Although dystopian novel study is a firm and familiar part of high school English, an awareness of the Utopian tradition in thought and literature is just as important. Tested on a middle-ability Year 9 (14-15 years) class, this unit can be taught independently or alongside the study of dystopian fiction.
This 60-page unit looks at how ideas of a perfect world grew from visions of paradise in early religion, through planned societies (focusing on Ancient Sparta), and comical visions (the medieval poem of topsy-turvy land), before appearing as a full description of a social perfection in Thomas More's Utopia and Michel de Montaigne's account of Brazil in the 1600s.
Each section as an introduction to the concepts and context, and has a core primary text broken into manageable chunks which encourage collaborative learning. There is a variety of writing tasks throughout for students of all abilities. There is an ongoing task, based on the work of Jim Dator, for students to describe their own ideal society. The final assessment (for which the marking criteria are included) draws on this ongoing project and requires a verbal presentation of one aspect of the student's ideal world.
This unit can be taught in an English, History, Social Science, Civics, or Philosophy class.
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