So at the end of reading The Giver, I was looking for different activities to drive home the importance of memory.
There is a lot of focus on memory and knowledge in the novel. We start the novel with Jonas recalling a memory to help him choose a precise word for his feelings. Throughout the novel he recalls memories as he tries to make sense of who he is and of course once he is chosen to be The Receiver of Memory, his whole life is dedicated to holding memories so that the people in his community and surrounding communities do not have to “remember” them and deal with whatever hardship memories might cause. They claim to have done this so that there could be Sameness, but I myself found myself asking questions that I had not had the capacity, or maybe just the perception, to consider when I read the book as a 7th or 8th grader. I’m excited that they’re making a movie, but after seeing the trailer I’m not sure how close it will be tied to the book.
The most prominent question that I kept coming back to throughout the novel, due to the fact that knowledge and memory/memories seem to be used interchangeably, was the question of whether memories and knowledge are different and if one was more important than the other. I decided that I wanted to do an activity with the students I have been working with in which we turned our classroom into the “Memory Annex” and became both Giver and Receiver. I presented them with eight (8) “memory transmission cards.” Essentially, these were memories like the ones in the novel, but they were events from our history (Moon landing, slavery, a wedding, discovery of King Tut’s tomb, President Obama’s election, and a few other more recent events). Students read the cards, decided what it showed about human nature, whether it should be “shared” with Jonas, and why it should be passed on. After this I asked them to consider the question about whether or not knowledge and memories mean the same thing and I asked them which was more important. I presented it to them as a question that I found myself asking and that I did not have a complete answer for yet. Some of their answers were pretty interesting.
I wanted to throw a wrench into some of their thinking and see if some of them might change their minds. I had decided that, personally, I believe there is a difference though I am not sure which is more important. I don’t think either is necessarily more beneficial than the other and there are some fuzzy lines between them. I asked my students if they had memories of 9/11. They mostly said no because they were under the age of two when it happened. I asked them if they have knowledge of 9/11 and they all agreed that, yes, they did have knowledge of the event because they’d learned about it in school. I told them that I had both because I remember where I was when I found out about it and how I felt that day and the days following. (Of course they asked where I was and I shared that little tidbit because I was on the very same campus that I was teaching on…-shrug- so…)
I also found myself seeing religious undertones in the novel that I’m sure I would not have picked up on when I was younger. Mostly because I am a different person and have learned what my religion means to me. But I found myself considering if the role of the Giver was supposed to be that of Christ or a prophet of some kind. Jonas was learning to be the Receiver and the Giver was, for all intents and purposes, encouraging Jonas to think about whether the way things were was really the best way to live. Part of being the Receiver is protecting people from pain; another task is counseling those who make decisions to ensure the safety and well-being of each citizen in the community. Anyway, I could go on about this in more detail, but I won’t right now.
Overall, my experience was really interesting and I learned quite a bit. I learned more about myself as a teacher and things that I hadn’t thought of before. I think I will fine tune some of my philosophies. I think it’s probably obvious that I am cutting this post short; it’s been too long since I started it to really pick up where I left off. I think it is safe to say that a lot has happened since I started it.