How to use Dystopia Literature in book clubs

Students LOVE dystopia literature!  From The Hunger Games and beyond…the genre is popular! That’s why it is a perfect match for your book clubs.

Students can’t seem to get enough of them, and there are so many great titles to choose from!  That’s a good thing when we want our students to want to read!

Capitalize on the popularity of these books by using them for your book clubs or literature circles.

Here are 7 steps to get your book clubs started:

1.  Help students understand what dystopia means

This excellent TedEd talk addresses the history of the genre and what it means.

As students view the video, you may want them to take notes on what they think is important.

2.  Provide an overview of the genre

Start your students with an expanding definition that includes:

  • elements of the setting
  • conflicts that might arise
  • anticipated plot elements
  • expected themes

You may want to create an anchor chart that includes the elements of the genre.  If you need one, you can find one here:


The wonderful thing about literature circles, book clubs, or whatever you want to call them, is that you have the ability to match your students with the right book.”

3.  Choose the right books

The wonderful thing about literature circles, book clubs, or whatever you want to call them, is that you have the ability to match your students with the right book.  You don’t have to teach a full-class novel that might be too easy for some students and too difficult for others.

Choose a variety of titles that are written on a variety of reading levels.  You can group students with appropriate books that will challenge them and expand their reading skills.

How to use dystopia literarature for book clubs

4.  Think about grouping

You might want your groups all read the same book — so one group of four or five students in reading Animal Farm and another group of four students is reading Unwind.

This is great, but remember that you can regroup students who are reading different books.  If your lesson for the day is on point of view, you can mix groups (like a jigsaw activity).  With this kind of grouping, your students will be comparing, contrasting, explaining, and defending.  It provides students with more accountability for their reading.

5.  Set a task for the day

The beauty of a genre centered book club is that your mini lessons apply to all groups.  For example:

  • If your mini lesson is about the setting, groups should be able to discuss what elements of dystopia can be found in the setting.
  • Perhaps you want your students to create an anchor chart entitled “Elements of a Dystopia.”  They can add to the chart as they progress through their reading.
  • When your mini lesson focuses on conflict, each group can report on a primary conflict the protagonist faces.

You can find a complete unit for running dystopia book clubs here.

6. Create time for reporting to the class

One of the best ways for students to make deep connections about what they are reading is to discuss.  Be sure to allow the last five or ten minutes of class for each group to share what they did in group that day.  For example, suppose your mini lesson for the day is about how setting can influence plot:

  • ask your students to discuss in their group how the setting does (or doesn’t) affect the plot of the book they are reading.
  • provide time at the end of class for each group to share their discoveries.
  • as one group reports, challenge the rest of the class to notice any connections between books.
  • add what students notice to your anchor chart or running class notes or “Interesting Observations about Dystopia” chart.

If you don’t have time to allow for reporting from all groups, exit cards, journal entries, or group feedback forms are a perfect way to get feedback from students.

How to use dystopia literature for book clubs

7.  Reviews & recommendations

Once students have finished reading, be sure to allow them to provide a review and recommendation.  This is a great way for students to find that “next great book to read” that will keep them motivated!  You can allow students to create a star rating, give a book talk, act out a scene, make a poster for a bulletin board, or write a quick review.

Having a “Read this next” piece of butcher paper on a classroom wall can be a fun way for students to share (and find) titles to read.

Reasons to love using dystopian literature with book clubs:

  • your students already love it!
  • topics that beg to be discussed!
  • connections with the real world.
  • middle school novels generally include protagonists who stand up for what is right.
  • fosters an appreciation for “the other” — a dystopian world tries to squelch those who are different.
  • empowers readers to stand up for what they believe in.
  • validates middle school students’ desire to question authority.

So, are you convinced?  Try adding this genre to your book club rotations.  Using dystopian novels in book clubsYou can use my dystopia book club unit that works with any text!  You can find it at my Teachers Pay Teacher’s store.

What do you think?  How can you use this genre in your classroom?  Share your comments below!

With gratitude,

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