Before students read Lois Lowry’s Gathering Blue, hold a class discussion on the following guiding questions. As they read, they may reflect on their answers and modify their choices.
- What makes a society civilized?
- How do you know who to trust?
- Have you ever followed your instinct?
- How does fear control people?
Guided and Independent Practice
Utilize these activities with your students to build literary comprehension of the novel on multiple levels. Provide examples and model your expectations before drawing students into the lesson.
Social Customs As students read, have them identify the social customs of Kira’s village. How do villagers deal with death? Crime? How is property decided? Is there an educational system? What is the value of the individual? Students should compare and contrast customs in the novel with their own local practices and beliefs.
Identify Theme Define or review definition for themes. Brainstorm which life lessons seem prevalent. Ideas include overcoming adversity, friendship, loyalty, trust, exploitation.
Symbolism in Colors Blue is the color of reaching beyond, of sky, freedom. What do other colors symbolize? Brainstorm a list of symbols for the colors of the rainbow with your students. What is the significance of using colors as symbols? Here are a few suggestions:
- Red = anger
- Yellow = wealth
- Green = envy, youth
- Black = death
Compare and Contrast In small groups, compare and contrast this novel with any other novel read, especially if students read the previous novel to Gathering Blue, The Giver. Use one Venn Diagram to discuss characters, another for settings, a third for conflicts, and another for themes. If students have read another science fiction book or even seen a common science fiction movie, search for patterns within the genre. This activity will work well in a group setting, but could also function as an assessment in an independent setting.
Practice Summarization Choose one chapter for students to read on their own. Remind them that a summary must be stated in their own words and describe what happened at the beginning, middle and end of the chapter. It should be brief, to the point and, finally, it should include transitional words and phrases. Practice writing summaries together before assigning individual assignments.
Point of View What is the author’s purpose for including Kira’s internal monologue? What might Matt’s internal monologue sound like? Vandara’s? Jamison’s? Ask students to choose a scene from the novel and write an internal monologue in response to a conflict.
Questioning Rather than rely on a set of pre-made questions, ask students to read Gathering Blue and list their own set of unanswered questions they have about the book. As a guide, ask them to consider which questions might they ask to test another reader’s knowledge of the novel? Which of these questions are answered directly in the novel and which are answered through implied meaning?
Archetypes Archetypes in literature are classic examples of character types. Which characteristics would you use to describe the archetypical villain? Brainstorm a list of archetypes in this novel and other works of literature using a three column chart labeled Archetype, Characteristics and Examples. How do the villains compare? Students will collect or create a set of images demonstrating a variety of archetypes found in literature. How do these archetypes help to shape a story? Here are a few examples of character archetypes:
- the villain
- the hero/heroine
- the wise man
- the healer
- the damsel in distress
- the bully/coward
- the angel
- the orphan
Assessments and Activities
Essay Assignment Students will choose an unanswered question with an implied answer. What evidence is stated in the book which made them come to this conclusion? Students will use text evidence to support their response in an essay.
Social Government Which rules would students create for their own society? Have students work in groups to establish their own set of laws for running Kira’s village. How would they ensure the laws would be followed? Students will present their laws to the class, determine the best choices, and create one combined set of laws to help establish a new government for Kira’s village. Ask students to take this assignment one step further and rewrite the classroom, school or house rules. They must explain their choices.
Research Topics Get your students involved in the novel with this great idea for a Gathering Blue free lesson plan: research other ancient civilizations. Kira’s village celebrates a Ruin Song, a tale of what civilization used to be like in the novel. What about the real ancient civilizations of the world? How long did they exist? Where were they located? What caused their ruin? The following are a few ideas.
- Ottoman Empire
Another research activity includes researching either local or culturally known urban legends.
Media Step-by-Step Film a how-to video for villagers demonstrating how to do basic tasks, such as how to brush their teeth, how to cook using a stove, how to train a dog, how to mend a broken arm, and other such ideas which villagers might find useful.
Other Ideas for Activities
- Assemble a booklet with illustrations and directions for creating dyes.
- Weave a bracelet, such a friendship bracelet. Try different patterns and assign special meaning to each pattern.
- Dye your own thread using plants.
- Create a Singer’s robe detailing the story of our society’s existence for future generations. Students may use butcher paper to shape a robe and tape on individual drawings of events.
Hopefully, this Gathering Blue free lesson plan will serve as a starting point for classroom activities your students will enjoy completing while reading Lois Lowry’s magical novel.
Author’s personal experience
Lowry, Lois. Gathering Blue. Dell Laurel-Leaf: New York, 2000.