The Giver – Middle School Unit Plan

Anticipation Guide:

  1. Ignorance is bliss.
  2. Memories can be transferred from one person to another.
  3. It is best to forget painful memories.
  4. Individuals must make sacrifices for the larger good of the community.
  5. Pain must exist in order for creativity and imagination to exist.
  6. Without memories, knowledge is meaningless.
  7. Good memories can only be enjoyed if they are shared with someone else.
  8. It is better to have the option to make a wrong choice than not to have any choices at all.
  9. It is better to have security than freedom.
  10. Absolute peace is only possible when people are not allowed to make wrong decisions.
  11. Less pain equals more happiness.
  12. The family is the foundation of society.
  13. People should be absolutely equal.

Introduction Activities

Memories: As a class, come up with a list of common emotions—anger, fear, joy, excitement, embarrassment etc. Ask students to compile personal memories they associate with each emotion in a journal. Students might choose to include photos or drawings along with their written memories. Have each student choose a memory to “transfer” to the class, paralleling how the Giver transfers memories to Jonas. Discuss as a group whether there are any memories they might choose to forget, if it meant they would also forgo the emotions associated with the event (shame or trauma, for example).

Utopia: Have students create the “perfect” community — Name, system of government, physical descriptions, roles of community members, family life, education, jobs, how people interact with each other, religion(s), how people spend their leisure time, etc.

Themes to Discuss Throughout the Reading

  • Diversity
  • Equality
  • Euthanasia
  • Feelings
  • Family
  • Individual vs. Society
  • Pain
  • Freedom

During the Unit Activities

Envelopes: As students come into the classroom one day during the unit, hand each of them an envelope. Tell them not to open the envelope. Build up the anticipation and suspense during the beginning of class, then explain that you are having a ceremony to announce what each student will be doing with the rest of their lives. They will be given one of the jobs members of the Community are assigned at the Ceremony of Twelve. Just like in the novel, the students have no say as to their future roles in society. Ask each student to complete a job application for the position they received, including the traits and qualities they feel the ideal candidate would possess.

Memoirs: Write a “snapshot” memory using action verbs, sensory detail, and figurative language. Bring the memory to life by writing in the present tense, as if you are in the moment. Possible categories:

  • Name stories (How you got your name, why your name is significant.)
  • Stories about where you grew up
  • Pain stories (someone who hurt you, argument with best friend/family, etc.)  First day of school stories
  • Rites of passage/realizing you are growing up stories
  • Weather stories (tornadoes, hurricanes, thunderstorms, etc.)
  • Holiday stories (traditions, memorable holidays)
  • Physical hurt stories (broken bones, stitches, surgeries, bee stings, etc.)
  • First-time-I… stories
  • Funny family stories
  • Important people stories (events that show the influence someone had on you)

End of the Unit

Have students discuss the last chapter in small groups. What does it mean? Where did he go? This would be a great opportunity for differentiation. Artists in your classroom may want to draw or paint the last scene. Music lovers might want to compile a soundtrack for the novel using various genres of music. Kinesthetic learners may prefer to block and act out an important scene from the novel. There are many ways to celebrate the reading of a great book!

Additional texts:

“Lois Lowry’s Newberry Acceptance Speech, June 1994”

Select one of the memories Lois Lowry shares in her acceptance speech. Summarize how the memory is portrayed in The Giver. Then explain how Lois Lowry uses and alters her memories to create a section of The Giver. Provide details from both texts to support your response.

Interdisciplinary and Extension Activities
Science of color: Research and report on the following subjects: the nature of color and of the spectrum, how the human eye perceives color, what causes color blindness, what causes the body to react to any stimulus. Is it possible to train the human eye so that it does not perceive color?
Utopian communities: A number of utopian communities were established in the U.S., such as the Shakers in the eighteenth century, or Fruitlands, led by Bronson Alcott (father of Louisa May Alcott) in the mid-nineteenth century. Choose one of these communities and list the principles that guided it, as well as the assumptions behind those principles. What generalizations might be made about why such a community may not last?
Sociology: Choose a group in the U.S. today that actively seeks to maintain an identity outside of the mainstream culture: the Amish or Mennonites, a Native American tribe, the Hasidic Jewish community, or another group. Have students research and report on the answers to questions such as the following: What benefits does this group expect from defining itself as “other”? What are the disadvantages? How does the mainstream culture put pressure on such a group?
Alternate Ending: Many students are discontent with the ending of “The Giver.” If this is the case in your class, a good last activity before putting aside the novel is having them write an alternative ending that they think would be more satisfactory.
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