Looking for an Animal Farm unit? Use these activities and ideas to add engagement to Orwell’s novel.
Animal Farm is a book that I could teach half asleep. (Not that I would. I enjoy the content, and love it too much.) I feel that I’m passionate while teaching it. I’ve taught it probably close to two dozen times. Easily, it’s in my top five favorite books to teach and create accompanying activities.
I created my Animal Farm unit after borrowing and mismatching ideas and never having complete cohesiveness. One weekend I took my notes, scraps of ideas, and mental images and turned it into a large bundle. I was satisfied and proud of this now tangible thing, of the fun Animal Farm activities.
Then, a customer said that while my unit was sound, it was missing some ‘oomph.’ She wanted “activities to get the students “feeling” the pressure of Animal Farm.”
I pondered that feedback for awhile. Eventually, I understood—I should have provided the extras that I have completed while teaching Animal Farm. I don’t use all of these ideas at once, but I have used them all at least once.
Teaching Animal Farm requires a connection to students’ lives and to their experiences. Here are free ideas to add to any Animal Farm unit plan.
Relate brainwashing to their lives.
Part of successful brainwashing is the repetition of ideas—the changing of ideas. Students encounter subtle brainwashing in their lives. During my first teaching job, I worked next to an incredibly bright lady. The easiest way to teach this (she taught me) was to show advertisements. Open up any magazine, preferably a fat one with gobs of ads. Start flipping through. What do you see? Repeats—brainwashing of products. Lipsticks, mascaras, baseballs, video games: no matter what topic, you can show students that repetition is a major part of advertising.
And why? Because marketing executives know repetition works! The pigs were marketing themselves and their beliefs to the other animals. Show students this quick read that states, “Repetition is fundamental to the success of any advertising program.” The pigs knew that too.
Add a digital element to your Animal Farm lesson plans: Ask students to find an example of an advertisement that uses repetition. Students can look for print or videos.
Understand the hen-confession-scene.
The most difficult section of the book for students is when hens confess to crimes they didn’t commit. Understanding these scenes requires a psychological explanation. Why would people confess to something they didn’t do?! On the simplest of scales, bullied victims will align themselves with their bullies to end the teasing. Victims will go along with odd requests to be liked, to be left alone. Here, the hens were under stress to please Napoleon. This video from History can help students understand the situation.
Add a digital element to your Animal Farm lesson plans: What other psychological tricks does Napoleon use? Ask students to find research about manipulation, starvation, and devotion.
Add the Seven Commandments to a wall.
This takes planning, but I wrote out the Seven Commandments one year, and my students talked about it for the next two years. I used a poster board and wrote the commandments. As I assigned chapters, I replaced one poster board with another, modifying the commandments as the pigs did. We would discuss the additions/subtractions during review. I never told students about switching the poster boards; I waited for them to notice. And- what! Students don’t notice the changes immediately? Even better. Now they can see how easy it is to overlook something staring you in the face.
Add a digital element to your Animal Farm lesson plans: Create a simple background to your Google Classroom (or other platform) with the commandment. Change them every few days.
Map how the pigs are never the other animals’ equals.
Before the pigs took over the farm, they had taught themselves to read—automatically making themselves advanced. The increments of learning and regard from the pigs make equality long gone before the other animals catch on. Have students find the examples of how the pigs “better” themselves. Plus, this opens the door to a writing assignment concerning ‘equality’ and their society today. It’s beautiful when the unit and lessons align, right?
Add a digital element to your Animal Farm lesson plans: What power does literacy provide people? Ask students to contribute a resource for their classmates. Create a hyperdoc with information for students to browse.
Hopefully, these ideas or a variation of one or two will give your Animal Farm lessons a little extra, something for your students to remember, a little oomph to add for your Animal Farm unit. You can also download 101 activities for any piece of literature:
These ideas can be used with any Animal Farm unit. Feel free to look at my Animal Farm unit plan.
Check out my Facebook page, where I share Animal Farm activities as well as ideas for other books.