Hello Teachers, Discussion Prompts:

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1 Hello Teachers, We are very glad you and your students are joining us as interactive participants for our November 16 videoconference The Giver: Issues and Themes. As you already know from the program information you have previously received, our focus in this program will be a studentto-student discussion concerning important thematic elements that are raised as one reads The Giver. Below you will find the five prompts that we will use as the discussion starters for our program. They are listed in the order we will cover them. Whether we get to each of them or not during the program will depend on how the conversation is flowing as we deal with each question as it arises. For example, if we have had an extremely healthy conversation around questions 1, 2 and 3 and don t have time to get to questions 4 and 5 during the program, those questions will still be left for you to pursue with your students as a follow-up activity to the program or additional activity related to your reading of the novel. You ll notice each discussion starter provides a number of avenues for student responses. Encourage your students to think about all aspects of the question before deciding on the elements they want to focus on in their response. After the prompts you will also find information on how we will moderate the student-to-student discussion during the videoconference. Please read that area carefully as well and contact me with any questions you may have about how to proceed once you have read that information. Discussion Prompts: 1. Sameness In her Newbery Award acceptance speech, Lois Lowry said: I ve never been a writer of fairy tales. And if I ve learned anything through that river of memories, it is that we can t live in a walled world, in an only us, only now world where we are all the same and feel safe. We would have to sacrifice too much. The Giver says, Our people made the choice to go to Sameness We relinquished color when we relinquished sunshine and did away with differences We gained control of many things. But we had to let go of others. (Novel, p. 95) Related Questions: Why do you think the creators of the Community decided to eliminate differences in color, in terrain, in weather, etc.? How would our society be different if we eliminated these kinds of diversity? What if, like in The Giver, there were no differences in our skin tones? What if we all dressed alike, and all lived in exactly the same kind of house, with exactly the same size of family? What would we gain? What might we lose?

2 2. Memory/History To people in Jonas s community, memories are limited to personal experience. Father and Mother recall their own childhoods, but there is no common knowledge of any time before. The Giver explains to Jonas There s much more than the world of only us, only now. He adds, There s all that goes beyond all that is Elsewhere and all that goes back and back and back... It is how wisdom comes and how we shape our future. (Novel, p. 78; Script, p ) Related Questions: Imagine if the entire history of our society, through present day, was erased, and we had no memories. Would people be better or worse off without any individual or collective memories of the past? Why? Why does it matter that we study and preserve our history, and also our cultural artifacts, including music and artworks? How does preserving the past help us in the present? 3. Making Choices Jonas says, It s not fair that nothing has color. If everything s the same, then there aren t any choices! I want to wake up in the morning and decide things! A blue tunic or a red one? I mean, I know it s not important what you wear, but And the Giver chimes in with, It s the choosing that s important. Isn t it? (Novel, pp ; Script, p. 31) Jonas surmises that if people were left to make their own choices of mate, of job, etc., it would be definitely not safe I can t even imagine it, he says. We really have to protect people from wrong choices. (Novel, p. 98; Script, p. 31) Related Questions: How important is it to you in your own life to be able to make your own choices? As you ve gotten older, what choices have you been allowed to make? What choices mean the most to you? What are some choices you still aren t allowed to make? Why do you think adults limit the amount of choices young people can make on their own? Why did the people who created Jonas s community decide that freedom and making choices were dangerous? What did the people gain by giving up the freedom to choose? What personal freedoms would you give up for a safer, more secure life? What would happen if we never questioned authority, and never challenged the rules? What would happen if we always did exactly what we were told, without questioning? What might have happened in history if some people had chosen not to challenge choices other people were making for them? 4. Growing Up Playwright Eric Coble refers to The Giver as a metaphor for what it means to grow up. When you re young, he notes: there [is] no before, there s what I m feeling right now and what I m enjoying right now, and then suddenly someone says, Well did you ever know there was this history? Did you ever know that people suffered and [had] wars? That point [is] different in everyone s life, but for all of us there s a progression to where you suddenly realize it s a much bigger world than what you thought it was.

3 Related Questions: Have you experienced a time in your life when you have had an awakening similar to what Eric Coble describes? What happened that led you to discover the world is a much bigger place? How does this memory affect your outlook on the world today? Jonas makes a very courageous decision when he takes Gabriel and flees the community. It could be argued that it is the moment when Jonas goes from being a child to an adult. Related Questions: Did Jonas make the right choice when he took Gabriel and fled the community? Why or why not? What do you think happened to the community as a result of Jonas s decision? 5. Utopia A utopia is an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect. A dystopia is an imagined place or state in which everything is bad; in other words, the opposite of a utopia. In her Newbery Award acceptance speech, Lois Lowry also said: In beginning to write The Giver I tried to make Jonas s world seem familiar, comfortable, and safe, and I tried to seduce the reader. I seduced myself along the way. It did feel good, that world. I got rid of all the things I fear and dislike; all the violence, prejudice, poverty, and injustice, and I even threw in good manners as a way of life because I liked the idea of it It was very, very tempting to leave it at that. Related Questions: In what ways is Jonas s community a utopia? Could the community also be seen as a dystopia? Is it possible for a society to go from utopia to dystopia? How might this transformation occur? What would happen if, through science and technology, we gained the ability to master nature and our environment, and eliminate disease and hunger? Do you think it would be a good thing for a society, or a bad thing? Procedures for our Interactive Discussion: We want to be sure to include feedback on each discussion prompt from each interactive school involved in our November 16 program. We also realize that some students may be very shy to offer their ideas off the cuff during the program. So, to ensure the smoothest discussion possible, please read the information below and send me the requested information as noted. 1. As part of their preparation for the discussion, have students look over the prompts and determine which one(s) they d like to respond to. Perhaps this reaction could occur as an in-class discussion or as an activity for students to do on their own. Have students, either as an in-class or homework assignment, write an answer to the question(s) of their choice. 2. Student responses should be limited to one or two paragraphs. Length should be something they could share in the videoconference in a 30 to 45 second time frame.

4 3. Have students share their chosen response with you either through class discussion or by turning in their response for you to read. 4. Select one or two student responses to each question that you believe would be very strong responses to help us foster a thoughtful and interesting conversation on that topic. 5. Send me the names and responses of the one or two students you have chosen in #4 above. Please me this information no later than Friday, November 12. You can e- mail the information to As moderator of the discussion, I will go through the responses to determine recurring themes and ideas as well as unique and insightful concepts. Based on this reading, I will determine an order for these students to offer their ideas on each question during the program. I will that agenda order to you so it arrives in your e- mail box by Monday morning (November 15) at the start of your school day. This will then give you the opportunity to share this agenda order with the chosen students. At the appropriate time in the videoconference on the 16th, I will call on them by name to offer their ideas on the discussion prompt. 6. As noted earlier in this material, it is possible we will not get to all questions and thus not all of these advance students responses, but our plan is to publish those student responses we have received from you in advance of the program (both those given during the program and those we are not able to get to) on our HEC-TV website so other teachers and students can learn from their ideas. If your or your student(s) do not wish their comments posted, please include that information when you send me their comments via no later than Friday, November 12. We will publish only first names of students on the website. 7. We realize you have many other lessons you are teaching and also that each of our interactive groups is full of different numbers of students who may be in very different places in reading The Giver. Thus, it may well make the most sense to offer this discussion prompt activity to only some of your students or to let different student groups respond to one prompt each. Or if it is most convenient and beneficial for you to select only one or two of the discussion prompts for your students to respond to, please feel free to do that as well. If we receive an overwhelming amount of responses on any one particular discussion prompt or two, I will use that to help determine agenda order and the time we ll spend on that prompt during the program. It is certainly not a requirement that you send us responses to each question. We welcome all responses you are able to send us by Friday, November 12 and look forward to hearing them during the videoconference and sharing them online. 8. In addition to these prepared responses that will be shared during the videoconference, we will also be seeking student questions for each other based on the conversation that goes on during the program as well as questions for the play s director and other teachers joining the discussion at our location. I will moderate these additional questions and comments by calling on schools individually throughout the program. Please remember to keep your microphones muted when your school is not speaking, so we can be sure to both see and hear those students who are sharing their ideas.

5 Once again, thank you so much for being part of our November 16 program The Giver: Issues and Themes. In addition to your interactive school, we are also being joined by View Only schools joining us either through videoconference technology, by watching the Internet stream at or by watching in the St. Louis metropolitan area on HEC-TV channel 989. As a result of all this participation, we are looking forward to an exciting and fulfilling conversation about this fascinating and important novel. Should you have any questions about any information in this document or any other aspects of the program, please don t hesitate to e- mail me directly at or call me at Thanks so much, Tim Tim Gore Interactive Coordinator HEC-TV Live!

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