William Golding – Lord of the Flies (Electing the Island’s Chief)

An exercise in empathy, ability to stay true to one’s opinion, ability to assess others as well as oneself

The students are asked to read the chapter at home. They split into groups of two or three and rank the following qualities according to their importance for a leader.
1) Openness to the opinions of other members of a group/society;
2) Charismatic personality (the term charisma must be explained to the students);
3) Ability to see the situations in a broader context;
4) Adaptability;
5) Ability to stay true to one’s decision;
6) Ability to engage as much people as possible to the decision-making process;
7) Ability to allocate tasks, but being the responsible person in the end;
8) Strong personality;
9) Highly intelligent;
10) Willingness to prefer benefit of the whole group over one’s own benefits;
11) Rejecting people with different opinions.
This is followed by so-called PYRAMID DISCUSSION:
The groups search for partners with ranking that is identical or similar to their own ranking. After finding the related team, they work together to half the number of qualities of a leader. They continue this way until the whole work group (in ideal case!) reaches more or less unanimous conclusion.
A strong point of this activity is the fact that it literally urges the students to compromise.

How this resource relates to Shaping Characters objectives

  • Attitudes and attributes
  • Education techniques

Actual outcomes

Educational objective: Ability to compromise

Qualities in focus: Empathy, ability to stay true to one’s opinion, ability to assess others as well as oneself

Target group, age of the students: 14–15 years of age

Suitable for: composition, literature

Resources required

Excerpt from Lord of the Flies – chapter about electing the chief

Time needed

2 units (unit defined as 45 minutes)

What could have been done differently or is planned for future repeats?

The students found this activity very demanding. It was necessary to discuss with them all the qualities of a leader and illustrate them by examples of everyday situations, therefore the work extended for two units, but the results were worth it.
It must be noted that the students were able to empathise with the characters, knowing the leader must be a person, on whom their survival would depend. The groups worked in a responsible and disciplined manner. The children knew these were important issues because of their position on a deserted island, alone, without any help.

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