Build You Own Utopia - a PBL take on The Giver

February 15, 2017

I personally love reading novels, especially ones involving utopian/dystopain societies. Currently, I am using The Giver to teach my 7th graders. Some like it, some hate it, and some are waiting in line for the remaining books in the quartet. Our building common assessment for this unit is a test. I wanted something a little more hands on, specifically because the end of this unit will fall around PSSA time, so I wanted some assessment and learning without feeling like more assessment and learning. 


At the beginning of the book, some of my students were having a hard time connecting to the society in which Jonas lives. So far, I've recreated The Ceremony of Twelve and Memory Transmissions. Even after recreating parts of the book, there was still some disconnect. I started thinking, and I figured the best way to understand Jonas's society was for students to create their own through project based learning. I like project based learning for multiple reasons. I love that students learn way more than just content through this method. One of the most important skills students can learn is to how to work with each other, and through this, they are forced to learn that skill. I think we, as educators, need to prepare our students for all parts of their future, not just in terms of academics. 


My idea was genuine, but before I completely reinvented the wheel for this idea, I turned to one of my favorite educator researching tools, Pinterest. As luck may have it, I had found it has already been done. I found MiddleWeb's rendition of creating a perfect world and liked what I saw. Part of our pre-reading activities for The Giver were to think about our current world 100 years from now. Students came up with some pretty bizarre ideas concerning transportation, education, food, entertainment, fashion, and medicine. Soon it will be time for my students to take their ideas to the next level. I've already told them they would get to create their own society, and they've been asking more about this project than when they get to watch the movie. Teacher win!


Students will be presented with my rendition of the Build Your Own Utopia Project after we've finished the book. This will be the first time I'm giving students a project and basically letting everything up to them. The great thing about this project is that it covers absolutely everything necessary in this unit of our curriculum. I'm very excited to see what 7th graders will do with this project based learning project and this much freedom. Finals results will be posted at a later date. Stay tuned! 

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