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“The Giver”: Jonas Makes a Choice

Jonas, a twelve-year old, lives in a seemingly perfect futuristic world. His community protects him from all harm and in doing so has taken away his opportunity to make decisions. Will Jonas ever be able to make a choice on his own? This lesson is based on the award-winning book "The Giver" by Lois Lowry, [Houghton Mifflin, Co., 1993.]

Introduction

Based on the award-winning book The Giver by Lois Lowry, this one class period lesson can be integrated into a literature unit or used as a stand-alone activity in a social studies class. Students will need to be familiar with Jonas’s story to successfully complete this lesson. Students who have not read the book or seen the movie should be able to acquire enough background information by either reading the book synopsis on the inside of the front book jacket flap or the concise summary found at the Grade Saver website. www.gradesaver.com/the-giver/study-guide/short-summary/

Learning Objectives

  • Explore a decision-making grid and the procedure required to use it effectively.
  • Define the concepts of opportunity cost, decision-making, and cost and benefits.
  • Participate in a group activity based on a class-created Cost-Benefit Analysis Chart.
  • Make an independent decision based on the costs and benefits of a fictional situation.

Resource List

Process

  1. Introduce the lesson by telling the students that this activity is based on the award-winning book The Giver by Lois Lowry. Many students will be aware of the story’s plot through having read the book or seen the movie. As a quick review the teacher may read the book synopsis on the inside of the front book jacket flap or instruct the students to read the excellent summary on the Grade Saver website. gradesaver.com/the-giver/study-guide/short-summary/
  2. Tell the students that the main character, Jonas, has discovered that all is not well in his "safe and pain-free" community. He will have to make a choice for the first time in his life. Should he stay in his community or leave?
  3. Display the visual and read the introduction and directions. The visual can be found here: Cost-Benefit Grid – Visual. The directions read: "In The Giver, by Lois Lowry, a twelve-year-old boy finds himself in a life-changing situation. Should he remain in the only home he has ever known now that he has discovered that along with sameness and safety comes heartlessness? Or should he leave to find the unknown Community of Elsewhere? And if he leaves, should he take the baby, Gabriel, with him? What should he do? Help him decide by filling in this chart with some of the advantages and disadvantages of the two possible alternatives (choices)."
  4. Review the terms Cost, Benefit, and Alternative. Define COST as the benefit given up when a choice is made. Define BENEFIT as the reward gained from an action or activity. Define ALTERNATIVES as the different possibilities from which a choice is made.  
  5. Solicit responses from the students concerning the possible costs and benefits of each alternative and record the answers. Fill in the visual with suggestions from the students. Accept all feasible suggestions. Possible responses can be found here: Cost-Benefit Grid Possible Responses – Visual
  6. Tell the students that with the alternatives Jonas has, it is possible to create four choices of action.  Read the choice cards to the students, placing each card in a difference corner of the room. Vote With Your Feet Statement Cards – Visual.
  7. Ask the students to vote with their feet, getting out of their seats and going to stand by the statement card they think would be the best choice for Jonas. Note: By having the students get out of their seats and stand by the card of their choice, you are ensuring that they are making a decision.
  8. Allow the students in each group to quickly discuss why they selected this choice. Ask each group to share with the class why they chose that option and what were the incentives for that choice.
  9. Tell the students to think about their second choice. Explain that this is their OPPORTUNITY COST. Define opportunity cost as the next best alternative chosen.
  10. Conclude the lesson by asking the students if there could have been any other choices for Jonas to make in this situation.
  11. Remind students that all choices have costs and benefits.

Conclusion

After the students have declared how they would solve Jonas’s problem by “voting with their feet” and discussed the reasons why with others that made the same choice, you may allow them to change their minds and revote. This often leads to the realization that there is no exact answer to Jonas’s dilemma, should he stay in the community or leave, but multiple alternatives, all with potential positive and negative outcomes.

Extension Activity

Extension Activity #1 Challenge the students to create a cost/benefit decision grid based on some real life situations that require choices be made. Possible topics could include: what book to check out, whether to pack lunch or buy the school lunch, which movie to attend, or what activities to do over the weekend.

Extension Activity #2 Tell the students that the community Jonas lives in is an example of a command economy. Define a command economy as an economy in which most economic issues of production and distribution are resolved through a central planning committee, in this case the Committee of Elders. Explain that at the beginning of the story Jonas is anxious to learn what job, or assignment, he will have for the entirety of his working life. It will be a job that fits him; addressing his interests and abilities. The Elders have been watching him, and the other students for a year or longer to help them make the best matches between children and jobs. When the Ceremony of Twelve finally takes place, Jonas receives an unusual assignment. He becomes the new Receiver of Memory, the person who is responsible for all of the memories of the community. Ask students if they think it is fair to expect twelve-year-olds to know what jobs they should have for the rest of their working lives. Encourage the students to work with a partner to create a list of at least three reasons getting a job assignment is a good idea and three reasons why it is a bad idea. Allow time for class discussion.

Extension Activity #3 Invite the students to write an acrostic poem based on one of the economic concepts as they are applied to the society-featured in The Giver. In this type of poem the letters of each line are lined up vertically to display knowledge of the concept’s meaning. Possible choices include: alternative, benefit, choice, cost, incentive, opportunity cost, and scarcity. Students may also choose an appropriate concept of their own.

Example: WORK

Willingness to put forth effort to help

Others remain free from want and worry

Resulted in a society lacking in

Knowledge of freedom of personal achievement

Assessment

To check for students’ understanding of the activity and economic concepts, this activity sheet may be used: Assessment Activity Sheet – VisualAs there are no exact answers to this activity, it would reinforce student learning to allow them to exchange completed papers to check each other’s work.