Exploring Dystopias

Grade: 10

Common Core State Standards:

**CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1**Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
**CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2**Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
**CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2a**Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
**CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2b**Develop the topic with well-chosen, relevant, and sufficient facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.
**CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6**Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.
**CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.7**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.
**CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.8**Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
**CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.9**Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

  • Students will be able to define the characteristics of a utopia and a dystopia by researching and providing evidence to support their claims.
  • Students will be able to describe characteristics of a dystopia in written and media forms. These characteristics include:
    • Propaganda is used to control the citizens of society.
    • Information, independent thought, and freedom are restricted.
    • A figurehead or concept is worshipped by the citizens of the society.
    • Citizens are perceived to be under constant surveillance.
    • Citizens have a fear of the outside world.
    • Citizens live in a dehumanized state.
    • The natural world is banished and distrusted.
    • Citizens conform to uniform expectations. Individuality and dissent are bad.
    • The society is an illusion of a perfect utopian world.
  • Students will be able to compare and contrast dystopias in media and print form.
  • Students will be able to gather and analyze information about a dystopian film and novel to provide different views of dystopian societies.
  • Students will construct Wikispaces to clearly inform their peers and other viewers of the meaning of dystopians.
  • Students will use a variety of sources to conclude reasons why dystopias have remained in popular culture since the 1920s.
  • Students will be able to explain how dystopias criticize contemporary trends, societal norms, or political systems.

Dystopia, Dystopian Societies, Film, Literature, Research, Wikispaces, Wiki, Popular Culture. Web-based Learning, Collaborative learning, Scoop It, Web 2.0

Unit Description:
The purpose of this unit is to familiarize students with the characteristics of dystopian societies. Authors and film directors have been creating examples of dystopias since the 1920s (Metropolis directed by Fritz Lang). Students will be responsible for creating a Wikispace that displays an overview of dystopias and an educated explanation for the popularity of dystopias in society. Students will read a variety of print and electronic sources and watch video clips in order to summarize key points about dystopias. However, the focus of this lesson is for students to understand the connection between dystopian plots and society today. The protagonists in dystopian films and literature often portray the resilience of humankind. In most cases, the protagonist displays that individuals need to continuously question societal norms and advocate for their rights. They will work in groups to create Wikispaces that will explore the characteristics of dystopian societies. Each group will choose a dystopian movie and a dystopian novel to analyze through their Wikispaces. Students will be responsible for organizing their Wikispace with proper headers, graphics, video clips, and explanatory text. This process empowers students by allowing them the autonomy of creating their own unique that will be available for others to view. While students will be researching different films and pieces of literature, they will all be responsible for carrying out a similar process and presenting similar components. At the end of the unit, each group will present their WIkispaces to their peers.

Computers with Internet access
Access to Gmail to create a Google Doc
Projector to display video clips
Projector to display final products for presentations

Resources for Teachers and Students:
Top 10 Dystopian Movie Futures

60 Second Recap - Dystopian definition

Definition & Characteristics of Utopias and Dystopias

Definition, Characteristics, and Examples of Dystopias

Article about Dystopian Films

Tutorial for using features of Wikispaces

“Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.


Day 1-2
The class will brainstorm ideas for the characteristics of a dystopian society after watching a short video clip that display portions of dystopian movies. The video clip is a hook to introduce students to the unit and provide a glimpse of various utopian societies. The video clip also displays dystopian films starting in 1927 and going through 2012, which allows students to see that dystopian films have been produced for over 80 years.

Students will watch the YouTube video “Top Ten Dystopian Movie Futures”:

The instructor will ask students to individually generate a list of some of the similarities between the video clips, such as: they all take place in the future, there are advancements in technology (that often have too much control), all societies do not seem like a pleasant place to live, there are tyrannical leaders, and the police are ever-present. Students will share their responses in a class discussion.

Based on this video and other dystopian videos they find online, students will work in groups to come up with characteristics of a dystopia. These should include things like: a dehumanized society, citizens who fear the world outside their boundaries, restricted freedom, the past or old ways are distrusted and severely punished, conforming citizens.

Before students begin researching information about dystopias, the instructor will provide a
mini-lesson to explain how to properly cite information on their pages as well as a list of resources to help students carry out this process on their own. All students are required to properly cite information on their pages in order to avoid plagiarism. This would also be a good time for the instructor to discuss website credibility because the rubric indicates that students will need to locate credible sources to support their claims.

Students will begin by brainstorming their ideas in groups. They must create a Google Document to share with their group members as well as with the instructor. All students will spend the first day exploring dystopias and adding their findings to their Google Doc.

Each group will receive a grade for adding information about dystopias and dystopian characteristics on their Google Doc during the first two class periods. The instructor can provide feedback in the document regarding the students’ explanation of dystopian societies.

Day 3-4
Students will view the tutorial (http://www.screenr.com/PeNH) for how to sign in and navigate some of the features of a Wikispace. Students will locate and read through their rubric on the Wikispace. They can begin setting up their Wikispaces or continue researching and exploring the definition and characteristics of dystopias.

Each group will receive a list of websites that will help them to determine the definitions and characteristics of a dystopian society. Students will explore the resources provided as well as conduct their own research. They will use this information to provide their own definition and characteristics on their Wiki. Information on the page must be properly cited as stated in the rubric.


The list of websites that that students receive will be a starting point for their research. However, students must locate additional sources to support their claims.

Students will read the short story “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. in small groups. They will determine dystopian characteristics of the short story. The class will discuss their results as well as the theme of the story or the message that the author is trying to send to his audience. Next, students will make connections between Harrison Bergeron and the protagonists from other dystopian literature and films. By making the protagonist either the hero or the victim of the story, the author or director is attempting to show the power that the government can have over its citizens if the population does nothing to prevent it.

Day 5-7
Students will review the definitions and characteristics of dystopian societies by sharing the results from the searches. Based on the discussion, students will work in groups to revise their lists. Each group will log in to their Wikispace and locate the handouts with the lists of dystopian films and dystopian literature. Students will watch movie trailers and read movie summaries in order to determine one movie to watch and use as an example on their page. Once the group determines the film that they would like to use for their project, they must tell their instructor. Every group will need to choose a different movie to research and discuss during their presentation. In addition, each student will choose a dystopian piece of literature to read independently. Students will revisit their Wikispaces after they read the independent reading book in order to add and edit information.

Students will watch their dystopian movie and write a summary in their own words to bring in to class. Students will receive a grade for this assignment.

Once students have obtained and understand of dystopian societies and viewed some examples, the groups will begin to focus on how this information is relevant to society today. Students will begin to explore the reasons why authors and directors create dystopian societies and why audiences find these stories entertaining. This might be a good time for the instructor to present some ideas of dictatorships in history that have resulted in societies that are similar to some of the ones that are depicted in dystopian literature and films. The instructor will invite students to provide examples of current or past societies that might have influenced an author to write a piece of dystopian literature. Groups will either determine certain events that did prompt authors to write a piece of literature, such as the events of the Holocaust being reflected in George Orwell’s 1984, or locate an article about the NSA or another current event that could influence an author to predict a controlled or bleak future.

Day 8-10
Students will use their summaries to conduct a movie discussion with their group members. Using the summaries they wrote over the weekend, they will create a summary on their Wikispaces. Students need to properly cite all of the sources that they use to create this summary.

Students will locate a blog, wiki, discussion board, or other forum on their movie through the use of the website Scoop It. Scoop It allows individuals to search for a specific topic and receive results from a variety of different sites. The instructor will ask students to sign up for a Scoop It account and explain some of the features. Students can begin by exploring the Dystopian page created by their instructor.


They will look for something new or interesting that they can incorporate in their Wiki about the movie or dystopian societies in general. This information can be directly from the source to which they reply or from research they conduct as a result of what they read on the blog or discussion forum. They must reply to at least two blogs, forums, or posts on Scoop It. This assignment will be graded.

Day 11-12
Students will present their Wikis to their peers. After the presentations, the class will generate ideas about how dystopian societies criticize contemporary trends, societal norms, and political systems. The instructor will ask for a volunteer to record ideas on a separate page on the Wikispace.

The class will discuss the process of working together on a Wiki and the benefits/flaws of using this type of medium to gather information.

Students will add to Wiki with information about their novels at the end of the month.


Wikispaces : Exploring Dystopias in Literature and Film

Student Name:

Exceeds Expectations
Meets Expectations
Needs Improvements
The site has a well-developed definition of dystopian societies as well as examples from film & literature. There is a clear explanation as to why dystopias are relevant to society today.
The site has a definition of dystopian societies as well as examples from film or literature. The connection between dystopias and society today is not clear or other concepts are not fully developed.
The ideas displayed on site are not clear or developed. There is a lack of research to support claims.
Components are missing or the information is not credible or accurate.
Presentation of Material
The presentation displays that the group has an exceptional understanding of the material included in the site and where to find additional information. The group is able to elaborate beyond the text provided in their Wikispace.
The presentation displays that the group has a good understanding of the material included in the site, but may not have fully explored the concepts.
The presentation displays that the group has a fair understanding of the material included in the site, but may be unclear about various topics.
The presentation displays that the group did not appear to learn much from this project. Cannot answer most questions about the content and the procedures used to make the web site.
Most or all of the facts are from sources that have experience or expertise in the area of study
Many of the facts are supported by sources that have experience or expertise in the area of study
Few of the facts are supported by research or by sources that have experience or expertise in the area of study
Little research has been conducted to provide evidence for claims
Appropriate citation of sources for facts and images/videos effectively linked to a reference section at the end of the Wikispace.
Appropriate citation of sources for facts and images/videos. Citations are lacking or some are improperly cited.
Some citations are provided but others are missing or citations listed do not match up with citations in reference section.
Little or no citations of sources and images/videos.
The Wikispace has an exceptionally attractive and usable layout. It is easy to locate all important elements. White space, graphic elements and/or alignment are used effectively to organize material.
The Wikispace has an attractive and usable layout. It is easy to locate all important elements.
The Wikispace has a usable layout, but may appear busy or boring. It is easy to locate most of the important elements.
The Wikispace is cluttered looking or confusing. It is difficult to locate important element.s.
Graphics are related to the theme/purpose of the site, are thoughtfully cropped, are of high quality and enhance reader interest or understanding.
Graphics are related to the theme/purpose of the site, are of good quality and enhance reader interest or understanding.
Graphics are related to the theme/purpose of the site, and are of good quality.
Graphics seem randomly chosen, are of low quality, OR distract the reader.
Spelling and Grammar
There are little to no errors in spelling, punctuation or grammar in the final draft of the Web site.
There are 1-3 errors in spelling, punctuation or grammar in the final draft of the Web site.
There are 4-5 errors in spelling, punctuation or grammar in the final draft of the Web site.
There are more than 5 errors in spelling, punctuation or grammar in the final draft of the Web site.

With the amount of information being shared through social networking websites, it would be a disservice to students in the classroom if they were unable to access this content in order to further their understanding of various topics. In addition to the wealth of information available, students are constantly engaging in literacy practices on a daily basis through the use of social media. For example, students are using Twitter to discuss the latest fashion trends or carrying out complex conversations regarding their current position in the game Call of Duty. Individuals in today’s society have the opportunity to be members of a worldwide learning community. Thus, educators should acknowledge the new way that students are learning and incorporate these skills into the classroom. This unit plan allows students to collaborate with their peers to acquire an understanding of dystopian societies and to determine reasons why this information is relevant.
The intentions of this unit plan are to engage students in a learning experience incorporating new literacies that will prepare students to acquire information in a digital culture. Regardless of the path that students choose to pursue, they will be immersed in a new media culture and a variety of participatory cultures. Henry Jenkins (2007) describes a participatory culture as “one where there are relatively low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement, where there is strong support for creating and sharing what you create with others, where there is some kind of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the most experienced gets passed along to newbies and novices, where members feel that their contributions matter, where members feel some degree of social connection with each other at least to the degree to which they care what other people think about what they have created” (Jenkins, 2007). Based on this definition, participatory cultures have shifted the way that learning takes place outside of the classroom. Wikispaces “utilize the power of student-to-student interaction, community knowledge, and structure” (Ferris & Wilder, 2006). Wikispaces are an example of a participatory culture where communities of people are able to gather information, alter or enhance that information, and circulate it through to the masses.
This concept of this unit is inspired by teaching the novel 1984 by George Orwell, a staple of classic literature often found in a school’s curriculum. The topics discussed in 1984 have reached far beyond Orwell’s time and crept into today’s society. Dystopian Literature has become popular especially for young adults. In a recent discussion board posted on the New York Times website, various authors of dystopian novels provide their insight as to why dystopian literature has become popular for adolescents today. One author, Maggie Stiefvater (2011), suggests that the bleak societies displayed in dystopian novels provide adolescents with a clear choice of right and wrong. “If only the evil in the world was named Voldemort, we could get down to the business of slaying it. And with the dystopian novels, we know just what we're fighting for” (Stiefvater, 2011). Thus, adolescents are intrigued by the ability of dystopian protagonists who are often able to enact a change by carrying out a just action. This plot setup is not only appealing to young adults, but also an applicable lesson in ethics and self-advocacy. The unit on exploring dystopias is designed to place students in participatory cultures where they will attempt to come to an understanding as to why dystopias are relevant to their lives. Instead of the mundane task of learning about the characteristics of a dystopian society, reading works of dystopian literature, and writing about the two, students are collaborating to determine the answers on their own. In addition, students are creating Wikispaces which they can share with their peers as well as publicly with other curious individuals. According to Jenkins (2011), “Wikipedia empowers students to take seriously what they have learned in other classes, to see their own research as having potential value in a larger enterprise, and to take greater responsibility over the accuracy of what they have produced.” In addition to creating the Wikispace, students will need to conduct research, locate credible sources to support their claims, and properly cite their sources. These skills are all present on the Common Core Standards (2012) and will be necessary to prepare students who plan on attending college.
Teaching students about dystopias in this unit moves away from the traditional “push” method of teaching and moves towards student “pull” learning (Brown & Hagel, 2005). Through a “pull” model, students gain autonomy by pulling in information in order to create their own unique understanding of a concept. According to Brown and Hagel (2005), the pull model differs from the push model because
Rather than seeking to dictate the actions of participants, pull models given even more people on the periphery the tools and resources (including connections to other people) needed to take the initiative and to address opportunities creatively as they arise. Rather than treating producers as passive consumers whose needs can be anticipated and shaped by centralized decision makers, pull models treat people as networked creators...Pull platforms harness their participants’ passion, commitment, and desire to learn, thereby creating communities that can improvise and innovate rapidly. (p. 88)
Therefore, this model fosters the types of learning that educators should be promoting in the classroom: collaborative, autonomous, creative, passion-based learning.
In conclusion, this unit is intended to display the shifts in teaching that should follow the shifts in student learning in the 21st century. Henry Jenkins (2007) states that “Participation in these online communities constitutes a new hidden curriculum which shapes how young people perform in school and impacts the kinds of opportunities they will enjoy in the future.” Hopefully, participatory cultures will come out from hiding and be a more prevalent way for students to conduct research in the classroom.


Brown, John Seely, & Hagel, John (2005). From Push to Pull: The Next Frontier
of Innovation. The McKinsey Quarterly. Retrieved from http://www.johnseelybrown.com/pushpull.pdf

Common Core Standard Initiative. (2012). English Language Arts Standards.
Retrieved from http://www.commoncorestandards.org/the-standards

Ferris, S. Pixy, & Wilder, Hilary (2006). Uses and Potentials of Wikis in the
Classroom. Innovate, 2 (5). Retrieved from

Jenkins, Henry (2007, June 26). What Wikipedia Can Teach Us About the New
Media Literacies (Part One). Message posted to

Stiefvater, Maggie (2011). Pure Escapism. The New York Times. Retrieved from
[[http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2010/12/26/the-dark-side-of-young-adult-fiction/pure-escapism-for- young-adult-readers|http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2010/12/26/the-dark-side-of-young-adult-fiction/pure-escapism-for- young-adult-readers]]


Dystopian Films
Directions: Choose one of the movies below to watch and explore through your Wikispace. Each group must choose a different film. Please sign up with me when you decide what movie you are using.
1. Logan’s Run (1976) PG

2. I Robot (2004) PG-13

3. Soylent Green (1973) PG

4. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) PG-13

5. Silent Running (1972) PG

6. War of the Worlds (1953) or (2005) PG-13

7. Gattaca (1997) PG-13

8. Planet of the Apes (1968) G

9. Pleasantville (1998) PG-13

10. Serenity (2005) PG-13

11. Minority Report (2002) PG-13

12. The Omega Man (1971) PG

13. The Hunger Games (2012) PG-13

14. The Host (2013) PG-13

15. In Time (2011) PG-13

16. Wall-E (2008) G

17. Oblivion (2013) PG-13

18. The Island (2005) PG-13

19. I Am Legend (2007) PG-13

20. Surrogates (2009) PG-13

Dystopian Literature
1. 1984 by George Orwell
2. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
4. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
5. Divergent by Veronica Roth
6. Blood Red Road by Moira Young
7. The Host by Stephenie Meyer
8. Matched by Ally Condie
9. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
10. Legend by Marie Lu
11. Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
12. The Maze Runner by James Dashner
13. The Selection by Kiera Cass
14. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
15. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
16. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore
17. The Running Man by Stephen King

18. Watchmen by Alan Moore
19. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
20. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
21. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
22. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood