Teacher:  Linda Stewart

Overview: This writing prompt elicits concepts of place and history, revealing cultural attitudes and value assumptions, while honoring diverse cultural heritages. This assignment introduces a unit on suburbia, whose long history of development is grounded in utopian notions.

Materials: Pen and paper or computer time.

Time: 1-2 hours


  1. Ask the students to take ten minutes to describe their idea of Utopia, ensuring that they understand the definition of the word.
  2. Designate one or two students to be recorders of the class discussion to summarize points at the end of class.
  3. After students have finished writing, ask them to review their piece and explain where their Utopia is located both in time and place. Listen for and note whether it is suburban, urban, rural, or a combination. Is it located in the past, present, or future?
  4. Ask them to review their piece, identifying what elements of their Utopia are uniform? What elements of their concept of Utopia are unique?
  5. In whole class discussion, everyone has a chance to read their descriptions and answer the above questions.
  6. Ask the student recorders to summarize what patterns emerged: What places were considered most desirable? What time in history or the future was most often imagined? What assumptions or cultural values are inherent in their descriptions? How are their descriptions of Utopia similar to or different from their current existence?

Evaluation: Formative assessment of class discussion


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