thought Dreams are suppressed through medication.
Oppressive Government Elders are revered and chosen to make decisions that are best for the community.
Lack of Free Will Choices are taken away from the people for fear that they cannot handle the consequences.
"Sameness/Uniformity" All houses are the same, inside and out!
Perfect Society Although everyone is happy, Jonas stresses that because they live in ignorance, their society is far from perfect.
Citizens are Under Surveillance The Elders can listen and speak everywhere.

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows the six elements of a dystopia in The Giver.

  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify events or characteristics of the story that fit into the elements of a dystopia
  3. Illustrate the examples for each event or characteristic.
  4. Write a short description below each cell that specifically relates The Giver as a dystopia.

Lesson Plan Reference

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/8/1] Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/8/2] Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/8/5] Compare and contrast the structure of two or more texts and analyze how the differing structure of each text contributes to its meaning and style


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

Dystopian Elements
As we read and discuss, identify and track the six common dystopian elements that appear throughout the story. Create a scene for each element that highlights how it is utilized throughout the work. Add a brief quote or description under each scene that highlights an important piece of the element being depicted. Make sure the art in your scenes is historically and factually accurate to the story. Your scenes need to be neat, eye-catching, and reflect creativity and care. Please proofread your writing and organize your ideas thoughtfully.
33 Points
25 Points
17 Points
Dystopian Elements
The six common dystopian literature elements are correctly identified and portrayed from the story. The quotes and/or explanations give context to the scene, and are accurate and appropriate to the element being depicted.
4-5 dystopian literature elements are correctly identified and portrayed from the story, or some of the elements may not be identified correctly. The quotes and/or explanations give context to the scene, but may be minimal, and are mostly accurate for the element being depicted.
1-3 dystopian literature elements are correctly identified and portrayed from the story, or most of the elements are inaccurately depicted. The quotes and/or explanations are too minimal, or missing altogether.
Artistic Depictions
The art chosen to depict the scenes are accurate to the work of literature. Time and care is taken to ensure that the scenes are neat, eye-catching, and creative.
The art chosen to depict the scenes should be accurate, but there may be some liberties taken that distract from the assignment. Scene constructions are neat, and meet basic expectations.
The art chosen to depict the scenes is inappropriate. Scene constructions are messy and may create some confusion, or may be too limited.
English Conventions
Ideas are organized. There are few or no grammatical, mechanical, or spelling errors.
Ideas are mostly organized. There are some grammatical, mechanical, or spelling errors.
Ideas may be disorganized or misplaced. Lack of control over grammar, mechanics, and spelling reflect a lack of proofreading.

How To Teach the Concept of Dystopia


Define the Vocabulary of a Dystopia and Give Examples

For many students, the concept of a dystopia is new, so clearly define the relevant vocabulary and give examples of it in The Giver. As students get farther into the world of Jonas and his "family," continue offering examples.


Discuss Examples of Dystopias

Use books, movies, and television shows to lead a discussion about dystopias that the students already know, and how that type of government functions or doesn't function.


Have Students Create a Storyboard

Students will best understand dystopian principles in The Giver by creating a storyboard of specific examples and moments from the story that fit into the dystopian ideal. Assist each student as needed.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Giver: Dystopia or Utopia?

What is a dystopia?

A dystopia is a society that tries to eliminate the chaos of a crisis or horrible event by granting total control to the government. Unfortunately, this often leads to oppression and restrictions for the people who live there.

What are some important elements of a dystopia?

In a dystopia, characters do not have free will or independent thought, but are subject to the will of the government. Being uniform or the same as others is applauded, and the government watches carefully over its citizens.

This Activity is Part of Many Teacher Guides

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