Project URL: http://teachnet-lab.org/FKLANE/pmaslow/1984/compare.htm
In his classic book, 1984, George
Orwell includes specific methods and behaviors used by those who
controlled Oceania that are based on history, as well as others he
created himself. Students do research to show that the methods and
behaviors Orwell depicted are based on the behavior of other
dictators. Students also show that some of the leadership's methods
and behaviors in Oceania are not found in any existing government,
past or present.
Students first read 1984 and study it as a work of literature.
As they read, they should be aware that they will eventually write a
paper comparing the totalitarian regime of Big Brother to that of one
other dictator, past or present. They will need to take notice and
take notes when they see the human rights abuses and methods used by
the totalitarian government of Oceania in 1984. After students
are close to finishing their reading of the book and analyzing it in
class, they choose a country whose dictator or totalitarian
regime is similar to Oceania's leaders. Using links provided and doing
their own searching, they find information on the country and dictator
they choose. They take notes, writing the sources down as well. They
also review their own notes on the human rights abuses and methods of
the government in 1984, making sure they have appropriate
quotations and examples to prove their points.
After several days of research, the students create an outline of
their paper and then write at least two drafts. There is an evaluation
rubric already posted on-line, but this can be changed depending on
student input. Their papers are to be handed in at specified dates.
So students can see each other's first drafts, they are also posted on
Nicenet.org. Final drafts are turned into a student-created web page
and then uploaded to the Internet. For students who have never
created a web page before, more time should be allotted to this
activity, and a template can be created for them to use as well. The
teacher then creates a class web page and all the student web pages
are linked together there.
In this unit, students use the Internet for research, judge websites for
reliability, read for information, write to synthesize information
while using correct English, and create a web page.
Required materials include a computer with Internet connection and
web browser, web-authoring software such as Netscape Composer or MS
FrontPage, and word processing software.
Students who have to ability to read 1984 are probably above-average
students or in upper classes. The project itself is not so difficult,
but reading the book takes the good skills that high school students
need to have. The web page design and searching on the Internet
are not that difficult for those new to these activities.
Thankfully, there are very few papers on this topic yet sold or
available on the Internet. Only one student obviously plagiarized,
submitting a paper comparing China's Mao Tse-tung and 1984. The
rest of the students went through the entire process of looking for
information, evaluating it, and then organizing and writing their
papers. They zeroed in on the essential tenets of a totalitarian
government such as using a scapegoat, using torture, and other abuses
of human rights. Reading 1984 and doing this research paper
helped focus them on the abuse of power that comes with
dictatorships. There is a likelihood that these students will not take
their freedoms for granted in the future. The use of Nicenet.org and
the Internet web page where everyone can see each other's work is also
valuable. Students want to do their best in front of an audience of
their peers and they learn a great deal from each other.
The fact that there are real historical parallels in this book
motivates students to see if they can pinpoint them. Students get especially
interested by the explicitly "physical" scenes that start in
book two, so you can "dangle a carrot" by telling them if
they get through book one, they are really going to be enthralled by
book two. Also, remind students when taking notes to write down their
sources so they don't have look for them again when doing a
About the teacher:
Peggy Maslow recently retired after over 25 years of teaching
literature and using technology for much of that time. She continues
to be involved in staff development, helping teachers to incorporate
technology in the classroom.