With the release of the film this weekend, many of your students are likely fans of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, reveling in the excitement as Katniss and Peeta struggle to survive in their dystopian world’s idea of entertainment. Don’t worry—you also can capture their attention with these ideas for translating the enthusiasm of The Hunger Games into your classroom.
- Connect it to a classic: Before The Hunger Games, there was The Giver, 1984, Lord of the Flies, Fahrenheit 451, and Brave New World—all books commonly taught in classrooms today. Students can compare and contrast different characters’ motivations for fighting against their dystopian societies. Or, special attention can be paid to the leaders of said societies in each novel—for example, President Snow could be analyzed alongside other characters to determine what makes the leader of such a society tick and why its citizens are eager to follow him or her.
- Make a map: I have to give credit for this idea to others, but much is known about the country of Panem through reading Collins’ series. Students can work in groups to develop a map of what Panem and its districts might look like based on a current map of North America. Map-making projects increase students’ geography, math, and critical reading skills. Some guidance for map-making projects can be found here and here.
- Start a debate: Have students take on the roles of citizens of the Capitol versus citizens of District 12 and debate the merits of the yearly Hunger Games. Even more challenging, have them debate as two districts: one that profits from the Capitol like Districts 1, 2, or 4, and the other as a poorer district like 11 or 12. How would citizens of the districts argue for and against the Games? Other debate topics could have students discussing the pros and cons of various dystopian societies, whether female protagonists or male protagonists serve better in the role of hero/challenger to society, or why dystopian novels are so popular today.
- Create a dossier: It’s safe to assume that the leaders of Panem likely would keep some kind of record of citizen agitators. Students could create dossiers of various characters that would be in the Capitol’s radar—Katniss, Peeta, Gale, and Haymitch are obvious ones, but great dossiers could be made for Effie, Cinna, and Finnick and the other former winners of the Games from Catching Fire. These files could include illustrated renderings of what students imagine the characters to look like, artifacts of their lives, interviews with those who know them, and quotes from the books that represent public statements. (This idea stems from a favorite Pre-AP English project I did as a student; rest assured your gifted students will remember it years later too!)
These are just a few ideas for incorporating The Hunger Games, but so many others can be found online. Two great resources I’d recommend are the Scholastic Teachers website, which contains ready-to-use lessons, and the Hunger Games Lessons blog, which has a variety of links to examples from teachers and weekly free downloads.
May the odds of engaging your students be ever in your favor!