After jumping into the world of middle school ELA, I have to say that The Giver is my new Gatsby. In other words, it’s my new favorite whole-class novel. It’s even better than Gatsby (sorry, old sport), and it’s such a gem of a book that it just might keep me teaching middle school forever! The Giver is engaging, thought-provoking, and accessible! My favorite part of teaching it is watching how inquisitive, curious, and invested my students become as they read. The book definitely sparks a lot of curiosity on its own, but I deliberately teach this book to hook and engage students from the start! I love to play up the “mystery” of it all, encourage students to ask lots of questions, take note of all the interesting things they observe, and start guessing about what’s really going on in the community.
If you’re ready to similarly engage your students, then here are 5 of my favorite activities for teaching The Giver!
1. PRE-READING LEARNING STATIONS
Learning stations are my favorite strategy for hooking my students before reading. They’re so versatile, engaging, and effective that I use them at the beginning of almost every single unit/novel! A good set of pre-reading learning stations will preview essential background information AND spark students’ curiosity before they have a chance to turn to page 1.
For The Giver, here’s what that looks like:
- Students learn about the genre (dystopian/science-fiction).
- Students debate essential questions through an engaging anticipation guide.
- Students explore the differences between utopias and dystopias.
- Students preview and react to a few of the community’s strict rules.
- Students play a creative word challenge game designed to get them thinking about the power of language in the book!
As you can see, these activities hook and prepare students for further reading! These print/digital pre-reading learning stations are available separately HERE or bundled with other resources for The Giver HERE. For more information about creating your own learning stations, check out the following blog posts:
- 10 Reasons to Implement Learning Stations
- How to Create Engaging Learning Stations
- How to Facilitate Successful Learning Stations
- 10 Ideas for Virtual Learning Stations
2. MOCK CEREMONY OF 12
Chapter 8 of The Giver is practically begging to be acted out in front of an audience of middle schoolers, so take advantage of this and host your own mock Ceremony of 12. It’s a tiny bit of extra effort and work, but I promise you it’s worth the memorable experience. Not to mention, a mock ceremony is a great way to review the chapter, spark connections, and facilitate rich discussions! Here’s what I did to host our Ceremony of 12:
- I created Assignment cards for different jobs in the community. During the ceremony, I assigned these randomly!
- I wrote up a script so I didn’t have to totally wing it as the Chief Elder.
- I designed ceremony programs for my students, so they could follow along during the ceremony. These programs also prompted them to answer a few essential questions and reflect on the chapter/ceremony.
On the day of the ceremony, I donned a black gown (from my college graduation) and a wig (at my students’ request). I also sported a gavel just for fun, and of course, I acted as ridiculous as possible. The whole experience was so much fun for me and my students! 10/10, definitely recommend!
You can find all of these mock ceremony materials, as well as thorough teacher instructions, in this growing unit bundle for The Giver.
3. QUESTION TRAIL
A question trail is my go-to activity to mix things up and break the normal routines of any novel unit! If you’re unfamiliar with it, a question trail is a unique, kinesthetic activity that gets students up and moving on a “trail” of questions around the classroom.
This activity consists of different multiple choice “stations” or “spots” around the room. At each station, students answer a multiple-choice question. Each answer (a, b, c, or d) will send the students to a different station. If students answer each question correctly, they will travel to each station and complete a full circuit. If students answer a question incorrectly, they will eventually find themselves at a station they’ve already completed, which tells them that they need to backtrack. This gives you clear, immediate feedback so you can see who is getting it (“on the trail”) vs. who is not (“off the trail”).
This means a question trail is a great way to review a chapter with both comprehension and analysis questions. I like to do a question trail after Chapters 16-17 of The Giver, just to make sure students are understanding the book and the standards we are practicing before the climax in Chapter 19. Of course, you can create your own question trail for any chapter/s in the book. If you’re interested in my student-ready question trail for Chapters 16-17 of The Giver, you can check it out HERE. To learn more about how to create question trails, head to this blog post.
4. ACTING OUT CHAPTER 19
When you spend so much time cultivating students’ curiosity and playing up the mystery of “release,” it only makes sense to do this dramatic chapter justice! My students read most of the book for reading homework, but I purposefully do not assign Chapter 19 as reading homework! I selfishly want to witness their reactions to learning what “release” really means. To make the most of this scene, I like to transform the chapter into a script and have students act it out in front of the class.
Don’t feel pressured to buy props or get too fancy. In fact, using baby dolls as props might be taking it too far! Because it was 2021, my class ended up using two identical bottles of sanitizer spray for the newchildren twins. Yep, it got that weird, but it was hilarious. If your students are anything like mine, this will make for a memorable reading experience and give you a great chance to reflect, discuss, and process the chapter after the acting!
5. THE GIVER FILM ANALYSIS
I absolutely love facilitating film analysis during/after reading novels, and The Giver is no exception! Film analysis is an engaging, accessible way to scaffold the challenging skill of literary analysis. With the right structure, guidance, and questions, watching a movie can prompt critical thinking and spark rich discussions. I know many fellow ELA teachers don’t like the film adaptation of The Giver because it changes so much from the book, but I think it offers the perfect opportunity for discussion & analysis.
In addition to asking students to compare/contrast the text and the film, try asking them why they think the film directors made certain changes and how these changes affect the audience. These kinds of questions spark more thoughtful insight and engaging discussions. For print/digital worksheets with these types of questions, check out these The Giver Film Analysis resources. For more information on successfully facilitating film analysis for any novel, head to this blog post!
I hope these ideas help you jumpstart your unit planning for The Giver! For more engaging activities and resources for teaching this book, check out this growing unit bundle full of learning stations, quickwrites, vocabulary resources, and more! If you have any questions about these activities or how I teach The Giver, leave them below and I’ll do my best to answer. 🙂