Donald Sutherland is President Snow

Sutherland as Snow from www.Iamthemockingjay.net

Well, ®Lionsgate does it again. They chose someone I hadn't even considered for a role in the upcoming Hunger Games movie, but who seems to fit the the character perfectly.
  Donald Sutherland had not entered my mind as a potential for President Snow. And, just like with Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, I think, Why didn't I consider him?
  I think ®Lionsgate's casting choices are brilliant for "The Hunger Games" movie, due out March 23, 2012.
  And you MUST check out these amazing images of Sutherland as Snow on I AM THE MOCKINGJAY website (shown above). Sam Cushion is the talented artist and website creator. You can also check out his graphic design and photography on Deviant Art, as well. Thanks for sharing your images with us, Sam!


What's On Your Summer Reading List?

There are plenty of summer reading lists for students, but what about the teachers? What is on YOUR summer reading list? Join the link party blog hop and post your summer list, or just peruse the lists to get ideas for yours. Either way, it's one way to spread literacy and talk about books!

These are the current books I have waiting for me to read. Of course, I am sure it will change over the course of the summer, with some being dropped, some being read, and news ones added. Feel free to comment if you have read any of these (no spoilers, though, please!) or have suggestions for other books.

1. The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

(From Amazon.com) "First-time author Whitney boldly addresses date rape, vigilantism, and academic politics in an intense and timely novel... Besides showing skill in executing suspense and drama, Whitney masterfully evokes the complexity of her protagonist's emotions, particularly her intense longing to feel 'normal' again." Publishers Weekly (Starred review)

2. Matched by Ally Condie
(From Amazon.com) Amazon Best Books of the Month, December 2010: For Cassia, nothing is left to chance--not what she will eat, the job she will have, or the man she will marry. In Matched, the Society Officials have determined optimal outcomes for all aspects of daily life, thereby removing the "burden" of choice. When Cassia's best friend is identified as her ideal marriage Match it confirms her belief that Society knows best, until she plugs in her Match microchip and a different boy’s face flashes on the screen. This improbable mistake sets Cassia on a dangerous path to the unthinkable--rebelling against the predetermined life Society has in store for her. As author Ally Condie’s unique dystopian Society takes chilling measures to maintain the status quo, Matched reminds readers that freedom of choice is precious, and not without sacrifice.--Seira Wilson

3. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (inspired by an idea by Siobhan Dowd)
(From Amazon.com) This is an extraordinarily moving novel about coming to terms with loss. The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming...The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. Costa Award winner Patrick Ness spins a tale from the final idea of much-loved Carnegie Medal winner Siobhan Dowd, whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself. Darkly mischievous and painfully funny, "A Monster Calls" is an extraordinarily moving novel of coming to terms with loss from two of our finest writers for young adults.

4. Unwind by Neal Shusterman

(From Amazon.com) "Gripping, brilliantly imagined futuristic thriller...The issues raised could not be more provocative--the santuary of life, the meaning of being human--while the delivery could hardly be more engrossing or better aimed to teens."--Publishers Weekly, starred review

5. Feed by M.T. Anderson

(From Amazon.com)

Amazon.com Review

This brilliantly ironic satire is set in a future world where television and computers are connected directly into people's brains when they are babies. The result is a chillingly recognizable consumer society where empty-headed kids are driven by fashion and shopping and the avid pursuit of silly entertainment--even on trips to Mars and the moon--and by constant customized murmurs in their brains of encouragement to buy, buy, buy. Anderson gives us this world through the voice of a boy who, like everyone around him, is almost completely inarticulate, whose vocabulary, in a dead-on parody of the worst teenspeak, depends heavily on three words: "like," "thing," and the second most common English obscenity....
Although there is a danger that at first teens may see the idea of brain-computers as cool, ultimately they will recognize this as a fascinating novel that says something important about their world. (Ages 14 and older) --Patty Campbell --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

6. If I Stay by Gayle Forman

(From Amazon.com)

Product Description

In the blink of an eye everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall what happened afterwards, watching her own damaged body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces - to figure out what she has lost, what she has left, and the very difficult choice she must make. Heart-wrenchingly beautiful, Mia's story will stay with you for a long, long time.

7. Paper Towns by John Green

(From Amazon.com) Green...delivers once again with this satisfying, crowd-pleasing look at a complex, smart boy and the way he loves. Genuine--and genuinely funny--dialogue...mystery...and delightful secondary characters. A winning combination. --Kirkus Reviews

8. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

(From Amazon.com) "For pure story, this colorful, headlong tale of a Depression-era circus simply can't be beat. Heroes, villains, romance, a wild-animal stampede! Big fun from page 1."—Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly: "Best & Worst 2007" (Entertainment Weekly ) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

9. (Finish) Willow by Julia Hoban

(From Amazon.com) Willow's acknowledgment of the cause of her grief--that she'll never be anyone's daughter again--is a sharp insight, and Hoban's appropriately complex portrayal of cutting makes this a good choice on a crucial subject. --Kirkus Reviews

10. For pure smutty pleasure/entertainment I may read a novel by Janet Evanovich, as well. Sometimes you just gotta have fun, right?

11. ??? Open for suggestions! Please post any you have below.

And please join this BLOG HOP! It's the first one I've hosted. :)


Lenny Kravitz is Cinna!

Lenny Kravitz will play Katniss Everdeen's stylist in The Hunger Games movie.

Wow, I know I have been behind on my casting news here on my blog. I feel like so many other blogs cover it sooner than I can, so I usually keep my Facebook Followers in the know rather than trying keep up with blogging the casting news. But LENNY KRAVITZ as Cinna is definitely post-worthy.

OK, I know a lot of people pictured Cinna as younger, white, and perhaps more of a stereotypical "stylist" look, but Lenny will do just fine. Have you seen him in Precious? He is very understated, like Cinna. After I saw a picture of the actress playing Portia, I started to think Lenny might actually be cast as Cinna. When his name was initially mentioned, I thought Flavius. But I do think he will make a great Cinna. And I can totally picture him with a little gold liner. Yep, he'll do just fine!

What do you think? Can you picture Lenny as Cinna?


Gift how-to for Students, Teachers, Staff, Parents

It's nearing the end of another school year and you realize that there are several people you'd like to thank for their help, service, or hard work throughout the school year. So what can you give them that is meaningful, yet won't cost you a ton of money?

I love giving out my handmade beaded bookmarks. I first started making these book "thongs" (named because they fit in the "crack" of your book) several years ago after buying one for $8 in a local bookstore for my mom. Since she and I always shared a love of reading, giving her a bookmark each year for holidays was a tradition. I was intrigued by these book "thongs." Of course, the frugal side of me thought, "I could make something like this!"

STEP ONE: Supplies Needed
To make your own book "thong", the first thing you will need is cord. Waxed linen works the best: the wax allows the beads to slide easier when stringing and it won't fray as easily over time. However, elastic cord and even hemp cord will work. They just aren't as easy to work with, in my opinion.

Most craft stores carry waxed linen cord; even Wal-Mart has it in their craft/beading section. Of course, if you are making a lot and value high quality, I suggest ordering larger spools of Irish waxed linen from Basket Maker's Catalog (they do offer it by the yard, as well). There really is a difference between the quality–the wax doesn't dry out or goop up and it's easier to string beads. I've had spools that are at least 8 years old that have not dried or lost their quality. I like the 4-ply best; it seems to be the right weight to hold heavier beads and last longer. Three-ply is fine, just a little skinnier. If you use small, light beads (plastic), it would be fine.

Beads are pretty easy to find in craft stores and large local retailers. One of my favorite online suppliers is Fire Mountain Gems. They have a great selection of beads and the price falls the more quantities you buy. You can find huge bargains on bead assortments and charms. Use letter charms to create personalized bookmarks (below, I used "EHS" for our high school).

Other supplies you'll want to keep on hand are: scissors (sewing scissors work wonderfully) and clear nail polish.

Once you have the supplies you need, it's nice to use a small bowl or cup for the beads you've selected for your bookmark(s). If you've read my previous posts, you know that I love finding uses for things we may normally discard. My dog loves Cesar's dog food, but I hate throwing away those little plastic containers. So I've found tons of uses for them; one great use is for holding the beads for your current project. They would be excellent little containers for art and elementary teachers for distributing paint, glue, and other small items to students. They also stack nicely, as well. (Make sure you wash before using, of course!)
STEP TWO: Stringing the Beads
Next, you will need to cut the cord to the length you want. Most hard-back books are larger than paperbacks. I usually cut about 15 inches or so, which gives me plenty of room if I need it. If you don't have a ruler, use a book or a piece of paper as your guide and keep in mind you need enough room for your beads and to tie the last knot.
Tie a knot at one end of the cord. This will keep your beads from falling off. You will want to start with a smaller bead to ensure this. If you start with a bead with too big of a hole, it will slide right over the knot. I've used seed beads for this purpose; just make sure the next bead isn't going to slide over your first one.

String the rest of your beads on the cord. Keep in mind that putting too many on one end will be too bulky for the bookmark. I usually try not to go over 1.5 to 2 inches maximum.

When you finish stringing your beads, tie a knot at the end, making sure to get it as close to the last bead as possible so they don't slide around.
Then, you will want to do the other end. Tie another knot further down the cord. You will need to measure out how much room you need between knots; a good way is to put it alongside a book to see where you should tie it. You want the knots to hit just above the spine on each end. Books vary in sizes, so it is better to be slightly long rather than short (if it's too short, it can't be used). If I am just making these with no particular book in mind, I use a standard 9.5 inches for hardbacks, 8.5 inches for paperbacks (the width of a piece of paper).

After you tie the knot, string the rest of your beads. You can duplicate the other end or you can do something completely different. Try not to have one end outweigh the other by too much.
Tie your knot after stringing the last bead. Then you can clip the extra cord from both ends. Make sure your knots are tied tightly and clip as close to the knot as possible without actually cutting the knot.
STEP THREE: Seal the Beads
The final thing I like to do is seal the knots so they won't come unstrung or fray. A simple and inexpensive product I use is clear nail polish. Most people have this around the house (I use it to stop runs in my nylons from running further, too). If not, you can purchase a small bottle for a dollar or less at your local pharmacy or retail grocery store. It usually dries pretty quickly and if the polish soaked in, you might want to put another coat on it after it dries. It gives the knot a nice shiny quality that almost makes it look like a tiny bead.
That's it! You're done. You can stick it in the crack of a book to test it out.
Wasn't that easy? Probably the hardest part (for me, anyway) is selecting which beads to use. There are plenty of pre-made kits out there you can use, but I do think part of the fun of this project is making unique bookmarks for others.

Here are some examples of beaded bookmarks I've made:
Using the cross charms are great for making bible bookmarks. They make a simple, yet beautiful, gift idea for a religious-ed teacher, someone who is being confirmed or celebrating a first communion, or for anyone celebrating a Christian event.
Use other charms to represent other events or people (such as apple charms for a teacher, book charms for a librarian or reading teacher, flip-flops to celebrate summer, etc.). Of course, adding charms is another how-to, but a relatively simple process. And you can even make your own charms, like I have for my favorite novels:
 But I'll save those instructions for another post...


Divergent: The Next Hunger Games?

Divergent by Veronica Roth has been touted as the "next Hunger Games" and I've even seen reviews that claim it's better than The Hunger Games. Could it be? Could there be a new novel that will engage your students as well and leave them thirsty for more? As much as I hoped there would be, I was disappointed.

Perhaps my expectations were too high for Roth's debut novel. After reading numerous rave reviews, I expected so much more. I expected to fall in love with the characters. I expected that once I started reading it I wouldn't want to stop. I expected to feel more emotion while reading the story. And I expected to be yearning for more once I was finished. But I felt none of these things.

I do think Roth is a good writer and I am sure she will improve as she continues to write the series. The story is interesting, and I liked picturing Chicago in the future (though scary, still fascinating). But when it comes to telling a story, Roth is no Suzanne Collins. Collins has the ability to keep you on edge, want to turn the page, cry when a character dies, and practically drive yourself insane waiting for her next novel. But Divergent does not even come close. And, believe me, I would love to read a novel even better. I didn't think I'd like a series as well as Harry Potter until Twilight. Then THG came along and all was good.

I do like the characters even though the story was predictable. But there was no strong connection. And Tris is pretty tough, but sometimes pretty cruel. The way she goes back and forth from being selfish and selfless is a little annoying and her feelings for Four aren't really expressed in way that made me interested to see what would happen between them. Will I change how I feel about Tris and Four when I read the next book? Maybe. But right now, I'm definitely not hungry for the next installment in the trilogy.

On the bright side, Roth is only 22 years old. Yes, just 22. She has many, many years to perfect her already good writing style. 

You can learn more about Divergent on Veronica Roth's blog: http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.com/
Find out which faction you would belong to here: http://www.facebook.com/DivergentSeries?sk=app_203946119628644
Where would I belong? Results showed me Amity, which didn't surprise me. Peace-out. :)


Class Reaping and Training: Let the Games Begin!

My students had a lot of fun participating in a mock reaping for each district in class based on the popular novel by Suzanne Collins.  (See the latest images in volume 2 HERE and additional visual aides of materials and the training sessions on my school web page here.)

Class reaping slips - The Hunger Games from www.hungergameslessons.com
The reaping slips.
Because I wanted 100% of the students to participate and feel involved in the activity, after we reaped the tributes for each district the remaining students drew for jobs related to the Games and training. For example, each tribute (we only had 12 - one from each district) was assigned a Mentor, Escort, and Stylist. Each class period also had a team of Gamemakers. One of my larger classes also had Avoxes, who were assigned various duties (such as designing, printing, cutting, and distributing the Panem cash).

One of my favorite things about the lesson was watching the groups get together to decide a "persona" for their tribute, then executing the right slogan, marketing materials, wardrobe, token, and practice sessions. The Gamemakers also came up with creative stations, such as the Cornucopia sprint where tributes had to hurdle buckets, hop through hoops, then gather essential supplies in a backpack as quickly as they can and race through the obstacles to the finish. The back-and-forth debate between students about what they should or shouldn't do and why was critical thinking at its best.

The students designed everything themselves, including the cash they used to sponsor tributes. The Mentors were then able to purchase "gifts" to be delivered to the tributes during their mock training sessions. (Though this could be done during a mock Games.)

Class reaping - The Hunger Games  from www.hungergameslessons.com
Handouts customized for each position.
To make the role-play assignment more meaningful and engaging for every single student (and to hold them accountable), I had a series of questions and list of duties for every position (including tributes). Their grades depended on how well they fulfilled their job duties.  You can find the complete 40-page packet, which includes detailed teacher-instructions, handouts for every job, my original "Class Reaping" activity and an additional reaping activity incorporating several districts and positions, and images and examples of the materials we used, in my web store as a stand-alone purchase OR on my Hunger Games CD. It is not available in the digital download because of size restrictions. However, the original Class Reaping activity is still included.

This is a great time-saver for those who would love to have students participate, but don't want to spend hours preparing. It's also an excellent student-centered, student-led, collaborative activity.

Additional materials used (to see more, click here):

Students posted marketing materials for their tributes on the board (and all over the classroom & school) to gain sponsors.
Class reaping - The Hunger Games  from www.hungergameslessons.com

Students then decided who to give their avox-created Panem cash to (in the appropriate tribute envelope):
Hunger Games Lessons - Class Reaping images  from www.hungergameslessons.com

Stylists made tribute tokens using their own materials or optional beading supplies I provided:
Class reaping materials from www.hungergameslessons.com

Hint: The equal sign can pose as an 11 if you run low on ones!
District tokens - The Hunger Games - Class reaping materials from www.hungergameslessons.com

Mentors used the cash received from sponsors to purchase gifts for the tributes 
(though some mentors may have held on to some of the gifts themselves...)
Hunger Games Sponsor Gifts - www.hungergameslessons.com

Fireballs (used to "burn" your opponents) were made with Tootsie-Pops and colored paper:
Hunger Games Fireballs - www.hungergameslessons.com

Classroom Connections: Hosting a Class Reaping from www.hungergameslessons.com


Yes, We Have a Haymitch!

Woody Harrelson will play Haymitch Abernathy in the upcoming Hunger Games movie, Lionsgate confirmed yesterday. The official press release is below. Also announced recently was the casting of Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman and all of the tributes except district two. You can see the tributes on the official Hunger Games Movie Facebook Fan Page.

Woody Harrelson Cast as Haymitch in Lionsgate’s "The Hunger Games"

LOS ANGELES, CA, May 10, 2011- Lionsgate® and the filmmakers of THE HUNGER GAMES are pleased to announce that actor Woody Harrelson (NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, ZOMBIELAND) has been cast in the role of Haymitch Abernathy in the much anticipated film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ worldwide smash hit novel.
Said director Gary Ross of the casting decision, “Haymitch is such an unforgettable character: funny cranky outrageous, sarcastic, impatient, biting but ultimately kind. I’m so grateful we have Woody Harrelson to play him. I can’t wait for us to get to work.”  Harrelson is represented by CAA.
About The Role
A Hunger Games victor himself, Haymitch has assumed the role of official mentor to all future tributes in his native District 12. Though he was strong and attractive in his youth, his years of hard living following his own experiences in the arena have rendered him jaded and unfocused to say the least. He begins to show signs of reinvigoration when he finally sees in Katniss and Peeta a pair of spirited tributes- true contenders whose fate might actually hinge on his advice and guidance.
About The Film
Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. Part twisted entertainment, part government intimidation tactic, the Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which “Tributes” must fight with one another until one survivor remains.
Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, Katniss is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy. If she’s ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
THE HUNGER GAMES will be directed by Gary Ross, and produced by Nina Jacobson’s Color Force in tandem with producer Jon Kilik. Collins’ best-selling novel, which has over 3 million copies in print in the United States alone, is the first in a trilogy of novels which have developed a global following.
Lionsgate will release “The Hunger Games” on March 23, 2012.


Relish Those Thank Yous, No Matter How Big or Small or Furry...

As Teacher Appreciation Week draws to a close, let this be a reminder to all of us to thank those who make a difference in our lives.  I've had so many great teachers in my past that inspired me to push myself, to want to learn, and to feel passionately about literature and writing. I want to take a moment to thank all of them (and I'm not going to try to name them all because I'll forget someone and feel awful) for believing in me and my abilities. I know I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for those amazing teachers I had all throughout my schooling.

As a high school teacher, we are often the last to receive "gifts" from students. Some days we're just lucky not to be called a name or get eye rolls from our students. Most of the feedback I receive from students sounds like this:
"Why don't we ever get a 'free' day in here?"
"You mean we have to read!?"
"And we have to write, too!? Ugh..."
"I can't do this. I don't have anything to write with."
"What time is it? When are we out of here?"
"Are you going to give us time to work on this tomorrow because I have Spanish homework I have to do?"
"But Mr. So-and-so lets us do whatever we want in class!"
"I forgot my book. Can I just sleep?"
"I didn't do my homework. I was up too late texting my boyfriend."
"But I was almost in the room when the bell rang!"
"I can't believe you gave us homework when we have a basketball game tonight!"

However, being invited to graduation parties (and devouring graduation cake!) usually makes up for all those comments. Well, most of the time. Or, at least I forget about it by then.

But then, every so often a student will come along who does take the time to tell us "thanks." It's those days that really make me proud to be a teacher. Sometimes it's in a note, sometimes it's in a speech, and sometimes it's in the form of a big furry oversize PEZ dispenser.

Whatever the form, relish those moments. Because, quite frankly, if you teach high school, you never know when the next one will come.

For my last year as yearbook and newspaper adviser, my students gave me a giant PEZ stuffed bunny because I collect PEZ dispensers. It was one of the most amazing gifts I've received from students!
 I received this clever Post-it note holder from a student last year during Teacher Appreciation Week. She used a 5x7 picture frame and scrapbooking supplies to make it. She knows how much I love books! :)

The two middle shelves behind my desk contain many of the little gadgets and gifts I've received from students. You may be able to see more PEZ dispensers (my prized hand-painted Obama dispenser by artist Steve White), an Isabel Bloom sculpture (from my first student-teacher), some certificates for various Teacher awards, Star Wars bobble heads, a Hunger Games mug (with Haymitch's "As charming as a dead slug" quote), and more.

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