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Introduce Critical Reading With a Lesson Plan on 1984 by George Orwell

By Gillian Hendrie

This lesson plan gives an easy "in" to reading "1984". Get students thinking critically about the content right from the start of the novel.

After thinking about the concept of external controls over their lives and the effect of being under constant surveillance, students begin actively reading "1984" by George Orwell. The emphasis in this lesson plan is on discussion and discovery by students.

Listening

The students should have their novels closed if they have already read the book. Write these three questions on the board:

  1. Describe the main character.
  2. What is unusual?
  3. What do you need to know more about?

Now read the first page (or so) aloud. Students may take notes as you read. After the reading, give them time to write down short answers to the three questions.

Discussion

Students pair up to compare their answers briefly, then report back to the class. Make a list of the unusual aspects on the board. Allow students to share their ideas on these: for example, why do you think the clock struck thirteen, rather than one?

Responses to question 3 should include "What is Hate Week?"

Organizing Grid

The students should now record their questions onto a grid. The questions can include predictions about the plot.

The column headings are PAGE, QUOTE, QUESTION and ANSWERED? Using this grid enables students to keep track of their ideas as they read, and they will already have exact quotes ready when the class starts looking at themes.

The last column can be used in a number of ways:

  • a simple tick or cross (the least useful)
  • e.g. "p121" - meaning the student has found the answer on p12; she/he then writes a footnote to herself/himself explaining the answer.
  • e.g. "Me3 " - meaning the student has not found any explicit answer in the text (yet) but has drawn some conclusions from what she/he has read.

Footnotes are used to list answers rather than writing them into the table, as they should find various clues to the answers to most of their questions as they go on reading (and there wouldn't be enough room for all the information in the grid).

Ongoing

The grid should be used for the reading of the entire book. At various stages, the teacher needs to check that they are doing so. You can have many discussions around:

  • Students having the same questions as each other;
  • Students having unique questions;
  • The answers or clues found;
  • Seemingly unanswerable questions; and
  • Reasonable predictions, etc.

Download

Get the reading organization grid as a download.