9.23.2014

Banned Books Week: If It's Forbidden, Kids Are Interested

Introduce your students to banned books

Celebrate the FREEDOM to READ this week!

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In honor of Banned Books Week, I'm showcasing some of the books that have been banned or challenged over the years in my classroom.
Banned Books from www.hungergameslessons.com

Banned Books from www.hungergameslessons.com (Photo Tracee Orman)

Students are always amazed to see the many titles that make the lists. How could their beloved childhood favorites possibly be offensive? We discuss the reasons they are challenged and have great debates that usually end with students grabbing up the books and wanting to check them out.

The Hunger Games Trilogy Banned Books Week

Truly, Banned Books Week is a great way to get kids interested in reading (anything that seems remotely "forbidden" or offensive to adults arouses interest in teens).

Banned Books Week 2014
It's not too late to showcase some titles in your classroom. Even if you don't have the books, show students the lists and reasons (you can find links HERE on the ALA.org website).

You can also find FREE resources in my store for Banned Books Week.

8.03.2014

Shakespeare Made Easy (and Fun)

Shakespeare Made Easy: Julius Caesar in Memes

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Shakespeare can be difficult for students. I remember struggling to understand the text when I was a teenager. It wasn't until I had a teacher who translated the lines for us (often in a humorous way) that things finally clicked for me. Still, when I first had to teach The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, I was terrified.

Over the years it has become one of my favorite plays. There are so many quotes famous quotes engrained in our culture. Students are always amazed to learn that TuPac quoted lines from the play in his songs and, more recently, John Green uses a partial quote as the title (and major theme) of his best-seller The Fault in Our Stars.
English Teacher Problems: The Fault (dear Brutus, is not) In Our Stars (but in ourselves)

But finding these references and and creating ways to connect them students takes forever. Well, maybe not forever, but a very long time. Before the internet (or, before YouTube and more content was posted), I would tape episodes of "The Simpsons" or just buy the DVDs to get literature references to show as examples. Students love it when you can take something from their world and put it in context with the unit we're studying. When the two worlds collide, magic happens.

We all know, though, finding these references are time consuming. And time is rarely on our sides. We can't afford to spend hours searching for clips on YouTube or memes online, then compiling them to show students. That's why I usually find a few then unleash my students to find (or make) their own. It's fun for them and they actually learn something.

Shakespeare Made Easy: Using Memes to Connect the Text to Pop Culture

To make your job much easier, however, I have taken the time to put together some great memes from my Tragedy of Julius Caesar unit. ("Some" = over 80 memes.) I have found these to be quite helpful for both high-achievers and struggling readers. The high-achievers want to create their own snarky memes (let them! They usually make the best ones.) and the struggling readers make the connection between the text–which seems like a foreign language to them–and the meme, finally comprehending what is going on in the play.

Shakespeare in Memes: The Tragedy of Julius Caesar

This past April when I assigned Julius Caesar video parody projects to my students, I decided to finally compile all of my images and make a video. Since I had just shown them example memes scattered throughout the play, the video helped them put it all together. Plus it has music. Kids love music.

"Oh, look at that. I've been impaled." Julius Caesar in Memes

The movie runs a little over 12 minutes, but chances are your students may want to watch it a second time to spot the "Strutting Leonardo DiCaprio" images I photoshopped into the scene (and/or setting) divider pages.
Where's Leo? Can you spot the images of Leonardo DiCaprio in the Julius Caesar memes?

Shakespeare Made Easy: The Tragedy of Julius Caesar in Memes with Leonardo DiCaprio

OK, so most of the "Strutting Leonardo" images aren't so hard to find, but it makes the scene dividers a little more interesting. :)
Leonardo DiCaprio appears in The Tragedy of Julius Caesar (in Memes)

And just to make your job even easier, I included handouts so students can search the text (close reading) to find the lines that are referenced in the memes. There's also an activity to prompt them to create their own from the text. Yes, the activities are aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

The incredibly large file also holds all 146 slides as .jpg images for easy printing AND a Powerpoint presentation of the movie in case you wish to show them at your own pace (Powerpoint does not include the music track).

So where can you get this incredible bundle? Click here:
The Tragedy of Julius Caesar in Memes {Shakespeare Made Easy}

And what does this have to do with The Hunger Games trilogy?

In case you haven't noticed, there are tons of references in The Hunger Games trilogy to Shakespearean plays. Mockingjay, in particular, references The Tragedy of Julius Caesar a few times. You can find those activities in my Mockingjay unit.

Mockingjay Teaching Unit {Hunger Games trilogy}

Finding Shakespeare in Mockingjay {Tragedy of Julius Caesar}

I love it when authors use allusions to works of Shakespeare! It makes out job of proving his relevance so much easier.

How do you incorporate pop culture into your lessons? Share in the comments below.

7.07.2014

Join the Mockingjay Literacy Revolution By Supporting #Books4Tributes

Support Teachers and Classrooms with #Books4Tributes at DonorsChoose.org

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Whether you are a teacher looking for books for your classroom or a fan wanting to spread the love of The Hunger Games, you can support the Literacy Revolution started by my friend and fellow Hunger Games fandom tribute Shylah Addante. Read on to see how you can help the DonorsChoose.org campaign to get more Hunger Games trilogy books into classrooms, written by Shylah:

Three years ago, I started a blog to talk about this amazing book I read. You might have heard of it- it was called The Hunger Games. It wasn’t anything extraordinary, just me talking about my thoughts on things like video games and Finnick and Annie… until I wrote a post about the personal impact reading the series had on me, not only as a reader, but as a citizen of the world:

“It would be an understatement to say that I was a wreck. I like happy endings. I can deal with loss, and death, and sadness, as long as at the end good triumphs over evil. To me, no one won at the end of Mockingjay.

It felt so sad, so hopeless in those hours after I finished the book. I couldn’t let it end like that. I needed to give myself a happy ending.

The Hunger Games series is a book about many things, but for me the realistic depiction of how poverty and oppression go hand in hand was at the heart of the books. The districts were easily manipulated by the Capitol not only by a deprivation of resources, but also (and more importantly) by a deprivation of information. It is not until the Districts gain the ability to learn and communicate with one another that the Rebellion is born.

Education powers revolutions.”

I put my words into action and went to donorschoose.org. There I found a project from a teacher in New York City:

“My Students: My Latino and African-American students attend a high poverty school in New York City.

They are 13 going on 14, have a nose for injustice, and love to argue. I need The Hunger Games to give their voices a focus. After I discussed the book on the first day of school, they were hooked. They would love a chance to investigate a current social issue and try to solve it. As we will read this novel later in the year, they will also have a chance to apply their Social Studies lessons.

My Project: The Hunger Games is a dystopian novel full of social issues that the students will identify and define. For each issue, they will need to explain how external events shaped it, how it shapes a character’s choices and relationships with others, and how it inspires characters to act and change their social environments. At the end, they will choose a social issue we face (problem) and think of ways to change it (solution). The unit not only allows them to examine how literature reflects society, it helps them see the complexities of real social issues. By discussing the issues and thinking of creative solutions, they are laying the groundwork for a better future.

Unfortunately, my school does not have the money to purchase 35 books. Reading is fundamental to a good education. Please help me provide my students with the resources necessary to foster my students' minds!”

I donated and then spammed my family and friends through social media until the project was fully funded. The teacher was thrilled, the students had access to books they were genuinely excited about reading, and I had that warm fuzzy feeling that only comes with helping someone else out… and I wanted more.

Through the support and help from Savanna and Adam of the Fireside Chat and DownWithTheCapitol, we started a small movement to fund more teachers looking to use the series in their classrooms. This was back in the early days of the fandom- the Fireside Chat was about a month old and DWTC less than a year with only a handful of other sites out there; but our small band of rebels was still able to help two classrooms get the books they needed.

Fast forward to now: the Hunger Games is a global phenomenon: there are dozens (if not hundreds of fan sites); the Fireside Chat logged 130 episodes, and there are almost 20,000,000 fans on The Hunger Games’ official Facebook page. I’d say it’s time to try this literacy revolution over again.

Let’s get Books For Tributes.

My goal is to fund teachers across the country looking to put The Hunger Games in their classrooms and libraries using donorschoose.org.

As of today, I have 45 projects queued up on this donorschoose campaign page, and every. single. one. of them is looking to place our favorite book series into the hands of kids across the US.

So, let’s do it.

Let’s stand with the Mockingjay and start a Literacy Revolution. Our goal is simple. As Hunger Games fans who believe in equity and empowerment, we will work to fund as many as possible of the requests for Hunger Games books posted on donorschoose.org.

We’ll take it one class at a time—just as Katniss and the Rebels worked District by District to overthrow the Capitol. Give as much or as little as you like, as often as you wish. When we fully fund a project, I’ll let you know on the Books For Tributes twitter and Facebook pages.

When you donate please place the following somewhere in your personal message:
“I gave to this project because I'm with the Mockingjay, and support a literacy revolution in American classrooms. #books4tributes”

When you tweet about donating please use #books4tributes

Let’s set a goal to fund these 45 projects before "Mockingjay" hits theaters this fall, so that when we see Katniss on screen, fighting the Capitol, we can know that we’ve done our part to fuel our own revolution in Panem.

Fire is catching, and we are the spark. And if we put our hearts and minds behind this effort, the Capitol doesn’t stand a chance.

*three finger salute*


Shylah

Thank you so much, Shylah, for recognizing the importance of literacy and supporting classrooms! Teachers: if you have a need for books, create a project on DonorsChoose.org. Fans: Spread the love for the series by supporting these teachers & students!

After I post this blog, I'm heading to DonorsChoose.org to support this literacy revolution. Please join me in this worthy cause!

5.18.2014

Mockingjay Movie: Effie Trinket will take Fulvia Cardew's place


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According to the Filmmaker's Round Table on the #HungerGamesExclusive website, Effie Trinket (played by Elizabeth Banks) will take on the role of Fulvia Cardew—Plutarch's assistant—in the Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2 movies.

Fulvia is a character much like Effie: she's from the Capitol, she's a little bossy, and she can have that same Capitol insensitivity toward District citizens. Her character filled that void of not having Effie in the first two parts of the novel, so it makes sense to change make that adjustment.

Fulvia is also the character who comes up with the "We Remember" propos. It makes me wonder if Effie will now have that idea or if another character will? Or perhaps they won't even include those propos? (I hope they do, though.)

If you haven't checked out the #HungerGamesExclusive website, you need to. I especially enjoyed the Filmmaker's Round Table article and the sneak peek of the script. I'm sure Lionsgate® will be adding more content soon, as well.

To keep up with the latest Mockingjay filming images and news, check out my friends over at Panem Propaganda. They have been on fire releasing the latest pictures to quench our thirst for Mockingjay.

You can read more about the casting on my earlier post: Mockingjay Movie Casting News

5.05.2014

Teachers: You Are Appreciated!

Teacher Appreciation Week: We Salute You, Secondary Teachers!

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We salute you, Teachers! It's sale time on TeachersPayTeachers, so use promo code TPTXO at checkout to get 10% off your entire purchase. It starts tonight at midnight!

To show how much we appreciate all you do, many secondary teachers teamed up and are taking an additional 20% off our TeachersPayTeachers stores May 6th-7th so you can save on all those necessary supplies like teacher binders/planners, Common Core graphic organizers, interactive notebooks, poetry resources, novel units, bell ringers and exit slips, and so much more!

Here are secondary stores on TpT that bring you awesome teaching materials for grades 7-12.

English Language Arts:

















Social Studies, Science, Foreign Language, and More:



MATH:








Making it as a Middle School Teacher







Special thanks to Danielle Knight for making the rockin' sale banner! Thanks for stopping by and enjoy the extra savings!


4.18.2014

Popular Books for Teens

Popular books for teens

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Over the past year, these books have been the most popular in my classroom. Some are newer releases and some are older classics. But all have been either requested or checked out numerous times.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (or ANYTHING by John Green!)
Students who like TFiOS will probably check out his other books: Paper Towns, Looking for Alaska, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, An Abundance of Katherines

Students who like John Green books also seem to like the following reads:

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

FanGirl and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Every Day by David Levithan

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs


It by Stephen King is a perennial favorite. Students also love Carrie and Christine.

Students who like Stephen King also seem to like:

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

The Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Crank Series by Ellen Hopkins

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare (ALL of these books are popular and she continues to publish new ones)

The Infernal Devices Series by Cassandra Clare (Same with this series!)

Students who like Cassandra Clare's books also seem to love the following:

Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead

Beautiful Creatures Series by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Angel Burn Series by L.A. Weatherly (Angel Fire and Angel Fever)

(Not shown): Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, or the Shiver Series by Maggie Stiefvater (ShiverLingerand Forever)

On preorder (out July 1, 2014): Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater, which continues the Shiver story.


The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins is, of course, one of the most popular series in recent years. Even those who read the books in middle school love re-reading them in high school.

Students who like The Hunger Games also seem to like the following:

Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth

The Program by Suzanne Young

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Legend Trilogy by Marie Lu

Dust Lands Series by Moira Young

The Maze Runner Series by James Dashner

Ender's Game by Orson Card Scott

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Ashfall Trilogy by Mike Mullin

Delirium Trilogy by Lauren Oliver

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking Trilogy) by Patrick Ness


A classic novel students read in 7th or 8th grade is The Contender by Robert Lipsyte.

Students who like The Contender also seem to like:

Jude by Kate Morgenroth

Gone by Michael Grant


The girls can't seem to get enough Nicholas Sparks novels. Favorites are:

The Notebook, Safe Haven, The Lucky One, and The Longest Ride

Students who like Nicholas Sparks also seem to like:

The Selection Series by Kiera Cass

The Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie

and any books by Sarah Dessen (not pictured).


For additional books that teens favor, check out these titles released yesterday by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA):

YALSA 2014 nominations for Top Teen Reads



Which books do your students like? 
Leave a comment with your picks below. 

Thanks for stopping by!

3.23.2014

Divergent Movie Review (with Spoilers)

Divergent Field Trip & Movie Review Blog Post

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Patience should really be a virtue when writing a script for a movie. For example, if the third and final book of the series is not released yet, you should probably hold off on re-writing the scenes. Why? Well, you may cut or completely botch some of the crucial foreshadowing points. Like they did in "Divergent."

Along with my colleague, we took our senior English students to see "Divergent" on Friday. Even though I had seen it Thursday night, I was anxious to see it again with people who had read the book to see if I was making a big deal out of nothing with some of the little changes that were made.

Some of them were OK with the changes, and some felt the same as me: pretty ticked off. Although, since many of us didn't really like Allegiant, maybe making the changes means they are going to completely change the story, which might be a good thing. ;)

Things I HATED about the Divergent movie.  www.hungergameslessons.com

Things That Really Bugged Me About the Movie...
Please be warned there are spoilers here as I go through my biggest pet peeves of the movie (this has spoilers to Insurgent and Allegiant, as well):

That's not how it happens! -Click for Divergent movie pet peeves

1. What's up with Tris shooting her family in her final fear landscape exam? This is completely ridiculous! She would never shoot her family. She refuses to shoot them and instead tells Jeanine to kill her instead. She even recalls Tobias saying "Selflessness and bravery aren't that different..." (page 396). Her worst fear is that her family will die and she will be responsible. So she can't shoot one of them! Let's pretend that she shoots Jeanine instead in the movie (it never really shows WHO she shoots, after all.) How will this foreshadow the climax of Allegiant? Will Tris shoot someone instead of sacrificing herself for her brother? It doesn't quite have the same effect. I actually like that she sacrifices herself for Caleb, even though he almost killed her in Insurgent. It shows her divergence; it shows that she will NOT conform to the "faction before blood" mentality.
  Did they do this because they showed her do this same thing with Tobias when they are trying to shut down the simulation? Perhaps. It is a little overkill in the book. I get that. But...it still really botches the foreshadowing in Allegiant, in my opinion.

2. Four is NOT a rapist! Another fear landscape debacle: Four is portrayed as a guy who just wants to get down with Tris and she fights him off to overcome her fear. Ummm...no. That is not how it happens! Yes, he is kissing her, but she says she doesn't want to sleep with him in a hallucination. Then she pushes him against the bedpost and starts kissing and grabbing him...then she moves on to her final fear. Why change this? I felt like it was a bad portrayal of Four.

We want our Dauntless cake! And other things missing from the Divergent movie...

3. Where's the Dauntless cake? How hard would it be to slip a little bit of chocolate Dauntless cake in there? Seriously.

4. Tris' mother's death is less sacrificial and more accidental. While this part was still sad and touching, I don't think it's because of the changes that were made. I think Shailene's gut-wrenching cry when her mother dies was so emotionally gripping that the fact that her mother's death was shown as more of an accident was overshadowed. Again, why change this scene? OK, I get that she needed to be holding her mother for that part to register with movie-viewers, but couldn't her mother still sacrifice herself and still take down the Dauntless soldiers and Shailene still grip her mother's body and wail? Yes! So why make it seem like Shailene is doing the dirty work in the scene instead?

Divergent Movie Pet Peeves: I can't tell Will and Al apart!5. I can't tell Will and Al apart! This was very annoying. I felt those two actors looked a little too much alike in the movie. I thought Al would be much bigger than Will...and everyone.

6. Peter is not quite as evil as he is portrayed in the novel. I kind of like some of Peter's dialogue in the movie and I guess this part doesn't quite bug me as much as others. But why not show that he attacked Tris along with Al? Or just even more of a jerk? Though, I'm actually glad he didn't stab Edward in the eye. I don't think I could have handled that part. 

7. No Trust Fall... Why not include the trust fall at the end of Tris' zip line experience? That was kind of important, considering it helped her bond with the Dauntless-born.

Chicago's Cloud Gate (aka the Bean) - Photo by TOrman
8. Where's the Bean? While many Chicago landmarks are shown, Cloud Gate (aka the "Bean") is missing, along with the sculpture the Dauntless members slide and play on (I really wanted to know which sculpture it was - the Picasso? The Calder? Come on...!). Also missing was Navy Pier's carousel during the capture the flag game. As someone who has visited Chicago numerous times and seen these things, it really bugged me. What else did you notice missing? (I'm sure there's more.)


Things I LIKED about the Divergent Movie  from www.hungergameslessons.com

I'm sure there are more pet peeves I have, but I want to switch to some of the things I actually did enjoy:

1. Did you spot the author in the movie? One of the things I noticed the second time around was seeing Veronica Roth (the author of the series) in a couple of the scenes. I saw her as an Erudite at the Choosing Ceremony and again as a Dauntless member running up to the top of the John Hancock building to zip line. Perhaps she was in more scenes, but those were the only two I noticed.

2. Theo James is Perfect as Four. As I said in my previous review, Theo James was great. I thought he was perfect as Four. And I was OK with Shailene Woodley as Tris and then she had that moment after her mom died and I was WOWed! Plus, I liked her little comments about people underestimating her character. Those were perfect little bits of humor.

3. Uriah IS in the Movie. I was heartbroken when I heard Uriah wasn't cast in the movie. However, you may have caught a glimpse of his name on the leaderboard scenes. He was toward the top, usually around 3rd place after Edward and Peter. This makes me happy that he WILL be cast in "Insurgent."

4. Thank you for fixing the illogical scenes from the book, like the ending: It never made sense to me WHY Jeanine Matthews would ever leave the simulation control in the hands of Four when she doesn't even know if the simulation serum is going to work on him! Why leave him alone in the Dauntless compound control room? She is supposed to be smart. I am glad that this was changed in the movie. It makes much more sense.

5. Tris doesn't finish first in her class after her mother warns her to stay in the middle: This was another part in the book that I never understood. Why would Tris brush off her mother's warnings and shoot to the top of the leaderboard? It just never made sense to me to have her finish first. It's not as though they find out she's divergent and punish her right then and there. (Which, they should have so that teens reading it see what happens when you don't listen to your mother!)

Overall, I really did enjoy the movie. I thought the setting was well done and it moved at a good pace. What did you think? Did you love it or hate it? Do you think the parts they changed will affect the other two movies? Am I making too big of a deal about those parts? Comment below!

3.21.2014

Divergent Movie Lives Up to the Hype

Divergent Movie: Non-Spoiler Review

If you've followed my blog for a while, you know that I wasn't the biggest fan of the Divergent book initially. I felt the story line had some flaws and the ending was way too rushed. And a little illogical.

But one thing I have maintained: I really felt the book would make a great movie.

I was not disappointed tonight.

I don't want to give any spoilers, but I will say that Theo James is amazing and Shailene Woodley is not as annoying as I thought she would be. She's actually pretty good.

Yes, there are some major changes from the book. But be open-minded. Think of how illogical some of the parts of the book are and be happy they made the changes they did in the movie.

I'll write a more in-depth review later. I have to catch some z's so I can wake up and take my class to see it in the morning. :)

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Waiting for Divergent: It's worth it!

We got free posters when I picked up my tickets. Yay!

What did you think? Post whether you liked the ending or not below. 
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