The Giver is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE book to read with my 7th grade darlings, so I always want to go over and beyond when it comes to grabbing their attention for this book. I have mentioned the importance of pre-reading activities in previous posts, and I am a firm believer in the necessity of them. And, to go with that mindset, I really stepped up my game this year!
To start, I introduced the student to the Utopian concept through reading Harrison Bergeron and completing a series of activities with it (I will make a post on that later). Once I felt the students really grasped the concept of Utopias, Dystopias, and the brainwash effect, I begin to move into my novel activities.
For The Giver, I thought about what I wanted the students to think about before we began reading and decided on language precision, the meaning of honor, and a few pre-reading questions to get them thinking about some of the deep concepts to come through the book. This is where my “dinner discussion” topics came from.
The day before we began reading, I set my classroom up as a fancy restaurant and called it Cafe 7A to help create even more of a real feel for the students. I even had menus for the students to see what the discussions were to be about. When organizing this activity, I put folders with everything needed for the activities on each table. I stapled the directions for the discussion on the front of the folders and placed the activity copies inside. When giving my directions at the start of class for each discussion, I let them know that everything they needed for the different discussions was either stapled to the folder or inside. This organization strategy worked wonders in all of my classes.
I placed a Chromebook on each table to help with the language precision and meaning of honor activities. I also allowed them to use their own devices for those two discussions as well. These are not needed for these activities, but I like to allow them to use devices when possible to help get deeper and stronger responses.
As the students entered the classroom, they were in awe at the restaurant setting and were excited to see what we were doing in class that day. Truth be told, many of my students have probably never eaten at a restaurant that fancy, so it made me that much more excited about doing this with my students.
The Dinner Discussions (Click for Product)
Each dinner discussion directly links to topics to be discussed in The Giver and really helps get the students to have a better understanding before we begin reading. Each discussion got 15 minutes allotted to it, and I set timers for this and gave the students 5-minute warnings for each one. Without timers, I would lose track of time and my students definitely would.
Dinner Discussion 1: Ceremony of Loss for Imprecise Words
The students worked on eliminating imprecise words (such as good) and came up with replacement words to use in their place.
Dinner Discussion 2: The Meaning of Honor
The students talked about what honor meant to them and had to draw an illustration of their ideas.
Dinner Discussion 3: Pre-Reading Questions
The students discussed several questions that align to some of the deeper topics to come in The Giver without any spoilers of what is to come. I can’t stand spoilers for a good book!!!
Dinner Discussions for the WIN
The students LOVED getting to do these dinner discussions! It gave them such an insight on things to come in The Giver, but they had no clue that’s what we were doing as they were completing the activities. The discussions were genuine, deep, and really went right the way I had anticipated them going. Eeeeek! Teacher Win Moment!!
As we have started reading the book, there have been so many moments where the students had the “AHA” moments and understood the pre-reading activities we completed. It’s been great.
This strategy was such a success that I will be creating dinner discussions for the next two novels we will read this year (The Breadwinner & The Hobbit).
Changes I Would Make
There are not many things I would different; however, I do think the 15 minute time allotment was a bit short. I had one class struggle with getting it completed in that time-frame, so I gave them the first part of the next day. It wasn’t a huge deal, but I fill my days and that bit of time can make a huge impact.
I would also make sure to bring in better treats for them next time. I gave out small rice crispy treats, but I would like to have something a little better in the future. We all know students (and teachers) work best when great snacks are involved.
Overall, I consider this pre-reading activity a SUCCESS and cannot wait to continue to use these in the future! Whoo-hoo!