My teacher-friend Margaret Whisnant of Taking Grades for Teachers sent me these awesome pictures from Henry River, North Carolina. Since she was heading that way, she was thoughtful enough to stop and snap some pictures for me. Thank you, Margaret!
Margaret, by the way, has great teaching resources for grades 4-9 on her website and TpT store. She also features five freebies from other teachers each week on her blog, and has numerous free downloads, found HERE. I've used her brain teasers & word activities with my high school students and they love them!
She was able to snap seven shots before her camera died and she commented on how creepy the little town had always been, creating the perfect atmosphere for District 12 in the upcoming "The Hunger Games" movie.
This reminded me of an important lesson in tone and mood when it comes to writing. I feel it is important because so many people are up in arms about the violence in this novel, failing to understand or recognize the author's purpose.
In a novel, the author will set the tone through dialogue or narration, which will convey a certain attitude, mood, or feeling about a place, person, event, or subject. In The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Katniss wakes up alone and seeks her sister's warmth, but Prim is not there. "She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping" (p. 3). In those three sentences we know that the "reaping" is not a good event; rather, it is an event that one might have nightmares about. The tone is set right away that something bad will happen.
Mood, on the other hand, is something the reader feels. The author will set the tone, letting us know how her/his attitude toward the subject, but the mood is the reader's attitude or feeling, which may or may not be the same as the author's. There are many instances in which the author does not want you to feel the same way. For example, on page 3 of The Hunger Games, Katniss tells the reader about Prim's cat, Buttercup. Collins sets the tone for Katniss's attitude toward Buttercup by describing how Katniss tried to drown him in a bucket; we know that Katniss does not share with her sister the same love for all living things. However, as a reader, though I recognize Katniss's attitude of indifference toward the cat, I am appalled. My mood is not the same as Katniss's. So instead, I feel compassion for this poor cat that Katniss wanted to drown. This is done purposefully. The author wants us to feel compassion for the cat because later Buttercup will play a larger role in the story.*
When an English teacher says, "Show me, don't tell me" about writing, THIS is what she/he means. We are shown an act that makes us feel a certain way, rather than just told, "This is wrong. Don't do it."
Classroom Connection: Have your students look at the images. Then ask them:
1. What feeling do you get from this setting?
2. List details that you feel enhance that feeling or mood.
3. How would the mood change if some of these elements changed? (For example, if the trees were blooming, how would that change or affect the mood?)
4. Why is this a good location for District 12?
Then have your students take a closer look at the novel The Hunger Games. Then ask them:
1. How does author Suzanne Collins set the tone at the beginning (in chapters 1-2)? Give examples of how the tone is set for the following:
a. the reaping
b. District 12
c. people who live in the Seam
d. people who are merchants (or people who do not live in the Seam)
e. people from the Capitol (Effie)
2. For each of the above, what mood/attitude did you feel toward those places, people, or events?
You can continue this lesson throughout the novel, having students find examples of tone and talking about their attitude or mood after certain events.
*A note on tone/mood (a.k.a. my rant to those who oppose teaching this novel; see the comments HERE):
Problems arise when readers do not recognize this technique. Critics will say that Katniss is cold-hearted and is teaching people to kill cats. Those readers are either failing to feel compassion for the cat themselves (which is alarming), or failing to recognize that the author does this on purpose so you know the act is wrong and teaches a lesson. This is not a new technique. Christians re-read the story of Jesus's crucifixion each year, which is bloody and gruesome. Do they read it as a how-to manual? Of course not. It is to teach a lesson of compassion toward your fellow humans. Even little kids get it right away. Not once did I leave church as a kid and want to go nail someone to a cross, even though I was surrounded by numerous relics depicting Jesus hanging on one (I grew up across the street from our church). If we truly believed that exposing children to violent acts caused them to be violent, then why on earth would we subject them to the crucifixion story year after year from the time they were born?
Thanks, again, to Margaret for sending me these pictures she took yesterday. I didn't think I could get more excited for the movie, but after seeing these, I am. :)