Atwood’s novel follows the despair of the main character, Offred, a woman who is a Handmaid in the monotheistic regime called The Republic of Gilead. In a world where environmental disasters and diseases dropped the fertility rates of Caucasian men and women, this new society created a sect of fertile women called Handmaids to breed the next generations for the upper echelons of the government. The society’s use of religion as a means to subjugate women and men for political purposes is a warning of what could happen if women are not vigilant about protecting their rights.
Student Activities for The Handmaids Tale
Essential Questions for The Handmaid’s Tale
- What are the dangers of a totalitarian society?
- Can religion be used as a weapon?
- Should women be afforded the same rights as men in all parts of a society?
- What does it mean to be a woman?
- What is betrayal?
- What is freedom?
- What are gender roles, and who defines them?
Women’s Rights and Freedoms Research
Most women alive now will be unable to remember when voting was outlawed, or when most women were expected to stay home and forfeit their careers. For students, understanding that the freedoms and rights women have fought so hard for seems like ancient history; however, we have yet to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. Have students do research on Women’s Suffrage, the 19th Amendment, housewives in the 1950s and 1960s, and the feminist movements of various decades.
Consider linking students to these resources for these topics:
In addition, you may want to check out our lesson plans on “The Yellow Wall-paper”, which has information related to how doctors used to view women’s medical issues, especially postpartum depression.
Margaret Atwood herself is a very interesting person and writer. Born in Canada, Canada is often a source of refuge in her novels, much like it is in The Handmaid’s Tale. Known for her writings on feminism and her criticism of damaging environmental practices, Atwood is a prolific writer whose stories often brought some of these themes into the popular realm of discussion long before men like Al Gore did. Students should do some research on Margaret Atwood and take a look at some of her many interviews where she expounds upon the controversy surrounding her works and the recent Hollywood interest in her novels, including The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace, and The MaddAddam Trilogy.
Buy The Handmaid's Tale on Amazon
Ideas for Post-Reading Activities
Storyboard That is an excellent tool for students to create fun and engaging projects as a culminating activity after finishing a novel. In addition to our premade activities, here are some ideas that teachers can customize and assign to students to spark creativity in individual students, pairs, or small groups for a final project. Several of these ideas include Storyboard That templates that can be printed out or copied into your teacher dashboard and assigned digitally. All final projects can be printed out, presented as a slide show, or, for an extra challenge, as an animated GIF!
- The Handmaid's Tale is filled with many interesting literary devices for students to explore. One element that is used so well throughout the novel is irony. Students can storyboard the examples of irony they come across in the text! To learn more about how to teach irony in the classroom, see our article: The Three Types of Irony which includes an example storyboard pertaining to The Handmaid's Tale.
- For Groups: Choose a scene from the story and write a short play to reenact to the class. Use the traditional storyboard layout to plan out your scenes. You can add text to your storyboards, or simply use the cells to visualize each scene of your play.
- Using the timeline layout, retell the story in chronological order. Our timeline layout gives you the options to include year, month, day, and even hour! You may also choose to omit these altogether.
- Choose a setting from the story and create a map of the setting using the small poster or worksheet layout. Use free form or other text boxes to include a key or label the different parts of the map.
- Using one of Storyboard That’s board game templates, create a game based on the book for your classmates to play!
- For Groups: Divide the chapters of the book amongst your group members. Each member of the group creates a storyboard for their assigned chapter. This can be done as a collaborative project, or separately for longer novels.
- Using the worksheet layout and Storyboard That’s worksheet assets, create a test or a quiz for other students in the class. You can create all kinds of questions such as multiple choice, short answer, and even matching! When you are done, be sure to make an answer key.
- Using one of Storyboard That’s biography poster templates, create a poster about the character of your choice. Be sure to include important biographical features such as: place and date of birth, family life, accomplishments, etc.
- Choose a chapter from the novel and create a storyboard that shows that chapter from another character’s point of view. For an extra challenge, use the T-chart layout to compare the original point of view with another character’s point of view!
- Create a book jacket of the novel using one of Storyboard That’s book jacket templates. Use Storyboard That art to create the cover, and write a summary of the story on the back, just like real books have!
- Using one of Storyboard That’s social media templates as a starting point, create a social media page for one or more of the characters in the novel. Be sure to think how the character thinks while creating this page.
- Create a scrapbook page made by one of the characters in the novel. Storyboard That has lots of premade templates that you can use as is, or change to fit your character’s personality! Check out our scrapbook templates today!
Find more lesson plans and activities like these in our English Language Arts
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