A perennial favorite with educators, The Giver has been widely taught in schools since its publication in 1993. Over the years, Lois Lowry’s dystopian classic has inspired the creation of countless thought-provoking classroom activities for students. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorites below.
(Please note, in most cases these activities are adapted from several different sources. We’ve included links to relevant lesson plans where possible.)
1. The Giver Job Fair
As a class, compile a list of some of the jobs members of the Community are assigned at the Ceremony of Twelve.
Place each assignment in an envelope and have students pick one at random. Ask each student to complete a job application for the position they received, including the traits and qualities they feel the ideal candidate would possess.
Lucy Knisley, via picturebookreport.com
2. The Giver Memory Book
As a class, come up with a list of common emotions—anger, fear, joy, excitement, etc. Ask students to compile personal memories they associate with each emotion in a journal. Students might choose to include photos or drawings along with their written memories.
Have each student choose a memory to “transfer” to the class, paralleling how the Giver transfers memories to Jonas. Discuss as a group whether there are any memories they might choose to forget, if it meant they would also forgo the emotions associated with the event (shame or trauma, for example).
3. The Giver Travel Brochure
Have students use multimedia tools and persuasive language to design a travel brochure for the Community. Students should consider aspects of Community life that might inspire tourists to visit, or families to relocate there. For example, they might include information on the local economy, government, schools, climate, transportation system and job opportunities.
Robert’s Resources, teacherspayteachers.com
4. The Giver in 90 Seconds
Have students work in teams to create 90-second video adaptations of The Giver to submit to the Newbery Film Festival. Rather than try and cram every detail of the story into a minute-and-a-half, students should explore ways to add their own creative flair to the narrative. For more information about the festival, click here.
Example of a submission:
5. The Giver Book Cover Redesign
The iconic cover of The Giver features a photo taken by Lois Lowry of an old man she met while researching an article in Maine. In her 1994 Newbery acceptance speech, Lowry told the story of how the man served as her inspiration for the character of the Giver.
“In the summer of 1979, I am sent by a magazine I am working for to an island off the coast of Maine to write an article about a painter who lives there alone. I spend a good deal of time with this man, and we talk a lot about color.
It is clear to me that although I am a highly visual person – a person who sees and appreciates form and composition and color – this man’s capacity for seeing color goes far beyond mine.
I photograph him while I am there, and I keep a copy of his photograph for myself because there is something about his face – his eyes – which haunts me.
Later, I hear that he has become blind.
I think about him – his name is Carl Nelson – from time to time. His photograph hangs over my desk. I wonder what it was like for him to lose the colors about which he was so impassioned. Now and then I wish, in a whimsical way, that he could have somehow magically given me the capacity to see the way he did.”
As a class, talk about the emotions Lowry’s cover evokes. Next, consider some of the elements of a successful book cover. Does it draw the reader in without revealing too much of the plot? Does it stand out on the shelf? Ask each student to design their own book cover for The Giver around an aspect of the story that resonated with them.
Amanda Miller via behance.net
6. The Giver Emotional Rainbow
Hang sheets of different colored paper around the room, with a notepad next to each color. Have students spend 30 seconds at each color, writing down the emotions the color inspires in them. When the time is up, have the students shift to the next color station.
After everyone has rotated through each station, review with the class the emotions inspired by each color. Were they consistent? Discuss why certain colors may have inspired negative emotions, while others inspired positive emotions.
7. The Giver Community Newspaper
Have the class create a newspaper for the Community, following a traditional front page layout. What sort of news might make the headlines? Consider the implications of “news” in a culture of Sameness.
1. Author Lois Lowry was inspired to write The Giver because of her late father's illness.
What inspired you to write The Giver in the first place?
Lois Lowry: Well as it happened, my father was very old at that time and in a nursing home. I would go to visit him about every six weeks in another state, and on this particular visit I realized for the first time that he was beginning to lose pieces of his memory. He didn't have Alzheimer's, but he was getting up there — around 90 years old — and he had forgotten my sister and that startled me. My sister, his first child, had died young, but he had obliterated somehow that memory and I began thinking on my way home, Heck, maybe it's a good thing you forget something when it's painful, but of course when you start thinking along those lines you realize that it's not a good thing. The product, what we're made of, is our whole path — good and bad. And so I began to think about the possibility of writing about people who had found a way to manipulate human memory. That was the start of The Giver, and I've never been a writer of science fiction or even a reader of it, but all of a sudden I realized I was going to have to write a book set in the future and that's what it turned out to be. That was the start of it.
2. There's no set time period of the book, but Lowry's grandson speculates it's 50 years from now.
Do you ever say what time period The Giver takes place in?
LL: No, it's just some time in the indefinite future. It's kind of interesting, I have a grandson who's 13 and he asked me recently how far in the future it was. He speculated it was 50 years in the future, and the reason that came up is because the filmmakers had asked me how the boy's bedroom should be decorated, and I said it should be very stark, nothing decorative on the walls, but maybe something educational like the periodic table of elements. And I mentioned that to my grandson and he said, 'Fifty years in the future, there won't be any helium anymore.' Well, who knew, only a 13-year-old [laughs]. So you know, things of that sort would be very different, but who knows, the future seems to be speeding up and I read an article recently implying that very soon we will in fact be able to manipulate human memory. Whether that's a good thing or a bad, we can only guess.
What do you think?
LL: That's a little scary to me.
Did they consult you for anything else for the movie?
LL: They let me read the screenplay and asked me to comment on it, and then the director emailed me periodically throughout the early part of the filmmaking asking my advice about set design, costume design, etc. So I was really in the loop from the beginning; they had no obligation to, I had no veto power, but they could not have been more gracious than they were and they brought me over to South Africa to watch the filming. They really have just been wonderful to work and be with.
3. Lois Lowry never planned to write a sequel or series, it just happened.
The Giver has a very ambiguous ending and it seemed like that was the end of the story, but then you came out with a sequel. Did you always plan to write a series or did that just happen?
LL: No, writing the second book kind of took me by surprise. I hadn't intended sequels or companion novels, but I got so much mail from readers who were dissatisfied with the ending. To me it was always an optimistic ending, but some people felt that they were dead at the end. The movie retains the ambiguity of the ending, but I think the optimism is a little clearer at the end of the movie than it was in the book, so people will go away happy from the movie.
So is there a chance the other books will be adapted to film?
LL: There was some talk among the filmmakers of a sequel, but it's really too soon I think. They'll have to wait and see how this film does before they make any decisions.
4. Some big movie changes from the book are the ages of the characters and the amount of action added.
This movie adaptation is years after you wrote the book. Did you always want it to be a movie? Why so late?
LL: I've always been a movie fan; I'm probably the only person over 75 who has seen Wayne's World 2. At any rate, I was very delighted when they approached me to make a film, but I was also aware of the difficulties of this particular book becoming a film because it's an introspective book and there's not a lot of action, and I knew they would have to add action — which they have done — and I just hoped they would do it well and keep it in tone of the book, and they have done that. So, I'm very pleased with the decisions they've made, even making the characters a little older has worked well.
So, what's their ages?
LL: Jonas, Asher, and Fiona are more like 16 and instead of having the ceremony where the kids turn 12, the ceremony takes place when they graduate from their education and are given their job assignments. So they're teenagers, and the only thing I asked the filmmakers was that they not turn it into a teenage romance, and they have not done that, but there's a sweet quality to the relationship between Jonas and his friend Fiona, and they're both very lovely looking kids. Teenagers will shiver with excitement at the thought of a romance, but it can't happen because in keeping with the book, the boy leaves at the end and leaves her behind.