The Giver by Lois Lowry has been taught in middle schools throughout the United States since it was published in 1993. Lowry has published several young adult novels including three, The Gathering Blue, Messenger and Son, which continue the characters’ stories from The Giver. The novel is set in a utopian/dystopian society where hate, fear, pain, sadness, suffering, crime and war no longer exist. The protagonist, Jonas, struggles with the prospect of a life with no choices. When he is chosen to be the next Receiver of Memories he learns from the Giver not only about the bad elements missing from society but also the good. In order to eliminate suffering, joy, love, hope, laughter, colors, fun and choice have also been removed from society. The Giver is the only one who holds all the memories of life before choice and emotions were removed. The knowledge Jonas receives leads him to search for a resolution that will save himself and his family from the harsh reality of a failed attempt at a utopian society. Young readers usually find the idea of utopia appealing and are curious to embark on this journey with Jonas.
Unit Plans & Lesson Ideas
This blog contains a compiled list of innovative classroom activities, with links for each lesson plan, which will inspire students to reflect on the main themes of The Giver. The activities include a job fair, memory book, travel brochure, video adaptation, book cover redesign, and newspaper article. These ideas work well for The Giver but can easily be adapted to other pieces of literature as well.
Scholastic Books has a Student Reading Guide for The Giver that includes chapter questions, vocabulary, book reviews, author interview, and description and analysis of the plot, setting, themes, and characters. The guide also includes extension activity ideas such as creating a character sketch, creating journal entries, writing letters, researching the origin of your name, and interviewing older family members.
This unit plan contains group and whole-class assignments including pre-reading activities, chapter summaries, and discussions of major themes. It also includes various individual assignments that assess students understanding of characters, setting, plot, vocabulary, word choice, conflicts and themes.
This teacher’s website has chapter quizzes, vocabulary, writing assignments and a poetry lesson for The Giver. There are over 100 questions that can be used for quizzes, study guides and/or class discussions.
This is a fun personality quiz students can take online and it tells them which role/job they would be given at the Ceremony of Twelve.
Storyboards are a fantastic way to visually engage students in literature. Below are storyboards created by teachers as well as storyboard assignments for students. These lesson ideas revolve around students creating storyboards throughout the novel to analyze plot elements, characters, themes, conflicts, and vocabulary. I highly recommend using these as springboards to develop your own ideas. I have personally found that creating storyboards along with my students has reignited my love for literature and passion for teaching.
Slide Show Presentations
This collection of slide shows is abundant in information, questions and activity ideas. I briefly summarized the contents of each one so that teachers can consider the right fit for their individual teaching style, group of students and unit objectives. I was careful to only choose presentations I believe are worth your time to check out.
This presentation includes stimulating activities, discussion questions, quotes, and quizzes.
This presentation can be used to introduce the novel to your students. It includes background information on Lois Lowry, The Giver, and the science fiction genre. It also introduces students to the setting, characters, and themes of the novel.
Interviews with Author Lois Lowry
This video is of Lois Lowry speaking at the 2012 Children's Book & Author Breakfast for Book Expo America. Lowry reflects on writing The Giver and shares how her personal experiences, including the death of her son, have influenced her novels. Students will find her speech interesting, relevant, and moving.
In Neda Ulaby’s interview with Lowry she reveals how her father’s memory loss influenced her novel The Giver. This experience made Lowry wonder if life would be better if we had no memory of pain or loss or sadness. She summarizes her novel as a simple story “about a kid making sense of a complicated world.”
In this interview Lowry describes how she created the plot, characters, setting and conflicts in The Giver. She also explains that she intends for her readers to realize that the utopian/dystopian society in the novel is both impractical and unrealistic. The Giver has caused controversy in schools across the United States where parents have tried to ban the novel from being taught. Lowry discusses her perspective on the fear and confusion her novel has provoked.
This Scholastic's Online Reading Club article is comprised of Lois Lowry answers to student questions about The Giver. I find this interview to be one of the most useful because it is conducted by readers the same age as my students.
This clip from The Colbert Report features author Lois Lowry and actor Jeff Bridges, who stars as The Giver in the 2014 film adaptation of the novel. The interview is quick, light and fun.
Banning The Giver
Why is The Giver Causing Controversy?
The Giver has frequently been challenged by communities throughout the country who want the novel to be removed from their middle school classrooms and libraries. The following articles and blogs can be used to spark a debate with your students about whether or not the novel contains material too offensive for their age group.
“Why Do So Many Schools Try to Ban The Giver?” by Ben Blatt
“BANNED BOOKS WEEK: THE GIVER” by Stephie Dror
Book vs. Movie
In this article Lois Lowry discusses with James Bean the differences between her novel and Jeff Bridges’ film adaptation.