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The Giver

Lois Lowry

Theme: Freedom of Choice
Grades: Grades 7-8

The Giver is a science fiction story about a 12-year-old boy who must choose between a world of sameness or one filled with both the intense joys and pains of life. Jonas lives in a "perfect" world, devoid of strife or conflict. When Jonas begins training for his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory, he meets his teacher, a man called The Giver. As The Giver transfers to Jonas the memories of the world, Jonas begins to realize that his seemingly perfect world has many flaws. When the life of a baby, whom Jonas has become attached to, is threatened, Jonas must decide where his loyalties lie.

  1. Classifying: Making Choices.
    To stimulate an oral discussion on freedom of choice, invite students to brainstorm things they do every day. Then have students classify each activity as 1) one that is totally their choice, 2) one in which they have some choice, or 3) one in which they have no choice. Students might work individually or as a group to chart their answers. Have students look for patterns in the types of items that appear under each heading. Conclude by revealing to students that the freedom to choose is an important issue in the novel they will read.
  1. Connecting to Real Life: Book of Rules.
    Begin a discussion about whether it is important to follow rules and the reasong for rules in our society. Then ask students to create, independently or as a class, a list of rules they follow at home, at school, or in their community. Ask them to divide the rules into two groups: those that they believe are important and essential and those that are not important or are unnecessary. Suggest that they display their two lists of rules in a collage on a bulletin board or other wall area to use in later comparisons with the rules of Jonas's community.
  1. A Great Debate.
    Have students debate the question "Is it better for all people to be alike or for people to be different?" First assign students to one of two groups: Pro-Sameness or Pro-Diversity. To prepare for the debate, have each group brainstorm ideas to support their side and organize their best defense. You may wish to allow time for students to find facts that support their position from the novel, from almanacs, and other sources.

  1. Act it Out.
    Ask students to consider what would happen if the freedom to make any choice were suddenly taken away from them. Instruct a group of students to write a skit in which the characters are without freedom of choice; have a second set of students perform the skit.
  1. Genetic Engineering.
    The Community has been genetically altered for Sameness. Instruct students to research genetic engineering and tell whether they think it is right or wrong to tamper with nature in this way. Have them write a persuasive essay on this issue, using examples from their research as well as from The Giver.

  2. Compare.
    Research another utopian-like community, such as the Shakers. Write a comparison between that community and the one presented in The Giver, in which you consider the rules of conduct within the community as well as its relationship with the outside world.