Teaching "The Hunger Games"
Guest blogger Charity Kinneer, a high school reading and literature teacher for the Cherokee County School District, shares how to introduce the mega-popular Hunger Games series into the classroom.
The widely anticipated Hunger Games movie hits theaters March 23rd. There hasn’t been this much hype since the Twilight saga and Harry Potter. I personally feel that The Hunger Games has the potential to surpass both by leaps and bounds. Never before has there been a book so intriguing and all-consuming for my students. That is quite the accomplishment considering I teach high school students who struggle to read anything, much less a novel.
I had heard from a countless number of people that The Hunger Games was an amazing read but I’ll admit I was skeptical. I put off reading it until this past Thanksgiving. When I started, I couldn’t quit! I devoured all three novels in less than a week and KNEW that I needed to introduce Katniss and Peeta to my reading class.
I searched high and low for a pre-made lesson plan because let’s face it, why invent the wheel when it spins just fine already? I found an awesome lesson plan on teacherspayteachers.com. The author, Tracee Orman, put together a plethora of information on all things Hunger Games.
When I first popped my unit cd into my disk drive, I was completely overwhelmed. Thank goodness she very nicely organized everything into folders for teachers, students and tests/quizzes. The cd and the amount of time Ms. Orman put into organizing, researching and fact checking was well worth the $26 dollar cost of obtaining the materials.
Not every novel has a unit or lesson plan already nicely prepared and packaged for you, all ready just for you to simply print and teach. In those cases, there are a few steps that you can take to ensure that you are thoroughly meeting the needs of your students through the teaching of a novel.
1.) First, pick out your novel! It sounds pretty elementary but you’d be surprised how hard this step can truly be. You must find a novel that is universally appealing to your students. In our reality TV crazed nation, The Hunger Games was the perfect combination of reality and fantasy. My students could relate to many of the themes in the novel and because of this, the novel was meaningful to them.
2.) If you haven’t already read the novel, DO IT NOW! How do you know what questions will guide your instruction if you don’t know what actually happens in the novel?
3.) Developing guiding questions should be your third objective. One of the great things that Tracee Orman does in her Hunger Games unit is she allows for students to write their own guiding questions throughout the reading of the novel. The students have the opportunity to write many of their own assessment questions. Ms. Orman even demonstrates how this should be done.Before teaching the novel, you as the teacher should already have identified important vocabulary and anticipatory questions for each chapter.
4.) Next, incorporate other engaging material into your novel unit. The exciting thing again about The Hunger Games is that soon there will be a movie to compare to the novel! In the meantime my students have been able to see glimpses into the making of The Hunger Games by watching trailers and walking through the various websites dedicated to the book. Not every novel is as lucky to have such a strong media spotlight. If the book you are reading to your class does not have readily accessible media attached to it, you can create your own by researching the various novels themes. For example, maybe one of your themes involves choices or forming our own identities through our choices. You may decide to show a video about a student campaigning for the right to choose the lunch selections at their school or maybe allow your class to read an article about the age in which we first begin to exert our own independence.
However you decide to teach your novel and whatever novel you choose, the most important step is to create interest and excitement. If you are not enthusiastic about your subject, why will your students be? When I first started teaching The Hunger Games to my students I prefaced my entire instruction by giving them this disclaimer: “Yes, we all know what a nerd I am and how much I absolutely LOVE to read. BUT, let me tell you about this new series that I found and how everybody who is anybody is snatching it off the shelves just as fast as they are being printed.” I wasn’t lying AND I subjected a bit of peer pressure into the equation. Let me tell you, it totally worked! Remember, these were students that previously abhorred anything paper-bound and suddenly they were begging to stay behind in my class after the bell had sounded signaling class change!
By choosing to teach a novel that generated such engagement for myself and my students, I was able to motivate non-readers to become bookworms! I encourage any adult to try some of the methods that I have described to foster an enjoyable reading experience for their struggling student. You will be amazed at the results!
Charity Kinneer lives in northern Cherokee County with her husband Seth who is an area pastor, her oldest son Caleb who possibly reads more than his mommy and her youngest son Elijah who loves all things Mickey. She is currently a high school reading and literature teacher for the Cherokee County School District.