Analyzing Elements of Dystopia in the Exposition

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Students will be able to analyze the impact of setting on the characters and plot by citing evidence of dystopian elements.

Big Idea

Authors don't always create dystopian worlds. But when they do, they include government surveillance, a protagonist that questions, and a disaster that changes the world.


10 minutes

I've decided to save my sanity and my students' sanity on short weeks.  It's too much to cram four days of grammar into three days of school, so we're skipping the grammar bellwork on short weeks.  And this week we have a four day weekend because we didn't use all our snow days this year.  While I would have rather had a whole lot more precipitation this winter, I'm still grateful for the days off.

However, I still need bellwork.  I still need something for the students to do while I take attendance and check for ETL.  So today, I'm asking students to reread some passages, read through a list of dystopian elements, and write three sentences.

Two of those sentences should identify and explain what they understand about dystopia and utopia.  One sentence should be a question they still have about dystopia and utopia.

Elements of a Dystopian Society

15 minutes

Now that students know what dystopia is, they're going to analyze how Suzanne Collins created a dystopian universe.  They'll use a list of common elements in dystopian fiction, examine the text for those elements, and write a paragraph explaining which ones were most effective.

The first step is to read through the list of elements and make sure students understand the elements.  They did read through the list as part of their bellwork, but repeated readings are always good.  Repeated readings are always good.  Repeated readings are always good.  Repeated readings are what?

Then I broke students up into groups.  For honors, I used clock appointments.  For my inclusion classes, I used their new groups that has no more than two students with an IEP.

 Really, even though the list is rather short, it's too much for one group to do in the time we have in class.  Instead, I gave each group two to three elements to look for.  For some of my inclusion students, one element was enough.

I gave students about fifteen minutes to look through Chapters 1 through 4 to find proof that Suzanne Collins used that element in her world.  They recorded the page number, paragraphs numbers, and key words in the chart I provided them.

Once the fifteen minutes were up, students reported back and shared out with the whole class.  While the groups presented, the other students were responsible for recording that information on their own chart.   Not only did students analyze for dystopian elements, they also practiced their speaking and listening skills. 

Analyzing Collins' Dystopian Society

15 minutes

The last thing students did was write a paragraph.  They chose one (or two or three for my overachievers.  We love overachievers!) to analyze.

You can see the prompt in the picture below, as well as my example.  I forgot to bring my book home when I wrote this, so I left spaces to include specific page numbers.  Then I forgot to check when I had the book, so I still have the empty page numbers there. 

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