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I'm teaching The Giver as my dystopian novel this year and I absolutely love it for so many reasons: it's short, interesting, explores real world issues, and is highly explicit in it's dystopian features. I taught City of Ember before and I also loved it, but The Giver just has my heart.


We've just spent a few weeks exploring the features of utopia versus dystopia, in which the students invented a utopian world that is perfect in terms of environment, customs, laws, politics, and citizens. They made a travel brochure to convey the information and to persuade a reader to come visit their society. Some great ones are below (there were others but they had their names on them so I can't show them here).

So, now that they have a grip on what makes a utopia, we're going to get into what makes a dystopia! The first thing I'm going to do is show them two short films: "2187" and the appropriate parts of "Hyper-Reality".


I find that "2187" is a great place to start because it is really short and explores some really key tenets of dystopia, including suppression of individuality, use of propaganda, and excessive government control. It also explores symbols really nicely so it's great for looking at the symbols of freedom versus oppression. If you want to get your own FREE copy of my lesson plan for "2187", scroll down and fill in your email address so that I can send it straight to your inbox!


After 2187, I show them "Hyper-Reality" which always gets them SO EXCITED. They are always abuzz about the possibilities of the future and think that the tech-savvy world of Juliana is amazing until some cracks begin to show. "Hyper-Reality" works really well for showing how easily utopian worlds can descend into dystopia which allows us to explore how overuse of technology has negative impacts on our lives. In this lesson, I also get them to do a creative advertising task where they create a technological advertisement which they love.


A really cute student example of the creative advertising task from Hyper-Reality that focuses on excessive use of technology.

Next, we study the book. I'll save that for a separate blog post, but you can access the unit bundle here.

Throughout the novel study, we also watch the short film "The Luckiest" which helps to teach tone. This is perfect for mid unit when the students are itching for something different but still need to develop their analysis and writing skills. This lesson looks at the tone conveyed by the filmmaker and how that tone is conveyed through language and symbolism. The lesson ends with a paragraph writing task which works well in the middle of the unit when we are vamping up to essay writing.


To conclude the unit, I finish with "The Last Job on Earth" where we explore workforce automation and I have my students imagine what jobs will exist in 2030. The work on creative writing here, using adjective-rich language in a unique and fun writing task.


I really love using these four short films to supplement my teaching of the dystopian genre and if you'd like to get your own FREE copy of the "2187" lesson plan, enter your email below and I'll send it straight to you. If you really love it, you can also go to my TPT store to get your hands on the entire set of short film lessons. Click here or the image below to get to my store.






I am certainly a crazy plant lady. As I type this right now, I can count seven potted plants within my line of sight and I know there are more in the other rooms of my house. You can even spot, at the end of this post, some plants on my favourite work shirt. I'm obsessed with their many benefits in the classroom!


There's no doubt that having a small potted garden has benefits for the primary classroom, where students are learning responsibilities and understanding the basic principles of photosynthesis. There are, however, many reasons to have a small (or large) collection of plants in the secondary classroom as well! Here are a few reasons:


Cleaner air

Physically, plants clean the air in the classroom which is essential for learning. This is especially important for classrooms that lack windows or have windows that no longer open properly! Studies have shown that many common plants actually remove toxins from the air around us, just by being present with us in a room (Shibata and Suzuki, 2002). Some toxins and pollutants that can decrease students' overall learning experience are ozone, toluene, and benzene (Lohr, 2010) which have all been documented to have lower levels in classrooms with some plant power.


More pleasant surroundings

Plants are beautiful! And they are a great way to jazz up your classroom without creating a sensory overload for those students who cannot handle an overly stimulating learning environment. I hand plants on temporary hooks, have them sitting on my desk and the window sill, and even have some small ones hanging from the roof. They really create an enjoyable environment!


Mental health, feelings, and stress reduction

Studies show that when shown a room with no plants and then a room with plants, participants feel much more serene when looking at the latter (Lohr, 2010). Interior plants have been associated with reduced stress, and therefore higher productivity. Quite a few studies also show that people recover from stress more rapidly when surrounded by plants. Your classroom can become the soothing place that helps ease the issues in students' lives. I mean, they even have a plant room on Grey's Anatomy, so that must be saying something!



Behaviour management

When your students are experiencing a state of serenity, it is likely that your behaviour management requirements will be significantly lower. As a typical teacher, I couldn't afford to fill up my classroom with a mass of indoor plants from the start of the school year this year. I could however, add plants in dribs and drabs each month. As my room started to contain more plants, I noticed it start to become more of a haven for students. Many (who had never expressed interest before) started coming to spend time in the classroom at lunch time because they felt so soothed in the room. Of course, there are many factors that have contributed to my the reduced behavioural issues, but the plants certainly contribute to an atmosphere that is conducive to learning, rather than energetic and explosive conversations that take over my lessons.


So, what plants are best? After doing some research, and from my own extensive collection of house plants, these are the go to plants. Each one is low maintenance and high impact:

Do you have plants in your classroom? Have you seen the profound benefits on yourself and your students? Or do you have plants in your home and haven't yet ventured into the 'classroom jungle' way of life? Let me know in the comments!


Ash


Updated: Aug 17, 2019


When teaching dystopia, the first thing I explore is the six key elements that crop up in my dystopian stories:

  • Suppression of individuality

  • Excessive control by a governing body

  • Fear of the outside world

  • Seemingly perfect setting

  • Use of propaganda to control, and

  • Protagonist rebellion.

The short films that follow explore at least four or more of these:


2187

Synopsis: A short film about a man living in a futuristic society who carries a flower with him in a briefcase. This link to the past makes him a target for the police who have marked him as wanted. Once they find the flower and seize it, the man is no longer considered to be wanted.

Length: 2:38

Dystopian elements explored:

  • Suppression of individuality

  • Excessive control by a governing body

  • Use of propaganda to control

  • Protagonist rebellion


Hyper-Reality

Synopsis: A short film that makes a comment on the impacts of technology on our lives. Juliana is a teacher who cannot find work and instead buys groceries for other people. She can change her identity if she wishes though and initiates an identity reset twice during the film. There's a shot that may be inappropriate to your students at 2:54 and 5:16 so check before showing your class. I usually just show my classes up to 2:52 and then 3:33-5:07 so that they understand the gist of the story.


Length: 6:15

Dystopian elements explored:

  • Suppression of individuality

  • Excessive control by a governing body

  • Fear of the outside world

  • Seemingly perfect setting

  • Use of propaganda to control

  • Protagonist rebellion

The Luckiest

Synopsis: A man is bombarded with messages from a futuristic version of a Voice Assistant (similar to Alexa) who justifies every single decision he makes and encourages him to continue his poor choices like social media and unhealthy food addictions. She provides him with information about anything he could possibly need to know about, which stifles his natural human instincts.

Length: 5:15

Dystopian elements explored:

  • Suppression of individuality

  • Excessive control by a governing body

  • Seemingly perfect setting

  • Use of propaganda to control


The Last Job on Earth

Synopsis: In a futuristic world, automation has replaced almost every single job. One girl still manages to keep her job and we watch her go about her day, noticing the devastating impacts of automation on the people in her city.

Length: 2:52

Dystopian elements explored:

  • Suppression of individuality

  • Seemingly perfect setting

  • Use of propaganda to control


So, what do you think? Have you taught any of these previously? I'm thinking of turning this blog post into a dystopia post mini-series so let me know if you have any questions or comments down below.




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