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ANTHEM Unit: Teaching Ayn Rand’s Novella

    Anthem Lesson Plans Unit FEATURED d

    This Anthem unit plan leads students through engaging explorations of historical context, characterization, point of view, symbolism, language style, theme development, and more. Includes 20 Anthem lesson plans, instructional materials, fun activities, and teacher guide.

    Anthem Unit Overview

    • Pre-reading: “A New Society”
    • Reading 1 (Chapter 1): “WE Rules!”
    • Reading 2 (Chapters 2-7): “Cold War Cartoon Conflict”
    • Reading 3 (Chapters 8-12): “Equality’s Evolution”
    • Follow-up: “Hall of Allusions”
    • Project: “Going Deep: Symbol and Motif”

    Anthem Lesson Plans: Before Reading

    Introduction Slideshow & Anticipation Guide

    • Anthem prereading slideshow


    The Anthem introduction slideshow provides helpful background information, a preview of the story, and an overview of the learning goals. Before viewing the slideshow, decide if you want students to take notes or to keep the viewing informal.

    WRITING PROMPT: Do you enjoy stories about imagined futures, strange possibilities, or hypothetical science? Are such stories just for fun or do they hold deeper importance? Explain your views.

    After introducing the novella, have students reflect on key theme subjects and share their own perspectives by completing the anticipation guide.

    anthem unit anticipation guideANTICIPATION GUIDE WORKSHEET (PDF )

    Implementation suggestion:

    1. Respond to the statements on your own.
    2. Identify three statements that you would like to discuss.
    3. Group time: Take turns leading the discussion. Start your turn by sharing your own response.
    4. Share out: Which statement received the most attention from your group?


    A New Society Activity

    Anthem introduction worksheet


    For thousands of years, philosophers, social scientists, and leaders have pondered how to make a more perfect society. People are continually trying to improve society in specific ways, but there have also been momentous revolutions.

    We will conduct a thought experiment by exploring original ideas to rewrite human society from scratch. You hold the future in your hands. You have been given absolute authority in designing and implementing a new society. You will determine the form of the most ideal society possible. Your society can be small or global, but it should be self-sufficient.

    Speculative Fiction

    Anthem is dystopia fiction, a work that imagines a horrible human existence. Other famous works in the genre of dystopia fiction include The Handmaid’s Tale, The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Brave New World. Dystopia fiction, science fiction, and alternate histories fall under the broader category of speculative fiction. Speculative fiction imagines (speculates) what might be under certain circumstances.

    Fun clip: “Model Citizen” (5 minutes) by David James Armsby – CONTENT WARNING: Violent and unsettling ending!

    Helpful clip: “Science Fiction vs Speculative Fiction” (7 minutes, introduction only) from Book Odyssey – A nuanced deep-dive into speculative genres. 

    Let’s read a short example of speculative fiction to get us thinking about the genre.

    Anthem Lesson speculative fictionSPECULATIVE FICTION HANDOUT

    (The handout will work with any short work of speculative fiction.)

    Reading suggestions: 

    Anthem Lesson Plans: Reading 1 (Ch. 1)

    Discussion Set #1

    Discussion worksheet 1


    Suggestion: Assign each group 1 question from the top, 1 question from the bottom, and 1 excerpt. The group discusses and prepares 3 responses to share with the class.

    Alternative: Each student chooses 1 question from the top set, 1 question from the bottom set, and 1 excerpt and responds in writing. The class discusses the questions in order.

    WE Rules!

    What are the foundational principles of our society? How do we get along and function?

    Imagine that you are hosting an exchange student from another planet.  What rules and expectations should they understand about humanity and society before the start of the school year?

    If students need prodding, remind them of the principles of government, expected rights, traditional morality, good citizenship, cultural norms, how the economy works, etc.

    Fun Clip: “Moses Presents the Ten Commandments” (3 minutes) from Paramount Films – Moses lays down the laws for the Israelites.

    Helpful Clip: “Duties and Responsibilities of Citizens” (6 min.) from Pursuit of History


    Anthem asks us to imagine a society based on some unusual and strictly enforced principles and expectations. Equality refers to these rules (many that he has broken) as they come up in his telling. We will formalize the list of rules based on his explanations.

    Part 1: Collect Textual Evidence regarding the rules of the Anthem society.

    You may want to model the completion of one entry as a class.

    Part 2: Codify the Rules of Anthem.

    Codify means to organize an official code or set of rules. In history class you might learn about Hammurabi’s Code, 282 laws from ancient Babylon. You might also hear someone refer to the municipal code, the rules for their town or city.

    Sticker Economics / Share the Wealth

    This Anthem activity starts with a trivia game. This game will serve as an analogy for an important aspect of life: economics.

    Economy: a system of inter-related production and consumption activities that determine the allocation of resources within a group. The production and consumption of goods and services that fulfill the needs of the society. Farms, factories, jobs, workers, bosses, owners, paychecks, purchases, profits, hiring, firing, and taxes are all part of the economy.

    Game Time:

    You will answer individually (no helping) to earn the most stickers. On your turn, you will keep answering and earning until you miss a question.

    Round 1: Capitalism (15-20 minutes) Hand out stickers for each correct response. Everyone keeps their own stickers.

    Round 2: Communism (15-20) minutes For each success, a sticker goes in the collective pot to be shared equally at the end.

    Class vote: Would you rather keep the stickers from the individual round or the collective round?

    What is Communism?


    Even though Rand’s dystopian fiction takes place in the future, full comprehension requires more than imagination. You should understand the state of the world when Anthem was written and published (the historical context). The novella was written and published in the twentieth century when two philosophically opposed systems, Capitalism and Communism, competed for world domination.

    Suggested readings:

    Anthem Lesson Plans: Reading 2 (Chs. 2-7)

    Discussion Set #2

    Anthem group activity


    Suggestion: Assign each group 1 question from the top, 1 question from the bottom, and 1 excerpt. The group discusses and prepares 3 responses to share with the class.

    Alternative: Each student chooses 1 question from the top set, 1 question from the bottom set, and 1 excerpt and responds in writing. The class discusses the questions in order.

    Who is Equality 7-2521?

    Anthem Unit Character ActivityANTHEM UNIT: CHARACTER ACTIVITY

    At this point in the novella, Rand has formed Equality 7-2521 fully. She creates the character in our imaginations through his thoughts, statements, actions, and interactions.  Some of the characterization is direct (stated plainly) and some of the characterization is indirect (you must make inferences and reach a conclusion).

    We also understand the conflicts at the center of Equality’s story.  He struggles against external forces such as other people and the natural world.  He also deals with internal conflicts, the thoughts and emotions that trouble him and make him, well, conflicted.

    Cold War Cartoon Conflict

    Cold War Cartoon Conflict - ANTHEM


    Make no mistake, many people and organizations are trying to control your thoughts and beliefs.  It may be as simple as your parents trying to influence who you hang out with or as insidious as a multi-national corporation convincing you to adopt a self-destructive habit.

    In the 20th century, opposing “isms” (capitalism, communism, and fascism) fought for the hearts and minds of nations and people. Institutions / organizations relied on propaganda, the spreading of one-sided messages.  Propaganda takes the form of articles, posters, slogans, etc. that propagate (spread) a message without concern for fairness or truth.

    Today we will be watching several short cartoons representing both sides of the Cold War. As you watch, ask yourself…

        • What do the cartoon’s makers want me to believe?
        • What about the cartoon is one-sided, misleading, over-simplified, or inaccurate?

    Symbolism Practice

    Symbolism worksheet short storySYMBOLISM PRACTICE (PDF)

    Warm-up: Can you think of any literary symbols from famous stories or popular culture?

    Lesson: Prepare to analyze the symbols in Anthem by explaining the symbolism in a short story.

    Short story suggestions:

    Anthem Lesson Plans: Reading 3 (Chs. 8-12)

    Discussion Set #3

    Anthem lesson plans Ayn Rand pdf


    Suggestion: Assign each group 1 question from the top, 1 question from the bottom, and 1 excerpt. The group discusses and prepares 3 responses to share with the class.

    Alternative: Each student chooses 1 question from the top set, 1 question from the bottom set, and 1 excerpt and responds in writing. The class discusses the questions in order.

    Equality’s Evolution (character arc)

    Equality's Evolution - ANTHEM


    Main characters often take a personal journey that changes their views and/or personality. Sometimes the journey changes their identity completely. (A name change can signify this.) This journey is known as a character arc.

    Fun clip: “Anakin & Luke’s Reflective Character Arcs” (9 minutes) from Cinema Stuff CONTENT WARNING: Star Wars violence

    • Brainstorm a list of characters that change (dynamic characters).
    • Brainstorm a list of characters that remain the same (static characters).
    • Choose one changing character and explain their personal journey (character arc)

    dynamic characters table

    Equality changes profoundly over the course of Anthem; this makes him a dynamic character. Like most real people, dynamic characters’ views and desires change over time. (Any characters who do not really change are called static characters.) Summarize Equality’s personal journey (character arc) using the graphic organizer.

    Excerpt Experts: Language Style

    Style of language features prominently in Ayn Rand’s Anthem.  She chooses her words carefully to set a tone and create emotional and intellectual responses. The specific language style choices accumulate and build to create the overall effect.

    Lesson: Excerpt Experts

    1. Review the list of language style elements (on handout) as a class.
    2. Analyze one practice excerpt as a class.
    3. Analyze separate excerpts in small groups.
    4. Share analysis.
    Anthem lesson plans language style


    Conclusion: You may have noticed that Rand’s writing in Anthem imitates the style of a religious text. She uses words like holy, martyr, miracle, alter, covet, saint, commandment, sacred, hymn, and sin. The sentence structure suggests a sacred prophecy or the testament of a disciple.

    Propaganda Gallery

    Anthem lesson plan propandaANTHEM ACTIVITY: PROPAGANDA GALLERY

    When an individual or organization uses “nonsense persuasion” to support a particular cause or point of view it is called propaganda. It propagates (spreads) the idea without any concern for fairness or truth.

    NOTE: A reasonable argument that considers different points of view is NOT propaganda.

    Helpful link: “Logical Fallacies” (21 slides) from

    Helpful link: “Valid and Fallacious Reasoning” (15 slides) from Ms. Beaulieu

    Propaganda Gallery Activity:

      1. Analyze the first example as a class.
      2. Break into small groups or partners to analyze examples (1 image per group).
      3. Groups present. (If possible, project each image as students present.)

    Anthem Unit Plan: Follow-up Lessons

    “The Allegory of the Cave”

    Allegory of the Cave - ANTHEM


    Warm-up: What is reality? Have you ever had a dream that seemed real or a false memory? What if your whole life is a perfectly detailed virtual reality algorithm? What if this is the afterlife, and it is actually a test? How can you be sure that your life is real? Explain your views.

    Through: Can you think of any stories that are meant to represent a larger story or concept?

    • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis – Christianity
    • Animal Farm by George Orwell – The Soviet Union and the rise of Stalinism
    • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – World War II (This is hotly debated.)
    • The Matrix films – The nature of perception and reality
    • The Wizard of Oz – U.S. politics in the 1900s (especially the gold standard)

    We will study a famous allegory from Greek philosophy. Once you understand Plato’s allegory, explain the meaning of the cave story and make connections to Anthem.

    Wrap-up: Deliberate or accidental? Do you think Ayn Rand consciously thought about Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave” as she was writing Anthem, or are the connections coincidental? Explain.

    Hall of Allusions (source material)

    You may note an author making references to a well-known event, history, or text. These references are called allusions. Allusions create connections in the mind of the reader to ideas that are already understood. Of course, if the reader has no knowledge of the source material, the added meaning is lost.

    Allusion: a reference to a well-known person, place, event, literary work, or cultural concept, often without explicit explanation or description. Allusions create a deeper meaning and add context.

    Shades of meaning:

    • Allusion suggests a subtle, implied connection.
    • Reference suggests a more direct and explicit connection.
    Anthem worksheets allusions


    Going Deep: Symbol and Motif

    symbols and titles activitySYMBOLS AND TITLES ACTIVITY

    Ayn Rand uses symbolism extensively in Anthem — but not in her title. Which people, objects, places, or events in Anthem might have deeper layers meaning? Brainstorm a list of possible symbols; feel free to include minor details.

    Use textual evidence to explain the meaning attached to ONE symbol or motif in Anthem

    A symbol is an object, person, place, or event that has a deeper meaning beyond itself.  For example, the white whale in Moby Dick is more than an ill-tempered aquatic mammal. The whale represents fate, obsession, and Captain Ahab.

    A motif is a recurring (shown more than once) element the author uses for intended effect.  It might be a line of dialogue, a description, a comparison, an image, or an idea. 

    Anthem lesson symbols ayn randTEACHING ANTHEM MATERIALS

    Structure and Effects

    Some stories have a simple structure that proceeds in a straight line. Things get more complicated when authors alter the order, manipulate time, use multiple points of view, add plots, or include devices like foreshadowing and dramatic irony.        

    The structure creates effects like tension, suspense, surprise, and mystery by determining what you know and when you know it.

    Fun clip: “The Lion King Foreshadowing” (3 min.) from kaeleb57 – The episode with the mouse foreshadows the attempted murder of Simba.

    Dark humor clip: “Antiques Roadshow – Chekhov’s Gun” (3 min.) from Funny or Die – Make sure to explain Chekhov’s gun / concrete foreshadowing first.

    The structure of Anthem includes some flashbacks and a romantic subplot, but it mainly follows one point of view in chronological order. What deserves attention is how Rand uses the structure to create effects like tension, mystery, and surprise.

    Structural devices:

        • Dramatic irony: When the audience/reader has information that a character needs.
        • Manipulation of time: When an author tells events out of order, changes the pace, or skips over the passage of time.
        • Flashback: A manipulation of time that goes back to a particular moment.
        • Foreshadowing: Clues that hint at what will happen in the story.
        • Ambiguity: When the meaning or outcome is left unclear or mysterious.

    Anthem story structureTEACHING ANTHEM MATERIALS

    What’s the Big Idea? (theme development)

    Anthem unit activity themeANTHEM UNIT AND MATERIALS

    Warm-up: The word “theme” has different meanings. We are not talking about a prom theme or theme parks or theme music. In literature, the theme is the message. You should express the theme as a complete sentence.

        • Theme subject: love —-  Theme: Love stinks.
        • Theme subject: revenge  —-  Theme: Seeking revenge also punishes the seeker.

    List theme subjects found in Anthem — include even the less important subjects.

    Lesson: Use the handout to trace the development of one theme subject in Anthem. By providing the pertinent information, you will both identify the full message (theme) and explain how it is communicated.

    Anthem Unit Project Ideas

    1. Anthem II: The World Council Strikes Back
    2. Symbols, Motifs, and Allusions (presentation)
    3. A Speech to Free the City (public speaking)
    4. Theme Development (essay)
    5. Anthem KARAOKE!
    6. Novel Topics Research Project
    7. Propaganda Exposed! (poster gallery)
    8. Propaganda Battle: Prometheus vs. The World
    9. A Home of the Actors Production (performance)
    10. Read-N-Share: Dystopia Stories
    11. In a World Where… (You make a movie trailer.)
    12. Creative Writing: Speculative Fiction
    13. Rand’s Style of Language (essay)
    14. Adaptation for the Stage or Screen (performance)
    15. Theme Reflection (personal essay)
    16. Personality Quiz / Theme Debate
    17. Judging a Cover by Its Book (art challenge)
    18. Literary Analysis: Character Development
    19. Utopias Research Project

    Related Post: Top 12 ANTHEM Project Ideas (Ayn Rand)

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    Teaching Anthem can be approachable, rewarding, and even fun when you have effective and engaging lesson plans. If you feel that these ideas make the grade, download the ANTHEM Teaching Guide which provides a comprehensive playbook with all the instructional materials you need. Anthem teaching materials (handouts, slideshows, answer keys, etc.) come in file formats that you can modify.

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