Challenging Authority: The Giver

Students explore the topic of "coming of age" through the story of one boy's life in a dystopian future, and his growing understanding that the world around him is not what it appears.

Unit Summary

In this unit, students read Lois Lowry’s Newbery Medal–winning novel The Giver. This novel, which has quickly become part of the essential canon of young adult fiction, is set in a highly controlled, seemingly perfect, futuristic world. The society has been stripped of colors, love, pain, and conflict by converting to the notion of “Sameness,” a philosophy that eliminates any variability in the world. The novel explores twelve-year-old Jonas’ experience with memories of the past—a time much like the reader’s present day—in which people still had the freedom to make decisions for themselves. Jonas struggles to cope with all his new overwhelming emotions and must decide whether individual freedoms are worth experiencing pain and suffering.

Students will continue their interrogation of questions around personal choice and self-determination by reading a series of articles about parental control over children’s screen use. Considering the risks and benefits of screen time for young adults, students will culminate the unit with an essay in which they take a position on the question: should parents protect their children from making poor choices around screen usage?

In addition to being a cornerstone of the genre of dystopian young adult fiction, The Giver is a powerful coming-of-age story. In spite of the unfamiliar setting, students will strongly relate to twelve-year-old Jonas’ developing understanding of the world around him. Over the course of the text, Jonas progressively loses his innocence, coming to realize that ignorance is not, in fact, bliss. This text will provide ample opportunity for students to grapple with the essential question of the 6th grade curriculum: how do challenges and hardships shape a young person’s identity and understanding of the world?

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

  • Book: The Giver by Lois Lowry (HMH Books for Young Readers, 1993)    —  760L

Supporting Materials

Assessment

This assessment accompanies Unit 2 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • What is a utopia? What is a dystopia?
  • Is it worth sacrificing knowledge and wisdom for a life of peace, contentment, and ease?
  • Should people be protected from making poor choices?

Vocabulary

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Text-based

anguish apprehensive assuage bliss compulsive disillusioned dystopia ecstatic excruciating ignorance implore impose obsolete transgression utopia vague vivid

Root/Affix

-topia dys- u/ou-

Academic

central idea climax conclusion/resolution connotation denotation exposition falling action juxtaposition mood rising action structure tension theme thematic topic tone

To see all the vocabulary for this course, view our 6th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Content Knowledge and Connections

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Future Fishtank ELA Connections

The remainder of the 6th-grade units will address questions around coming of age, and also around the way that significant life events and relationships shape who a person becomes; the ideas that students will begin thinking about in this unit will transfer across the texts we read this year.

Notes for Teachers

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  • Students should regularly return to the definitions of utopia/dystopia that they learned in the first lesson of this unit, particularly as different aspects of Jonas’ community become evident. Because there are several big “reveals” in the text, try to keep them secret as much as possible (some students may have seen the recent movie, so ask that they not spoil the book for those who haven’t seen it).
  • You may wish to show the movie version of this text at the end of the unit, and have students reflect on similarities and differences between the text and film.
  • There are very mild references to sexuality in The Giver. Students may find the scenes that describe war and “Release” upsetting. Be mindful of your students’ own experiences with death.
  • The articles about screen time—and particularly the negative effects of screen time—may be a sensitive topic for students and parents. Remind students that each parent makes their own decisions around what is best for their child.

Lesson Map

17

Writing

    W.6.1

    W.6.1.a

    W.6.1.b

Craft strong thesis statements and effective body paragraphs.

19

Writing

    L.6.1

    L.6.1.a

    L.6.1.d

    L.6.1.e

Use pronouns appropriately in writing.

30

2 days

Assessment

Common Core Standards

Core Standards

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L.6.1

L.6.1.a

L.6.1.b

L.6.1.c

L.6.1.d

L.6.3

L.6.3.b

L.6.4

L.6.4.a

L.6.4.c

L.6.4.d

L.6.6

RI.6.2

RI.6.5

RI.6.8

RL.6.2

RL.6.3

RL.6.4

RL.6.5

SL.6.1

SL.6.1.a

SL.6.1.c

SL.6.4

W.6.1

W.6.1.a

W.6.1.b

W.6.1.c

W.6.1.d

W.6.1.e

W.6.2

W.6.5

W.6.9

Supporting Standards

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L.6.1.e

L.6.2

L.6.2.a

L.6.2.b

L.6.3.a

L.6.4.b

L.6.5

L.6.5.c

RI.6.1

RI.6.10

RI.6.4

RI.6.7

RL.6.1

RL.6.10

RL.6.6

SL.6.1.b

SL.6.2

SL.6.3

SL.6.6

W.6.10

W.6.2.a

W.6.2.b

W.6.4

W.6.6

W.6.8

W.6.9.a

W.6.9.b