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Animal Farm

Written as a metaphor, socialist author George Orwell was able to safely criticize Stalinist Communism through the use of fable. The story begins when Old Major (representing Karl Marx) assembles the animals of Manor Farm and tells them his vision for a coming revolution where animals would throw off the shackles of human rule. Following Old Major's death, the animals rebel and run Mr. Jones (representing Czar Nicholas II) off the farm which they rename Animal Farm. At first it seems as though the animals might prosper. However, after Napoleon (representing Stalin) exiles Snowball (representing Trotsky), the animals' quality of life decreases as Snowball's power and excesses increase. What starts as a utopian dream descends into totalitarianism as the principal of Animalism is eventually reduced to a single maxim: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others"

Timeline Original novel
Grades 6-12
Characters 20
Number of Timeline Events 84
Duration 2 weeks to 1 semester

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Sample Timeline Events

Battle of The Cowshed: Through Victory, Freedom is Maintained!

This morning Jones, carrying a gun, was joined by six men wielding sticks in an attempt to retake Manor Farm. Snowball, who was charged with the farm's defence, had been preparing by reading Julius Caesar's campaigns. Pigeons attacked from the air to divert the men's attention as geese attacked from the ground. Snowball led the second wave, charging with Muriel, Benjamin, and the sheep. When they were overcome, Snowball squealed for them to fall back to the yard. The men gave chase and were ambushed by three horses, three cows, and the remaining pigs. Before being flung from his feet, Jones managed to fire his shotgun. His blast grazed Snowball and mortally wounded a sheep. While this was happening, Boxer kicked a stable boy. The boy appeared dead, causing Boxer much anguish and remorse, until it was discovered that the boy crept away when no one was watching. Within five minutes, the battle was over and the invading force was driven out of the farm.

Celebration and Military Honors

Following their victory at the Battle of Cowshed, the animals celebrate by singing "Beasts of England" and conducting a funeral for the sheep who had passed. Snowball and Boxer are awarded "Animal Hero, First Class" and the deceased sheep is awarded "Animal Hero, Second Class." After much discussion, it was determined that the engagement is to be named "Battle of the Cowshed." Mr. Jones' shotgun is to be fired bi-annually. Once on the anniversary on the day of the Rebellion, and a second time in commemoration of the Battle of The Cowshed.

Mollie the Defector

After being caught receiving pets from one of Mr. Pilkington's men and keeping a secret supply of sugar and ribbon, Mollie has defected and taken up occupancy as a carthorse, wearing ribbon in her mane and eating sugar. From this point forward, the animal Mollie is no longer to be discussed. She is best forgotten.

Civil War in Russia - the Red and White Armies Clash

In February 1917, the first phase of the Russian Revolution occurs as the Provisional Government replaces the autocratic rule of Czar Nicholas II, the last of the Romanovs who have ruled for centuries. Popular unrest has been growing over the previous century, with sporadic protests and other demonstrations. The terrible human costs of World War I prove too much for the state to bear and the parliament takes control from Nicholas. Throughout the countryside, workers' councils (or "Soviets") wield local power and operate in a very fragile cooperation with the national government in St. Petersburg.

Snowball and Napoleon in Constant Conflict

From the question of what crops to grow to the most significant question in front of them - the construction of the windmill, Snowball and Napoleon are locked in disagreement. During meetings, Snowball is able to attract more animals to his cause through his conviction and eloquence while Napoleon wins them through canvassing for support outside of the gatherings. Snowball is advocating the construction of a windmill in order to bring electricity to the farm. Napoleon maintains that constructing the windmill would unnecessarily detract from food production and when he examines the plans Snowball has made, Napoleon urinates all over them.

Weapons or Words?

While Napoleon is recommending that animals arm themselves and train to be proficient with weapons, Snowball argues that the best way to prevent further human attempts to retake the farm would be best achieved through propaganda pigeons being sent to the surrounding farms. Which method do you think would do most to further the cause?

Snowball Exiled!

Unwilling to be silenced by sheep, Snowball delivers an impassioned speech advocating the construction of the windmill. This sways the majority of the animals to his cause. However, before the vote can be cast, Napoleon lets out a high-pitched whimper which is followed by nine barking dogs who chase Snowball off the farm and into exile. Napoleon announces that all farm management will now be determined by a committee of pigs and democracy will be ended! Animals will continue to gather on Sundays, but now to receive instructions rather than participate in decision-making. The shocked silence is interrupted only by the sheep who mindlessly shout, "Four legs good, two legs bad!" Squealer assures the farm animals that the suspension of democracy is in fact a noble burden that Napoleon bears. This extra work and decision-making is intended to prevent the other animals from making "wrong decisions." Should such mistakes be made, Jones would surely return.

Trotsky Exiled!

Following Lenin's death in 1924 a power struggle emerged between Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky. Stalin ultimately prevailed over the more ideologically pure Trotsky and exiled him from the Soviet Union. Trotsky, who took up residence in Mexico, would face an untimely death in 1940 at the hands of an assassin who buried an ice-axe in Trotsky's head.

Windmill to be Built!

Despite his previous stance against the construction of a windmill, Napoleon now insists it is a necessary project. Squealer assures the animals that Napoleon had been a proponent of its construction all along and that the plans drawn up on the floor had actually been stolen by Snowball and plagiarized as his own. Napoleon's apparent opposition to the windmill had only been a tactic to get rid of Snowball.

Unit Personas

1. Benjamin 9. Mr. Frederick
2. Boxer 10. Mr. Jones
3. Cat 11. Mr. Pilkington
4. Clover 12. Mr. Whymper
5. Guard Dog 13. Old Major
6. Mollie 14. Sheep
7. Moses 15. Snowball
8. Minimus 16. Squealer

Each Discourse unit provides an interactive, social media platform and accompanying curriculum to create a collaborative and entertaining educational experience.

Each unit includes the following:

  • Unit overview
  • 30-40 characters for students to role-play
  • Timeline Events that not only focus on the relevant events of the unit in study, but also encompass the cultural and broader events of the time period, thus providing context for the unit
  • Breaking News events with original source documents
  • Profile information about each character (teacher only)
  • Page for students to determine their relationships to each other character in the unit (auto-graded)
  • Period-relevant items for students to Like or Dislike based on their character (auto-graded)
  • Opportunity for students to create events and send private messages while role-playing their character
  • Advertisements appropriate for the time period; some include original video or music
  • Grading matrix for the role-playing (auto-completed as applicable)
  • A game-like trophy system that awards student progress
  • Teacher product instructions
  • Student use instructions
  • Teachers have access to the Discourse unit and students’ work for one year after the initial set-up date.
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