Why Teach The Hunger Games?

I could probably list a thousand reasons why teaching The Hunger Games novel (and trilogy) can be a rewarding experience in your classroom.   Instead, I'm going to have my students respond to this and post their reasons here. Some responded with what they liked about the book or their favorite characters, and others posted about the overall novel.  If you'd like to read a condensed version of why I choose to teach The Hunger Games trilogy, read my post Teaching The Hunger Games.

Please keep in mind that my students are teenagers, mostly boys. And they had been arguing for days about who had a better chance of getting a date with Katniss Everdeen before I collected these responses. I did remind them that she was a fictional character, but that seemed irrelevant. They are freshmen boys. Does that explain it enough?

Katniss Everdeen is the ultimate protagonist; both boys and girls love her.
Student Responses Regarding Reading The Hunger Games in English I Class
 "I liked reading The Hunger Games because I think Katniss is pretty cool. I can relate the most with Peeta because he is attracted to her and so am I.  She is good at shooting a bow and she's pretty brave to take her sister's place and take the chance that she will probably die.  I love to hunt, so if I could take anyone with me to go deer hunting, I would choose Katniss Everdeen."

"I think The Hunger Games is one of the best books I've read because I never wanted to stop reading it. And I really hate to read."

"My favorite character in The Hunger Games was Primrose. Not because she plays a big role in the book, but because as we were reading it and Katniss left for the Games, I felt strongly about how Prim was feeling. My brother left and moved to Texas and I felt heartbroken because I've always been close to him.  I know exactly how Prim feels: empty, like she is never going to see her sister again. That is how I felt about my brother. There is not a day I don't think about him and I know Prim is the same with Katniss. And Katniss thinks of Prim, too.  Prim probably didn't think Katniss would win and come home. But when she did, she probably cried and hugged her.  My brother finally came home and I cried and hugged him.  And now he might have to go back and it is breaking my heart."

"I really like Katniss Everdeen. I think she is hot. I want to take her on a date and go hunting for a date. We would kill squirrels and bears and catch fish to eat for dinner. I would make her a fire and roast marshmallows and make smores for our dessert. This book was fun to read because she is hot and I can relate to Peeta because I'm good at camouflage and can lift a lot of weights. So I think if she met me, she would choose me."

"All my classmates think that they have a shot with Katniss Everdeen. Well, I'm here to tell them they don't. First of all, I'm a lot more like Peeta Mellark than they are. So I would do a better job of protecting her. I can cook anything, I wrestle, I'm strong, I have good hand strength, and I'm just as smart as Peeta. Oh, and I'm pretty good at camo, too. I have blond hair, blue eyes, and I'm broad shouldered. And I would do everything I could to protect Katniss. Those guys just want to kiss her. They aren't really looking out for what she wants. She just wants to survive and get home to her sister and mom. And since I think I am too, I think they should put me in the movie to play Peeta. Then I can get a real kiss from Katniss Everdeen after I save her life."

"I hate hunting, but I really liked the parts in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire when Katniss was in the Capitol and eating all the fancy food and wearing the cool dresses. Even though she's not a girly-girl, I think she liked getting seeing what Cinna designed and how she looked and felt in the dresses."

"Katniss is the ultimate protagonist because she's really fierce, but she's also beautiful but not conceited about it. Like she doesn't know how hot she is. And she can hold her own, too. It's pretty awesome we all like her and the girls like her, too. Usually girls hate other beautiful girls because they're jealous, but it's different with Katniss. They like her, too. I don't know how the author did that, but it worked."

"When we were reading The Hunger Games and Catching Fire in class I didn't want to leave class when the bell rang. I've never said that about any English class or about reading any other books. But I wanted to stay and see what happened next. I didn't even want to go to shop class and that's my favorite class."

"Katniss hunts. Do I need to say anything more? That is the hottest thing ever."

"The books are really interesting. They appeal to all of us. There wasn't anyone in our class who didn't like The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, or Mockingjay. I don't think any other books appeal to every one of us because we are so different. I mean, you look at our class and we have people who are complete opposites of each other."

"I don't know why everybody thinks Katniss should be with Peeta. She really should be with Gale. But besides that, I really liked reading these books. And it's funny to listen to the boys in our class argue over Katniss. Like she's even real! And like she would choose any of them!  Ha! But it really made coming to class fun because at least I knew we had one period a day where they wouldn't be acting like idiots and getting in trouble."

"I don't think the books are as violent as people think they are. Yeah, there's violence. But we have read worse before. And it isn't like violence is made to be cool or anything like that. When Katniss has to kill, it's not like we cheer. I mean, we feel bad. I think that's what it has to be like for soldiers who go over to Iraq. I don't think deep down they really want to kill anyone and they have to feel bad and have bad dreams after they took someone's life. I think reading the books made me think more about life and how easy it could be gone. Not just my life but anyone's life.  If more people read The Hunger Games books, maybe they would appreciate their lives more and other people's lives, too."

The following responses are from my sophomores (both regular/honors students). They were asked to summarize why they liked or didn't like The Hunger Games in one or two sentences (I had ZERO responses for dislikes):

"I liked The Hunger Games because it was suspenseful. Anyone who likes survival stories will like it."

"I'm really excited for the movie. I liked Katniss's story because I could picture it in my head as I read. Hey, that rhymes. :D"

"I liked it because it has a lot of action and kept me on the edge of my seat. And Gale is sooooo hot!"

"I Liked The Hunger Games because of the way it was written. It was full of suspense and excitement. The characters are also very interesting. This was one of those books that I had a movie going on in my head throughout the entire story."

"The book made me want to slap Katniss. Why can't she figure it out? I want to scream at her 'cause she drove me crazy. That's how I know it's a good book. When it makes me feel so...........intense toward a character."

"I loved the dresses Cinna designed. That's what I want to do."

"I recommend The Hunger Games to anyone who wants to read a really good book that you can't put down because I could not put it down once I started reading it even though it might have messed me up on some of the quizzes because I read ahead it was worth it because it was interesting and different from other books we read in class."

"I liked The Hunger Games because of all the action and the not-knowing-the-next-thing-that-will-happen (suspense) feeling. I would recommend this to people who like action."

"I liked it because it was kinda about future gladiator fights."

"I don't really like to read, as you know. But when you kept posting all those pictures each day of the actors who were going to play the characters, it made me want to read it. I love Liam Hemsworth. So I had to find out more about this Gale dude. Then I didn't want to stop reading it. So does she hook up with Gale when they get home? God, I hate that I have to read another book to find out, but you have left me no choice!!! Can I check it out over the summer? Please?"

And one of my students wanted to write a letter to the author, Suzanne Collins, expressing what the book meant to her. This wasn't an assignment; she said she just wanted to express to Ms. Collins what an impact The Hunger Games has had on her:

"Dear Mrs. Suzanne Collins,
  I am currently reading The Hunger Games in my English II class. Prior to reading the book, I couldn't figure out why our teacher was so fanatic about it or what it was that made her rant and rave about how good it was. She was even to the point of counting down the days until the movie premier, which occurs next year. It took me about twopages in the book to remember why it was I used to read books and enjoyed reading books. You didn't hesitate a moment, or waste a page of space before you were vividly explaining every detail of the characters, where they come from, and what it is that makes them who they are, leaving nothing out.
  If I had to describe who I am and the way I talk, I'd have to say my that my words are a little out of order sometimes; I like to take an ordinary sentence and mix it up a bit. For instance, instead of saying, 'Hi, what's up?' I would probably say something a little more along the lines of 'Hello! And what might you be doing today?' Since this most likely seems completely off-topic from your book, it's quite clear. Your style of writing is so easy for me to follow, and I don't find myself dozing off thinking about other things and having to read pages over again to refresh my memory about what I'd skimmed over. Instead, I'm lost deep within each page, eager to flip to the next.
  Many of my classmates and I have had no problem keeping our studies up to date. The majority of us are actually having trouble hanging back and refraining from reading on past our nightly-assigned chapters. Once nearly everyone was on the ball rolling, Mrs. Orman has had close to no explaining as to what was happening in the book. I believe that your book might have gotten some kids back into reading as it has for me, and encouraged us to read the next ones in the series!
Sincerely,
B.C."

16 comments:

  1. omg i cant beleive she choses petta in the end

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  2. We need more teachers like this. The ones who get really involved in the book and have class discussions. Too many teachers just throw a book at you not knowing anything about it.

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  3. this is theeeee best book ever!!! I've read the whole series twice!!! 48 days until the movie!

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  4. 11 DAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  5. Personally, I found The Hunger Games to be a very strange book/series. At first, when all my friends were reading it, I refused because I thought the whole plot was completely disgusting. Like, who wants to read about kids killing kids? But when I eventually gave in and read the series, I was surprised to find that the books are extremely powerful. They made me think about war and mankind and our society in general, in a whole new way! I learned so much from those books, and they are definitely unique. I wouldn't say I loved the way it was written though. I found some of the characters hard to picture in my head because they were not described very well. I guess what I'm saying is; Collins' idea is very interesting and frightening at the same time, but I have read other books that were written a lot better. But don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed The Hunger Games very much and loved the movie, although it was extremely disturbing. It was one of the only book series that truly made me think about what this world is coming to and realize how fragile our society really is. The Hunger Games left me with very unsettling but true thoughts, and that is why I love and hate it at the same time.

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  6. "kids killing kids?".....Ever heard of Lord of the Flies?

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  7. I would have much rather read the Hunger Games in school as opposed to Animal Farm. The book represents communism far better than any other book I had to read in school.

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  8. I'm a 7th grade teacher who has PUSHED to get The Hunger Games into our curriculum next year. I can't wait! I am using this site to show WHY it will be such a powerful book. Definitely one of my new favorite series.

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  9. Like quite a few parents, I was made aware of the popularity of the Suzanne Collins' trilogy through my own children. Between career and home, I simply didn't have the time to put into reading the trilogy but I agreed to take the kids to the movie. Today, I am completely absorbed by anything to do with the trilogy. I read the books nearly non-stop neglecting sleep for several nights. The Hunger Games immediately resonated with me on several levels. Collins' depiction of life under totalitarianism is accurate. My parents are Chinese. She has it right.
    As a student of history, I was hugely impressed by Collins' mastery of the political and military aspects of her tale as it played out in the plot line and in the characters of her work.
    The core of the story is however relational. We see it in the love triangle of Gale-Katniss-Peeta. We see it in Katniss total devotion to her sister Prim. Ultimately, it is her relationship with surrogate sister Rue that sparks the rebellion. Indeed, as the T-shirts proclaim, "Love changes everything". Love, here however is agape, not merely romantic.
    As dark and awful is the world of Panem, the reader/audience is allowed the small luxury of hope in the person of Katniss Everdeen. She carries us with her through poverty, cruel brutality, war's desolation and separation from loved ones. We see in her the best aspects of ourselves and at times maybe the worst too. The first person perspective of the book cements our identification with Katniss.
    Katniss' choice of Peeta Mellark makes complete sense when in Mockingjay we see the moral ambiguity of war take Gale as victim. Gale allowed himself to be changed by his circumstance beyond where he or Katniss should go. In contrast, Peeta's foresight and guardedness on the eve of the 74th Games allowed him to remain at his core intact. Tracker Jacket venom and brainwashing notwithstanding, at the end he has stayed true to himself.
    Katniss Everdeen does not emerge unscathed either. It was heart wrenching to see her bear up under the vicissitudes of war returning to a world see can barely recognize and apart from all those she loved save one. The emotional gravity at the end read like that of so many of our combat veterans; many who are still teens fighting in wars far from our shores.
    Suzanne Collins' accomplishment in the Hunger Games is astonishing and well worth study. She has contributed significantly to the education of entire generations of readers who have no other knowledge of the terrible lessons hidden away in history books usually written as didactic works. Collins' has made history accessible and personal. For that, all of us owe her our gratitude.

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  10. I had an interest in reading this series as soon as the first book was published, but being an English teacher, I constantly found myself neglecting what I wanted to read for the novels I was obligated to teach. Being a former avid reader, it took joining a book club this past fall to reignite my passion for expanding my own library. I was told repeatedly that this was "an easy read", but I had no idea just how addicting the series could be until I realized I had devoured all 3 books in a matter of 10 days this December.
    I thought I would have a hard time getting through the books because I'm not typically a fan of stories written in the first person perspective, but I think it was a necessary decision in order to make Katniss an engaging character. This is one place I feel where the movie fell short. (Even my husband said it was hard to become emotionally invested in the characters in the film adaptation.)
    That being said, I tease my husband about getting attached to characters in the various fantasy series he reads, but I was absolutely devistated when I finished Mockingjay. I felt like I was saying goodbye to an old friend. I didn't want to start any new books because I felt I was betraying Katniss, Peeta, Gale, and all of my other beloved characters.
    This story has had a profound impact on my life. Above all, Suzanne Collins has inspired me to read for pleasure again, as well as reignite my passion for writing. I have encouraged countless other people to read these books, and I have been given the privledge to teach Hunger Games in my English 7-8 class this spring.
    I was enticed to visit this page when I stumbled upon the question "Is the message of The Hunger Games lost on those who haven't read the books?" I cannot wait to share some of the information on this site with my relucant readers, and I look forward to collecting reviews from my own students when we are finished.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply! I have had a similar experience with this book and am so glad you share the same passion.

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