In the 5th and 6th grades, we read The Giver by Lois Lowry. This book centered around the coming of age of Jonas, a young boy living in a fictional dystopian society.
In Jonas’s world, color does not exist, along with books, emotions, memories, pain, and the freedom of choice.
To further analyze the themes of utopia and dystopia, students created their own utopian societies. They were asked to reflect on various aspects of their imaginary society — its monetary system, government, family structure, etc. — and consider what factors make a society a utopia.
As a class, we discussed:
- What are some potential problems with your society?
- Is your society a utopia for everyone?
- Is it truly possible for a utopian society to exist?
Today in class, we listened to Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
Afterwards, I asked my students to choose a sentence or paragraph in the speech that stood out to them, and explain what it made them think about, and how it made them feel. Proud and sad, they told me.
Then we talked what Dr. King meant by the “promissory note” our founding fathers had metaphorically signed, and discussed whether those promises had been fulfilled. We talked about what problems still remain — what issues MLK would still want us to work on, if he were alive today. Even my youngest students could readily point out problems of racism, sexism, homophobia, climate change, etc. I am grateful that these kids are our future.
Soundview’s 7th and 8th graders have been reading To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. One of the most intense, yet potentially confusing parts of the book occurs towards the end of the novel, when one of the main antagonists, Bob Ewell, is found dead.
To most readers, it is not immediately clear who killed Bob Ewell and how. There are some murder weapons found at the scene, and a list of possible suspects — one of whom is the narrator’s own brother.
So to get to the bottom of this murder mystery, students broke up into groups to re-enact the events that occurred on the night of Bob Ewell’s death. After reading the relevant passages, students formed “acting troupes” and selected from a series of grisly murder weapon props:
They then each picked a character role and began to rehearse their skits. It was great to see the kids refer back to the text, using specific details and quotes as they debated with their group members about the various possible theories of “what really happened.”
The next day, they performed their skits for their classmates. As can be expected, there was a good mix of the gruesome and the hilarious (as well as a bit of artistic license).
To wrap it all up, we discussed the different theories presented by each of the groups, and together did a bit of whole-class “detective work” to determine who the true murderer of Bob Ewell was. But we won’t spoil it for you … you’ll have to read the book for yourself!