Tag Archives: Dystopian Literature

Dystopian Reading Quest Gamified

It begins with a thought that inspires and ignites a teaching concept. It could happen while I am reading a book or listening to NPR on my drive to and from work. It’s like the pull on your sweater that you tug at and it begins to unravel into something bigger than you first intended. This is what happens when I am teaching. I will often get a kernel of an idea in my mind about a unit of study or lesson and the more thinking and tinkering, a completely new concept emerges.

I just finished teaching a dystopian literature unit with my eighth grade students and I thought how can I make this unit more hands on, more self directed, and more engaging so that my students are successful readers, writers, and critical thinkers. At the same time, I want them to draw connections between the fictional dystopias and our world today.  What if I gamified it and my students become players in a dystopian environment I create in the classroom? How will it impact their learning, understanding, and thinking?

Welcome to the Dystopian Reading Quest:

The Backstory – We are going to adjust some of the ways our classroom community functions for our next unit. These changes will incorporate technologies we haven’t used in the classroom before that I think will improve communication amongst us. The changes should also ensure that all students are treated equally and are given roles in the classroom that reflect their strengths. We will explore new freedoms we haven’t explored before.


  1. No one will be allowed to talk in class at all without my permission. In fact, talking will be very limited from now on.
  1. You will instead communicate with one another via online chat in Google Classroom. I will have access to everything you say in your chats. No other form of communication will be allowed in class unless it is with me or is conducted with my permission.
  1. The class will be divided into 3 groups based on grades. Students with the highest grades will be in one group, those in the middle will be in another, and those with the lowest will make up the third group. There will be no communication allowed outside of these groups in class.
  1. We will no longer be discussing historical connections to our texts. We will be free from the burden of thinking about the past. We will concentrate on the here and now and the future of our classroom. History is not important.
  1. You may not discuss your family, interests, or cultural background. The culture of our classroom is more important. These other details distract from our task at hand. We are all equal. Our differences are not important.

* Other rules may be added depending on the current culture of the individual classroom.

Complete the following badges throughout this unit to earn privileges and unlock powers.  The more badges you complete towards mastery, and complete correctly, the more privileges you will gain and unlock the Oracle of Dystopian Knowledge. Not completing these tasks will result in punishments.  The badges are to be completed in sequential order. 





Students complete six badges while reading different dystopian texts independently to show their understanding and thinking. As a result, students are self directed and working at their own pace towards mastery. The expectations are clearly articulated and students must include evidence and links to their learning. The badges build on each other, it is not a menu board. Rubrics and checklists will be provided as guidelines for mastery learning.

I think these games are gonna be different.” — Haymitch Abernathy in Catching Fire (2013)



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Blending Words & Images With Sketchnoting

One goal that core teachers and I will be working on this school year is to have students be able to access learning through their own note taking. We are introducing three different note-taking strategies to use in all classes: Cornell Notes Method, Sketchnoting, and digital note taking or enotes.

My science teacher will introduce the Cornell Note Method to students while my social studies teacher will share ways to hyper link notes and curate digital information with enotes. I introduced sketchnoting to my students as third strategy for note taking. Sketchnoting blends words, images, and symbols to convey important ideas, topics, and texts.


There have been many different sketch notes shared on social media and with the popularity of Common Craft Videos, there are even apps that create digital sketch notes like Powtoon and Wideo.

This week I introduced stetchnoting to my students and then applied it as a way to convey the themes in their dystopian independent reading books.


I found invaluable resources from royanlee.com where I found slides and activities that I adapted for my middle school students. I also showed this video from Heidi Weber on Sketchnoting.


Sketchnoting is not about the art work. Rather it is about the ideas as Heidi says throughout her video. Specific sketchnoting techniques include:

Bullets are simple shapes that create categories and subcategories. Bullets can be any shape you choose – a circle, a triangle, a plus or a minus. Bullets help to create itemized lists and to group things together.

Frames are shapes around pictures or words: think ‘picture frame’ or ‘word bubble’. Frames create visual destinations in your visual note taking landscape. Next, you will need connectors.

Connectors are straight lines, arrows, dividers, leaves, and people etc., that move from one note to another, making connections.

Shadows, just like in drawing, draw attention. Watch visual note takers visually record and communicate ideas.

After we looked at examples and tried sketchingnoting a concept students learned in one of their classes this week, we applied it to ELA class. With a lesson on common themes in dystopian texts, rather than complete a graphic organizer, I asked students to sketchnote a dominant theme in their text. The only requirement was to incorporate two textual quotes to support their claims. Here are some of the great sketchnotes that students shared.

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Interactive Reading Foldables for Dystopian Fiction

This past month I have been working to put together the interactive reading foldables I created this spring for my students when teaching a unit on dystopian fiction. My students self selected one of three dystopian texts: Neil Shusterman’s Unwind, Lois Lowry’s The Giver, and Animal Farm by George Orwell. The students then broke into literature circles based on their literature choices and met twice a week to address specific aspects in their text. The other days of week we all met together to address larger concepts within the dystopian genre.

I have bundled together five lessons and interactive reading foldables specific to dystopian fiction and they are available for purchase on Teachers Pay Teachers. The five lessons include:

1. Definitions of Dystopia

2. Characteristics of a Dystopian Society

3. Types of Dystopian Control

4. Characteristics of a Dystopian Protagonist

5. Rebellion, Revolt, and Revolution within Dystopias

As an added bonus, I am posting an additional lesson on Rebellion, Revolt, and Revolution within Dystopian Fiction below. This lesson plan with all the materials will be available ONLY for the next five days.  The lesson includes an interactive foldable, an activity utilizing QR Codes to access images and movies connecting the concepts of rebellion and revolution to history, current events, and popular culture and requires students to apply what they know about their dystopian fiction to their understanding of rebellion and revolution.

To print out a copy of the lesson plan and materials CLICK HERE.

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