Unit on Power shown through The Handmaid’s Tale and dystopian themes
Ms. Kay

Image result for the handmaid's tale
Image result for the handmaid's tale

Image result for the handmaid's tale
Image result for the handmaid's tale
Image result for the handmaid's tale
|| Image result for the handmaid's tale

Grade level: 12th grade due to the mature content within the text as well as the historical in-depth topics we will be discussing. This lesson could be taught at any school and any socio/cultural background although I had Portage Central in mind so a mix of international students as well as any native English speakers in the class. Most students would be middle class. I say this could be for any group of students because the theme is something that all students should learn about and could find relate-able; students often don’t feel they have much power in their lives. The variation of historic reference cover slavery, the Patriot Act, North Korea, China, the Soviet Union, and India, giving a wide range of cultures and backgrounds. I have a section on accommodations later.

Lesson Plans:
Paralleling The Handmaid’s Tale to Stalin’s Soviet Union
“Atomic Mother” and Community’s Dystopian Society

Week 1
*Pre-assess Quiz: Dystopia/ Post-Apocalypse/End of the World themes of book
*discuss the genre
*clips from a few famous movies of the genre (Children of Men, Wall-E, V for Vendetta)
*Fears of the Future writing
*needed vocab (Ex: totalitarian, dystopia, dictator, etc)
*introduce reflection journals: general reflection, fav. Quotes, 2 sentence summary, power struggles, women’s issues, etc
*read chpt 1 together (silent, then out loud)
*power in your life writing
*homework: to pg 33

(journal entries come with handout of ideas to write on and what is expected)

(reading schedule also provided)
*Diary of Anne Frank excerpt
*Harriet Jacobs excerpt
*write on confinement, uniforms, rules
*discuss characters and divisions of power so far in the book
*start a graphic organizer for themes of different societies that show dystopian themes or things paralleled to the book
*homework: 37-62
*watch movie so far
*discuss metaphor and symbolism
*discuss rules of this society, our society, other societies
- search rules of societies online
- what seems normal to us but isn’t really
*homework: 62-86
*power so far: who has it, how do they keep it, want it
*why doesn’t she leave discussion
*brainwashing and Stockholm
- “I escaped a cult, inside the Greens” video clip
*quick quiz
*homework: 86-134

Week 2
*watch movie so far
*discuss journals and quotes
*caste system of India
*class systems and power
*homework: 134-164
*North Korea and China, control of information
*Patriot Act research
*homework: 164-188
*Stalin’s Russia, both sides primary sources
*write from the other side of the handmaid’s tale
*homework: 188-218
*watch movie so far
*more on perspective
*were they justified? Discussions
*prep Qs for speaker
*YWCA speaker on women’s issues, women’s rights as a political battle ground, bodies as power
*homework: finish book

Week 3
*discuss end of book
*finish movie
*discuss in jigsaw
*read what others wrote about it – famous critique – and on book banning
*if you were in another colony and heard about Gilead reaction: journal, newspaper, letter, etc.
*research time on a power issue that could lead to dystopia
*community tv show clip on Meow Meow points
*parallel with book
*research day
*possibly continue discussion
*summary of power in society/book etc.
*If I was there journal entry – pick a character and write from their perspective about one moment in the book, or a time that would fit in
*intro to art project

Week 4
*paper due
*discuss prisoner/jailer experiment
-link to book
*women around the world - treatment
*read clips of other dystopians
- jigsaw on them
*real or fake
- read summaries of real societies that might as well be dystopians, or story plots and see what they think on them
  • more jigsaw on clips
*group discussion of themes of power and dystopians
*why these books are popular? The fears
*go over quotes and journals, and importance of the quotes
*write on how they think societies like this come to be
*art project due
*add all to website
*more on prevention

Theme: Power: gender power (women’s rights, war on women’s bodies), knowledge as
power, government power, class system

Critical Questions:
  • How does The Handmaid’s Tale reflect on modern society? What battles are being fought now?
  • Historically, how can we see parallels between The Handmaid’s Tale and different societies?
  • Why/how does a society become like this? How can it be prevented?
  • What are some of the power struggles within the text?
  • How does the author use tone, language, mood, and style to add to the story?

  • Be able to discuss issues of power within the text
  • Be able to compare the text to modern society
  • Be able to explain parallels between the text and historical societies
  • Be able to explain symbolism, metaphors, mood, and tone of the text
  • Create written and creative accounts/representations of their understanding of the text

Additional works to be used within the unit to show historical importance, and controversy:
  • Primary source articles from Soviet Russia during Stalin’s rule (for and against him)
  • The Patriot Act
  • Primary sources and articles on North Korea
  • Information on China’s information control policies
  • Excerpts from Harriet Jacob’s journal
  • Excerpts from Anne Frank’s diary
  • Articles by Malala
  • Information on the control of women in various regions
  • Clips from V for Vendetta, Children of Men, Wall-E
  • The Handmaid’s Tale movie (or new tv show if it is good)
  • Stanford Prisoner/Jailor experiment
  • Artwork
  • Episode of Community TV show
  • “Atomic Mother” by Jonathan Elias (song)

Controversy within the text:
  • Women’s bodies as a political tool
  • Rape
  • Slavery and ownership
  • The role of morals and religion in politics
  • “Hurting the few to save the many” – how far is too far

Issues will connect with student lives because all students struggle with power in some way, or have seen it either on the news or through someone they know. The world is a scary place, as was the world of the past, and students will see connections between their lives and those of the rest of the world. The text and other pieces will act as a warning for students to pay attention to world events, the government’s actions, and to speak out against things they feel are not right.

Taking Action:
  • Students will create protest works, discuss prevention of this form of society, and create a class website to display their pieces

Students will engage in critical inquiry every day through various activities on the schedule. The text and other pieces provided will foster students to ask meaningful questions because they will need to figure out for themselves how everything parallels and comes together. They inspiring and shocking materials will inspire students to want to ask questions and to know more. Discussions as a class as well as group discussions help with this as well. Sometimes guided questions will be provided to direct their learning rather than just giving them the answers.

Fostering their meaningful questions through:
  • Writing prompts
  • Recording quotes
  • Discussion
  • Personal research
  • Protest art
  • Exploring real historical totalitarian societies as well as problematic issues
  • Guided discussion
  • Debates

Research paper:
  • A short 3-page research paper on a historical topic that the feel parallels the book. A list of possibilities is provided or they can choose their own topic if it is approved by me (so they don’t get a dead-end).

My unit sets high expectations and improves reading and writing because students are expected to not only read the text, but take pieces out of it for discussion and do reflections. They are expected to apply the text to historical pieces, movie and TV clips, songs, and discussions. The text will become more than just a story, but a lesson and a warning for the future.

Reading and writing will be improved through:
  • Reading the text and additional pieces
  • The use of quotes and questions at they write
  • Their daily reading journals
  • Discussions
  • The use of primary sources
  • Their research paper
  • Their creative project
  • Reflection pieces

Adaptions for various levels
  • Audiobooks and movie used to help lower readers/ELL students
  • Spark Notes or summaries
  • Easier primary sources or ones with vocabulary and summaries
  • Reading schedule will be given to everyone in advance
  • Movies and video clips for themes
  • Song lyrics posted
  • Group work so they can brainstorm together and ask questions
  • Journal entries and assignments will be graded on ability as well as them actually finishing the assigned work
  • Other adaptions/modifications as needed

  • Computers for research
  • The movie and other movie/TV clips
  • Collaborative website to display work

Community involvement
  • Speaker from the YWCA speaking on gender, women’s rights, rape, and sexual violence
  • Opportunity to volunteer at a YWCA event for fun or “10 make-up-points/back-up-points”

Creative project:
  • Students will choose a creative representation of the book as a form of protest or warning. A list of ideas will be provided or a topic can be proposed as long as it is approved. “Hear my warning.” Examples:
    • o Create a piece of art representing the book. It could be a scene from the story or something symbolic. Include a well-constructed paragraph explaining how your art works with the novel.
    • o Create a propaganda poster inspired by the book. Include a well-constructed paragraph explaining how your art works with the novel.
    • o Write a poem or short story about the book or inspired by one of the characters. Include a well-constructed paragraph explaining how your poem represents the novel.
    • o Create a video inspired by the book. Include a well-constructed paragraph explaining how your video represents the novel.
    • o Create a travel brochure for Gilead trying to get people to come and visit it. Use real pieces from the book as evidence. Include a well-constructed paragraph explaining how your art works with the novel.
  • All pieces will be compiled on a website (with student and parent permission) that will act as a collection for the novel.

  • Psychological: why the characters in this society “allow” this to happen, why react the way they do, why they “go along” with this society, ideas of rape and captivity
  • Gender: feminist literature, women’s bodies are political, patriarchal society, gender roles
  • Class: different classes and job-classes in Gilead, upper class and their role
  • Postcolonial: “the other” a major theme of dystopian literature. This book, “other” are those outside the city or those fighting against it. need for control.

Common Core Standards:
  • 11-12, reading standards for lit, key ideas and details 2.
    • o “Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.”
    • “” integration of knowledge and ideas, 7.
      • o “Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem (e.g., recorded or live production of a play or recorded novel or poetry), evaluating how each version interprets the source text. (Include at least one play by Shakespeare and one play by an American dramatist.)”
      • “” writing standards, text types and purpose, 3.
        • o “Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences."
        • Production and distribution of writing, 4
          • o Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)
          • 5
            • o “Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1–3 up to and including grades 11–12 on page 55.)”
            • 6
              • o “Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.”
              • Research to build and present knowledge, 7
                • o “Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.”
                • Speaking/listening standard, comprehension and collaboration, 1
                  • o “Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.”