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Exploratory Activities (Introductory/Focus)

Date:               June 30, 1998
Unit Creator:   Annette Gajewsky, English Department
                       Tegeler Career Center, Pasadena ISD

This unit can be used to teach poetic elements with popular music and the utopian philosophy presented in Sir Thomas More's Utopia through poetry, short stories, and novels. 

Using modern songs such as John Lennon's "Imagine," Bette Midler's "From a Distance," or Phil Collins' "Paradise," introduce the topic of utopias and dystopias.

First, provide students with copies of the song(s).  Discuss poetic elements from a textbook or handout.    Have the students look for these poetic elements.  Play the song for the students.  If possible play a slide show (i.e. PowerPoint) of the lyrics while listening to the music.


 Utopia vs. Dystopia Unit

Level:             High School
Subject:          English
Time period:   One Semester

One objective of this unit is to teach reading and writing skills through a literature-based curriculum.

A second objective is to teach literary, political, and social concepts pertaining to idealized utopian societies.


Concept Development Activities (Procedures/Activities)

After the introductory focus, have the students discuss the meanings of these songs.  Students can write a multi-paragraph paper showing the teacher that they understand these poetic elements and the meaning of utopias and dystopias.

After discussing these songs move on to reading "Harrison Bergeron" by Kurt Vonnegut or "There Will Be Soft Rains" by Ray Bradbury (or another utopian/dystopian short story).  Discuss these stories in reference to our theme.  Students can write essays to discuss character analysis, the use of setting, or another related topic selected by the teacher or student.

Students read Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 or another dystopian novel selected by teacher.  After studying this novel students can write their own short stories about a future world.  They can choose to either write about a utopian or dystopian society.  Students could also write a play about the theme and present it to the class. (If you are using Fahrenheit 451 you can use the children's story The Rebellious Alphabet as a introduction to the novel.)

Finally, if possible have the students watch the movie Camelot.  Discuss how King Arthur's Camelot is considered the "perfect" society by many people.  Also, discuss with students how John F. Kennedy's presidency is sometimes related to Camelot.  Students can do research papers or projects related to any of these topics.

Students present their projects to the class. 

Guided Practice

Teacher guides students through class discussion and a demonstration of how to analyze literature and write essays.

Teacher guides students through research process and how to do a research paper or project.

Independent Practice

Students write essays.
Students research and prepare papers or projects.
Students give presentations.
Student can write reports on other students' presentations.
Student can write critical reports on their own presentations.



Teacher and students discuss what they have learned about utopias.
Or as a final assignment students could write essays describing what they have learned from this unit.


Students can view other videos about utopian societies.
Students can study current events related to the issues presented in class.
Students can independently read other novels about utopias, etc. for book reports.

Materials, Resources, Software

Copies of poems, short stories, novels selected by teacher.
CDs or Cassettes of selected songs
CD or Cassette player
PowerPoint (or other presentation software)
Internet, CD-roms & library for research
Videos of selected movies/dramas


Originality and Creativity

Student Products/Evaluation

Students can be graded on a rubric for essays and reports.



Students will write one literary essay on poetry.
Students will write one character analysis essay or alternative essay.
Students will write one original short story about a utopia/dystopia.
Students will produce a research paper or project.




Students will discuss literary pieces in class.
Students will give an oral presentation of their research.


Using the computer and software for research projects, etc.
Preparing presentations (depends upon individual student).
Giving presentations (depends upon individual student).


Internet, CD-roms
PowerPoint slide shows




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