Build-Your-Own Dystopia

Grade levels: 8+

Background: We spent 8 classes (so for us, eight weeks) on this unit. Students had read The Giver in class; we wanted to give them a better understanding of where dystopian literature comes from and why it resonates with so many people.

Essential questions
What are the characteristics of a utopian society? A dystopian society?

What do we value the most in our society? Safety, freedom, wealth, comfort, equality? What do we sacrifice in order to achieve these values?

How do fantasy novels help us understand truths about the real world?

Objectives
Students will be able to identify elements of dystopian societies.

Students will be able to analyze short stories and provide evidence to support their analyses.

Students will be able to make connections between themes in dystopian stories and present day society.

Materials
Short stories: “Harrison Bergeron”, Kurt Vonnegut; “The Lottery”, Shirley Jackson; “All Summer in a Day”, Ray Bradbury; “Old Glory”, Kurt Vonnegut

Movies: 2081 (“Harrison Bergeron”) – 20 minutes

Trailers (via YouTube): Wall-EMinority ReportChildren of MenDivergent

Activities
In groups of 2-3, students worked to create a dystopia. Students could present their dystopia in any format as long as they include the required elements: some students created videos, some wrote stories or screenplays, and one group made a (ridiculously impressive) comic book. Others just answered the questions, which is also totally okay.

Assessment
Analysis of “The Lottery” (in small groups)
Movie trailer analysis (in small groups)
Final writing exercise (short answer, independent work)
Build-Your-Own Dystopia project (in pairs or groups of three)

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