Even advanced students benefit from introduction lessons before engaging with a complex text. Here are 12 Brave New World pre-reading activities to get students thinking before they enter Huxley’s disturbing dystopia.
Brave New World Pre-reading Activities overview:
- Welcome to Brave New World (slideshow and notes)
- Create a Utopia
- Anticipation Guide and Class Discussion
- Think about Genre: Speculative Fiction
- Real Utopias Past and Present
- An Introduction to Dystopian Fiction
- Huxley’s Real World (historical context)
- Symbolism Practice (short story edition)
- Designer Babies
- Are You Being Controlled? (survey)
- Classical Conditioning Experiment
- Key Excerpts Preview (allusions)
Welcome to Brave New World (slideshow and notes)
This presentation covers Brave New World background information, central theme subjects, and the unit goals. I include a notes worksheet to help students focus their attention, summarize key information, and reflect on speculative fiction as a genre.
To access the presentation and the PDF notes worksheet, check out Brave New World Introduction PowerPoint.
Create a Utopia
This Brave New World introduction activity asks students to imagine their version of the most perfect human society. Here is the lesson plan and pre-reading worksheet:
What are the biggest problems that you see in society today? Include the local and the global.
For thousands of years philosophers, social scientists, and leaders have pondered how to make a perfect society. People continually try to improve society, but there have also been revolutionary changes. We will conduct a thought experiment by exploring original ideas to rewrite civilization.
You hold the future of humanity in your hands. World leaders have given you absolute authority in designing and implementing a new human existence. You will determine the form of the most ideal society possible.
● Which proposal would you want to try? Explain.
● Which plan is the most feasible? Explain.
● Choose one of the plans and speculate on how it could go horribly wrong.
● Is it possible that humans can find the recipe for a perfect society?
Helpful clip: “Utopias Becoming Dystopias” (3 minutes) from Shmoop
Helpful clip: “The History of Utopian Thinking” (13 minutes) by Danilo Palazzo
Anticipation Guide (or How to Introduce Brave New World Themes without Spoiling the Plot)Anticipation Guide - Brave New World
I want students to consider their own views on the central theme subjects of the novel in advance. This anticipation guide raises Brave New World pre-reading questions without giving away the plot. Students reflect on the statements to consider ideas on…
- Thought control
- Science and technology
Think about Genre: Speculative Fiction
This clip is good for a laugh, but it also demonstrates how speculative fiction uses extraordinary circumstances to explore humanity’s search for meaning.
This Brave New World introduction lesson gets students thinking about the features and goals of speculative fiction:
What do you think life on Earth will look like in the year 2540? What will humans be like? How will society be different?
Brave New World fits within the genre (or type) of speculative fiction. Speculative fiction imagines what life would be like under extraordinary circumstances. In Brave New World, Huxley speculates on life for humanity in the year 2540.
We will analyze another example of speculative fiction in the form of a short story. Complete the worksheet and be ready to share your example to the class.
- “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson – A town follows a grisly and mysterious tradition.
- “The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury – What happens when kids can have anything they want?
- “2 B R 0 2 B” by Kurt Vonnegut – What would happen if people could live for centuries? (The zero is pronounced “naught.”)
- “Just Do It” by Heather Lindsley – How far will advertisers go to make a dollar? (LANGUAGE ADVISORY)
- “Examination Day” by Henry Slesar – The government takes an extreme role in making sure that everyone is intelligent.
- “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin – Could you walk away from a perfect life?
- “The Perfect Match” by Ken Liu – Will big data lead to unlimited surveillance and control? Is it already too late?
- “Spider the Artist” by Nnedi Okorafor – Rogue robots in the developing world (with a musical twist) (CONTENT ADVISORY)
- “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long” by Brian Aldiss – Are you human or robot? Only your Teddy bear knows for sure.
- Which speculative premise is the most likely in your opinion?
- Which speculation is the most interesting to think about?
The Oneida colonists
In researching real-life attempts striving for utopia, students explore diverse views on the meaning of perfection. As the novel illustrates, on person’s utopia is another person’s nightmare. Approach this Brave New World pre-reading activity as an abbreviated research project.
An Introduction to Dystopian Fiction
CONTENT ADVISORY: The clip contains blood and violence.
Prepare students for Brave New World by discussing dystopia examples from popular culture. Start by sharing one of your favorites. Ask students to share one dystopia example that they know by explaining…
- Premise (setting and situation): What speculations does the author offer?
- Plot: What is the conflict and how is it resolved?
- Mood: What feeling is created for the reader or viewer?
- Theme subjects (e.g., free will, truth, and deception)
- Central theme (e.g., Free will is an illusion.)
Non-fiction text: SOMEONE MIGHT BE WATCHING — AN INTRODUCTION TO DYSTOPIAN FICTION by Shelby Ostergaard.
Huxley’s Real World (historical context)Huxley's Real World - Brave New World
Have students research and present on one element of life in Western society in the 1920s and 1930s in order to contextualize the novel.
After visiting America in the 1920s, Huxley mused that Americans spent their energy “in places of public amusement, in dancing and motoring… Nowhere, perhaps, is there so little conversation… It is all movement and noise, like the water gurgling out of a bath–down the waste. Yes, down the waste.” His views on societal developments inspired him to write Brave New World in 1931.
Symbolism Practice (short story edition)
Since Huxley relies on symbols like conveyor belts, bottles, and islands in developing his themes, it makes sense to review symbolism analysis prior to starting the novel.
Symbolic elements in Brave New World:
- Conveyors / wheels
- The Works of Wm. Shakespeare
- The abandoned lighthouse
- The smoke-stack
- Mond’s copy of the Bible / Mond’s safe
The lesson includes a worksheet that guides students in analyzing symbolism in a short story. If students need additional support, start by exploring visual symbols and moving into literary symbols.
- “Marigolds” by Eugenia W. Collier (5 pages)—easy
- “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allen Poe (4 pages)—easy
- “A White Heron” by Sarah Orne Jewett (7 pages)—moderate
- “The Minister’s Black Veil” by Nathaniel Hawthorne (12 pages)—challenging
From artificial insemination to the editing of specific genes, reproductive science has come a long way. What might this mean for the future of humanity?
Discuss the ethical implications of genetically modified humans. You may want to read an article on the subject as a class before holding an informal debate.
1) How far is too far? What are the ethical concerns?
2) What are the benefits?
3) What are the risks for society?
Are You Being Controlled? (survey)Are You Being Controlled - Brave New World
What are some of the ways that one person can control another? For example, a prisoner’s movement is controlled through walls, bars, and fences. Now imagine that the walls, bars, and fences are in your own mind. Someone else has built them. You may not know that you are being controlled.
1: Complete the first page of the survey.
2: View a video clip on “brain hacking.”
3: Read “Our Brains Are No Match for Our Technology” (3 pages) by Tristan Harris. What are Harris’ central ideas? Explain how he develops his central ideas.
4: Complete the second page of the survey and reflect on your answers.
Will you change your relationship with technology based on this information? Why or why not?
- “Have You Talked with Your Kids About Pledging Allegiance?” (3 pages) from Psychology Today
- “Mind Control: It’s Happening to You Right Now” (6 pages) by Jeremy Lent
- “Surviving the Sneaky Psychology of Supermarkets” (3 pages) from National Geographic
- “The psychology behind retail marketing” (2 pages) by Katie Kochelek
- “Video game addiction is now being recognized—what happens next?” (9 pages) from MIT Technology Review
Classical Conditioning Experiment
Before students read Brave New World and observe the methods of the Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, study the psychology behind classical conditioning.
The worksheet below explain the basics of Pavlov’s work and leads students through simple experiment that involves manipulating heart rates.Classical Conditioning - Brave New World
Key Excerpts Preview
Have students consider key excerpts without context before reading Brave New World. They might make inferences about character, anticipate plot events, identify theme subjects, or recognize elements of the author’s style. It does not matter if the guesses are wildly off track. They are preparing to read closely, think critically, and discuss literary elements.
If your unit delves deeply into Huxley’s allusions, include excerpts that clearly refer to the Bible and the works of Shakespeare. Prime students to watch for these connections.
“Just to give you a general idea,” he would explain to them. For of course some sort of general idea they must have, if they were to do their work intelligently–though as little of one, if they were to be good and happy members of society, as possible. For particulars, as every one knows, make for virtue and happiness; generalities are intellectually necessary evils. Not philosophers but fretsawyers and stamp collectors compose the backbone of society.
“Do you remember that bit in King Lear?” said the Savage at last. “‘The gods are just and of our pleasant vices make instruments to plague us; the dark and vicious place where thee he got cost him his eyes,’ and Edmund answers–you remember, he’s wounded, he’s dying–’Thou hast spoken right; ’tis true. The wheel has come full circle; I am here.’ What about that now? Doesn’t there seem to be a God managing things, punishing, rewarding?”
“Well, does there?” questioned the Controller in his turn. “You can indulge in any number of pleasant vices with a freemartin and run no risks of having your eyes put out by your son’s mistress. ‘The wheel has come full circle; I am here.’…
Thanks for checking out Brave New World Pre-reading Activities.
I hope that this post helps you introduce Brave New World and start your unit effectively. Some of these lessons are taken from later in the unit, but I felt that they might also serve as Brave New World pre-reading activities. To get a better idea of the complete unit, check Brave New World Unit Plan.