5.27.2020

Book Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Book Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes www.hungergameslessons.com



Book Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
Original book jacket cover art by Elizabeth B. Parisi, © Scholastic Inc.

*WARNING: This post WILL contain spoilers.*

When Suzanne Collins ended Mockingjay with the line, "But there are much worse games to play," she was right. And here they are.

I've spent the past week reading and re-reading parts of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, the newest release from author Suzanne Collins and the highly-anticipated prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy. Needless to say, there's a lot to digest in the 517-page book. The novel is written in third-person from 18-year old Coriolanus Snow's perspective. This differs from The Hunger Games trilogy, which is written in first-person from Katniss Everdeen's perspective. I did not have a problem with the way it was written since we still "see" things through Snow's point-of-view. I actually loved that the reader was able to see a young Snow and learn more about this man's rise to power. Of course, this is just a glimpse because the entire novel is only comprised of about three months of his life. Three very formative months, of course.

It begins on July 4th, Reaping Day for the 10th Hunger Games in the Capitol. From the beginning, I love how Collins gives us information we craved but didn't get in the original trilogy, like the date of the Reaping. We learn that Snow is being raised by his grandmother (his dad died in the war and his mom died during childbirth, along with his younger sibling). But what was the biggest revelation in the second paragraph is that his cousin is none other than Tigris, the former stylist who feeds and shelters Katniss, Peeta, and Gale on their quest to kill President Snow in Mockingjay. This surprise adds dimension to both characters and what I really love about this book. It really makes you want to reread the original trilogy with a fresh lens. And this is just the beginning!

We learn that the Hunger Games is not very popular with the citizens of the Capitol and that the district tributes for the past nine years have never had mentors. In fact, viewing of the Games is not mandatory for ANY citizens and the arena is a dilapidated coliseum. The "challenge" for the 10th Hunger Games is to get more people to not only view them but to engage with them. To do so, it is decided that the brightest youth from the Academy will mentor the tributes. Just as district children are reaped for participating in the Games, the Capitol youth are assigned their district tributes right before the Reaping. Snow is assigned the District 12 female tribute, which he takes as a slap in the face. But when it turns out his tribute is 17-year-old Lucy Gray Baird, a spunky singer with a touch of vulnerability that makes her an instant fan favorite, Snow has some hope that maybe he didn't get the absolute worse tribute.

Collins is able to let us feel smidgens of empathy for the young Snow; more importantly, though, we get to see why he does what he does. His family is no longer rich and he's desperate for a scholarship to the university. Being a mentor of a winning tribute will secure him a scholarship so he can continue his studies and hope to someday rule Panem. So whatever he feels for Lucy Gray, it's always in relation to how she can secure him the future he feels he is owed. He is the epitome of privilege. He even refers to her as "his." Their relationship is very complicated, of course, but it forces him to make changes to the Games to help Lucy Gray survive. I truly loved seeing the Games evolve in the first two parts of the novel. We see Snow struggle with ethical dilemmas between his classmate Sejanus Plinth–who definitely serves as a moral compass–and Head Gamemaker Dr. Volumnia Gaul–evil incarnate. The two polar opposites make Snow wrestle with his own ethics. And while we all know what becomes of Snow, there's that sliver of hope that he will choose good over evil.

Collins also introduces us to Dean Casca Highbottom, the mastermind who created the Hunger Games. He's a complex character who reminds me of Haymitch: he has the potential to be a good influence on Snow, to take a stand against the barbarism of the Games, and yet, he turns to alcohol and drugs instead. It made me wonder if he had taken Snow under his wing how differently things could have turned out? Alas, the heartbreak of the book is that we know all these opportunities for Snow never come to fruition.

Another thing I love about the book is that we get to return to District 12, which presents so many references to the trilogy. For instance, Lucy Gray composes the Hanging Tree song inspired by another character we see hung for attempting to spark another rebellion. How fitting that this same song is used in the rebellion in Mockingjay. And not only did Lucy Gray write that song, but she also composed the Meadow song, which Katniss sings as Rue dies in the 74th Games. All these little Easter eggs bring new understanding to Katniss' rebellion and Snow's utter aversion to District 12.

I can't say that I completely loved the book as much as the original trilogy. I didn't connect as deeply to the characters and part of me kept wondering how many years the book would cover and if we would fast-forward to the falling out between Tigris and Snow. The fact that the book contained an epilogue makes me believe that this is it for the series. đŸ˜­ But I wish we could have one more book from Tigris' point-of-view set about 50 or so years later that covers her falling out with her self-serving egotistical cousin. I think I would be much more emotionally invested in her perspective. It would also show us more of the behind-the-scenes workings to the Games, this time from a stylists' perspective. Even if we don't get Tigris' story, I love that Collins made her character more dynamic. In Mockingjay, Katniss describes her as another shallow Capitol showboat until she was banned from the Games. The Tigris we see in Ballad is nothing like that. I want more of her story.

I also found the catch-phrase "Snow lands on top" a little overdone. I don't know why it began to grate on me as the book went on, but somehow it did. Maybe it was Snow's all-consuming arrogance that was more annoying. I did appreciate Collins including the mockingjays and his hatred for them. The line from page 516 "...she and her mockingjays could never harm him again" struck me as funny because we know Katniss–as the mockingjay–will cause all sorts of problems for him, and yet, he is absolutely right. Katniss doesn't kill him in the end. Instead, it's his arrogance that kills him as he laughs so hard at Katniss killing Coin that he chokes himself to death. And then is trampled on. Definitely not landing on top.

In all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I definitely think it will be a great classroom staple and I will be creating teaching materials, as well. I think your students will love the richness it brings to the other novels.

What did YOU think of the novel? Post below in the comments. I would love to hear your thoughts!

2.02.2020

The Hunger Games Escape Room Activity

Hunger Games Escape Room Challenge


Escape rooms have become a great way to encourage peer collaboration and problem-solving. My Hunger Games escape room activity practices both, with some text-dependent challenges thrown in. It's best to play this AFTER students have read the book because there are spoilers to the events in the 74th Games.

In this challenge, students will be thrust into the 74th Games and will have to think their way out. Of course, there's an important rule change when you play in your classroom: they aren't chasing or killing other tributes and if they all complete the challenge, they all survive. But only one team can be Victors.
Opening Ceremony Challenge https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Hunger-Games-Escape-Room-Escape-From-The-74th-Games-5213758?utm_source=HGlessons&utm_campaign=EscapeRoom

Students begin with the Opening Ceremony in which each group has to solve a puzzle. The group that solves the puzzle first will get to choose which part of the arena they want to go to first: either the Lake, the Cornucopia, the Grass Field, or the Woods.

Each area of the arena is a separate station that you can easily set up. Students will have an answer sheet that has all four areas, so they can move around to each without needing a new sheet.

Hunger Games Escape Room https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Hunger-Games-Escape-Room-Escape-From-The-74th-Games-5213758?utm_source=HGlessons&utm_campaign=EscapeRoom

At the Lake, students will relive the moment when Katniss realized the Career supplies were rigged with explosives. Students will have to navigate and map a safe route through the maze. Along the way, they'll collect letters that will need to be unscrambled, revealing a secret code word they'll need in the next task: answering a series of questions that, when completed, will detonate the Career supplies.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Hunger-Games-Escape-Room-Escape-From-The-74th-Games-5213758?utm_source=HGlessons&utm_campaign=EscapeRoom

In the Woods area of the arena, students have to find water and dodge fireballs in two separate tasks. The first one is another word puzzle with text-dependent questions. After they answer the questions correctly, certain letters will need to be unscrambled to create a code phrase. The second task is a critical-thinking challenge where students have to create new words from an existing one.

Hunger Games Escape Room https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Hunger-Games-Escape-Room-Escape-From-The-74th-Games-5213758?utm_source=HGlessons&utm_campaign=EscapeRoom

Students will test their knowledge of figurative-language devices in the Grass Field. By doing so, they'll unlock a 12-digit code that will propel them to the next area of the arena.

Hunger Games Escape Room https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Hunger-Games-Escape-Room-Escape-From-The-74th-Games-5213758?utm_source=HGlessons&utm_campaign=EscapeRoom

The first task at the Cornucopia has students identifying items and food from the arena. In the second task, students must outsmart the wolf mutts by answering text-dependent questions--each one taking them a step closer to the top of the Cornucopia.

After students travel to each area of the arena, they'll all conclude with the Closing Ceremony. In this challenge, students will use clues they solved in the four areas of the arena to answer questions relating to the novel. The first group to finish will be crowned Victors. The rest who complete the challenges are Survivors.

Hunger Games Escape Room https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Hunger-Games-Escape-Room-Escape-From-The-74th-Games-5213758?utm_source=HGlessons&utm_campaign=EscapeRoom

For differentiation, I offer Oops! and Hint cards. I also make it possible to skip the Opening and Closing ceremonies if time is a factor. In addition, you can allow students to use the novel for additional help.

I included teacher directions, example pictures of stations, and a complete teacher answer key.

I think you and your students will love this fun & engaging activity at the conclusion of your novel unit. If you have already purchased my Growing Mega Unit, it is included! You can download it now. Or you can add it to your existing unit.

Hunger Games Escape Room https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Hunger-Games-Escape-Room-Escape-From-The-74th-Games-5213758?utm_source=HGlessons&utm_campaign=EscapeRoom

10.04.2019

Songbirds and Snakes



The title and cover for Suzanne Collins' new Hunger Games book have been revealed: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. We also learned through Scholastic that the book will begin 64 years before The Hunger Games on the morning of the reaping of the 10th Hunger Games.

So let's take a look at the cover and title more in-depth. Obviously, songbirds and snakes both played a symbolic role in The Hunger Games trilogy, with the mockingjay being the symbol for the district rebels and snakes (or a snake) symbolizing President Snow.

The Songbird
The title and image make me think we will learn of the origin of Madge's mockingjay pin and how the songbird became a symbol for the rebellion. We know that it once belonged to her aunt Maysilee Donner and that Maysilee wore it during the 50th Hunger Games. Beyond that, we don't know how Maysilee acquired it or where it originated from. I think this book (or perhaps it will be a series) will give us those answers.

The Snake
Throughout the trilogy, President Snow has represented a snake. In Catching Fire Katniss calls his eyes "snakelike" (p. 17), compares seeing him to a "fanged viper" (p. 18), and even admits she treats him as though he is a venomous snake (p. 19). In Mockingjay, Finnick reveals how President Snow rose so quickly to power: poison. Katniss thinks, "Poison. The perfect weapon for a snake" (p. 171).

Will we see a young version of President Snow in this book? It's hard to say how old he is in the trilogy because the Capitol citizens have access to amazing gadgets and medicine to keep them looking younger and he already looks quite old. We do know he is a grandfather. I'm going to guess if we do see President Snow in this book, it will most likely be his child or young adult version. If Collins makes this a series, though, there is a chance we will get to see his rise to power and Finnick's scandalous stories will come alive on the page. Finnick does say that Snow was "Such a young man when he rose to power" (p. 171). This makes me think that we will somehow see the beginnings of Snow's snake-like rise to evil. At the very least, we will see his predecessor.

Other Characters? 
With the book rewinding 64 years, it's safe to say most of the characters from the original trilogy will be absent from the novel. However, there could be some. Mags from District 4 was elderly, so there's a chance she could be in it. As I stated before, President Snow--or Coriolanus--could be featured as a child or a very young man. Katniss has said Ceasar Flickerman has been around forever, but could he be old enough to be in the 10th Games? Probably not.

Narrator?
I do wonder who will narrate the book (or whether it will even feature a first-person narration). Will it be a district citizen? A Capitol citizen? Or will it feature multiple perspectives?

No matter what the novel reveals, I'm just elated Collins is expanding the Hunger Games world. I can't wait to meet the new characters and learn more about this time period in Panem.


Image courtesy of Scholastic, Inc.
Pre-order your copy of the book through scholastic.com/hungergames

6.19.2019

Suzanne Collins' New Book Goes Back to the Dark Days

Suzanne Collins' prequel to The Hunger Games www.hungergameslessons.com



With Scholastic's recent announcement that author Suzanne Collins will release a prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy May 19, 2020, it's a perfect time to review what we know about the time leading up to the series and speculate on the contents of the prequel.

Collins released a statement regarding the setting and premise of the novel:

“With this book, I wanted to explore the state of nature, who we are, and what we perceive is required for our survival. The reconstruction period 10 years after the war, commonly referred to as the Dark Days — as the country of Panem struggles back to its feet — provides fertile ground for characters to grapple with these questions and thereby define their views of humanity.”

The Hunger Games prequel Speculations www.hungergameslessons.com
Based on this information and what we know from reading the series, we can deduce the following:

1. The prequel will be set 10 years after "the brutal war for what little sustenance remained" (The Hunger Games, Collins 18). Panem and its 13 newly-formed districts were formed after the war and "brought peace and prosperity to its citizens" (18).

2. Obviously, the "peace and prosperity" was short-lived or was a farce because the Dark Days--the time after the war and formation of Panem--is when all the districts organize the first uprising.

3. All of the districts are defeated by the Capitol and District 13 is destroyed (above ground, anyway) during this time period. We also know that two rebels for every Capitol citizen were killed during this uprising (Catching Fire, Collins 172).

4. The Capitol created some of their killing "pods" in the city during the Dark Days (Mockingjay, Collins 251). They also bred genetically-altered animals (muttations or mutts) such as the jabber jay--used to record private conversations--during this time (The Hunger Games, Collins 42).

5. District 13 started the rebellion that caused the Dark Days, "then abandoned the rest of the districts when the tide turned against it" (Mockingjay, Collins 357).

6. The Capitol wrote and enacted the "Treaty of Treason" with new laws to guarantee peace. As part of the new laws, the Hunger Games is formed as a "yearly reminder that the Dark Days must never be repeated" (The Hunger Games, Collins 18). In addition, all of the Quarter Quell rules were created as part of these new laws (Catching Fire, Collins 172).

QUESTIONS THAT MIGHT BE ANSWERED IN THE PREQUEL...

(These questions are pure speculation; I have no idea if these questions will be answered. I am merely guessing based on Collins' statement.)

• What happens in those ten years that cause the districts to uprise? What was the tipping point to cause District 13 to initiate the rebellion? What pushed the citizens over the edge?

• Was Panem a democracy before the rebellion? Were districts independent?

• Could citizens travel freely from district to district? Could people communicate with citizens in other districts? Were the districts fenced in or were the borders created during the Dark Days?

• How long did the rebellion/Dark Days last?

• Why did District 13 turn their backs on the rest of the districts when the Capitol started to gain control of the rebellion?

• Why did Collins decide to return to Panem after stating she was ready to move on? Was the current political and global climate an inspiration?

What questions do you have that you hope to have answered? Are you excited for the new novel? Do you have a countdown until May 19th? Share below in the comments.

   

3.15.2018

Why Children of Blood and Bone is the next Hunger Games

www.hungergameslessons.com

Ever since Suzanne Collins released Mockingjay, her final book in The Hunger Games series, I've been yearning for another powerful young adult book or series that I could introduce to my students.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Jacket art by Rich Deas ©Macmillian Publishing
Copyright © 2018 Tomi Adeyemi
There have been several challengers: the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth, The Chaos Walking trilogy (beginning with The Knife of Never Letting Go) by Patrick Ness, the Legend trilogy by Marie Lu, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor (which is amazing, intricate, and geared more toward high school students). But none of them quite topped what The Hunger Games could achieve as far as overall student appeal and engagement. Which is why I was excited to get my copy of Tomi Adeyemi's new book Children of Blood and Bone last week. It had been touted as one of the most anticipated new young adult books by Publisher's Weekly. I was not disappointed.

Like The Hunger Games trilogy, Children of Blood and Bone features a strong-willed female teenage protagonist with the weight of the world on her shoulders. And like Katniss, ZĂ©lie and her family have been the victims of a tyrannical ruler who is hell-bent on keeping them down. ZĂ©lie, as well as Amari and Inan (the other narrators), experience some of the same insecurities, fears, and conflicting feelings Katniss went through--and definitely feelings teens can relate to. It is the first book in the Legacy of OrĂ¯sha trilogy.

Unlike The Hunger GamesChildren of Blood and Bone is set in the fantasy world of OrĂ¯sha, which is based on the West-African country of Nigeria. In fact, the names of the villages in the novel are the same as real places in Nigeria. West-African mythology is beautifully woven into the story that it immerses the reader with its magnificence.  Also, Children of Blood and Bone is narrated by three separate characters, all in first-person. Readers are able to see events from two very different perspectives from ZĂ©lie's. Having the contrasting viewpoints helps the events in the plot flow, while at the same time giving readers new insights and a deeper understanding of the characters and their motivation.

But what makes Children of Blood and Bone so special is that its characters--including all the main protagonists--are people of color, something that has been missing from many popular young adult series. Too often in fiction the characters of color must rely on the white character to fight the injustices or come to their rescue (i.e. To Kill a Mockingbird, The Help, Their Eyes Were Watching God). Now, more than ever, students need to see diverse heroes in literature; ones that are able to overcome obstacles without the help from a white character. Our students of color need to be represented; they need to be able to see themselves in the story. And our white students need more opportunities to empathize with characters who don't look like themselves. Children of Blood and Bone succeeds at both.

Adeyemi writes in her "Author's Note" at the end of the novel that she was deeply inspired by the terrifying events of police shootings and brutality in America over the past several years. Though the novel is set in a fantasy world, the ruthlessness and violence by those in power emphasize the themes of racism and fear. Caitlyn Paxon, NPR.org, writes in her review that "...Adeyemi has created a powerful metaphor for the cruelty of racism and the way that it weakens and divides a country."

While reading it, I couldn't help comparing the narrators to Katniss (or other teen protagonists). While there were many similarities, there is something about each of the narrators that is raw, utterly emotional, and unique from any other teen series. I truly believe that experiencing the suffering through these characters gives so much more weight and heaviness than through their white fictional counterparts. Perhaps it's because deep down we know this isn't just a fantasy--the pain these characters feel mirrors the pain suffered by many every single day in real life. Which is why I believe this novel--and hopefully the entire series--is the next Hunger Games.


TEACHING RESOURCES
• Teachers will find multiple ways to relate the novel to current and past events; there are several instances where comparisons can be made with the slave trade, lynchings, the Holocaust, the nuclear arms race, police brutality, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and gun violence/mass shootings. The novel also offers excellent talking points about stereotypes, gender roles, and class inequity.

• For more information about the Tomi Adeyemi, you can go to her website:  http://www.tomiadeyemi.com/

• Join Adeyemi's fan club (#CBB Squad) for her email updates that include cool things (like a printable map of OrĂ¯sha) here: http://www.tomiadeyemi.com/books/ (scroll down to the yellow button that says "Join the #CBB Squad")

• The book has its own website where students (and anyone) can find out which Maji Clan they belong to: http://childrenofbloodandbone.com/ 
(I'm a Connector, which I think is pretty accurate. :) Comment below with your Clan.) Hopefully more will be added to the site as the popularity increases (which I'm sure it will).

• I will be working on materials for teachers in the coming weeks, so you can follow me on TpT to get updates when I post new resources. (Most recent resources: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Tracee-Orman/Order:Most-Recent#seller_details_tabs)

• To purchase the novel (Amazon associate link):

 

• This is the first novel in the Legacy of OrĂ¯sha trilogy, with the second book to be released in 2019, the third book in 2020. Fox 2000 has secured the movie rights a year ago (!) and it is currently "in development." A release date has not been set.

Book information:
Children of Blood and Bone - Legacy of OrĂ¯sha (Book 1)
Author: Tomi Adeyemi
Copyright © 2018
Publisher: Henry Holt® and Company
Macmillan Publishing Group, LLC
ISBN: 978-1250170972


9.25.2017

Banned Books Week: The Dangers of Censoring Free Speech

The danger of limiting free speech  www.hungergameslessons.com


Banned Books Week: The Dangers of Censoring Free Speech
As we celebrate our freedom to read during Banned Books Week, it's important to remind students that many countries are not afforded this fundamental right. Countries such as North Korea, Eritrea, Russia, China, Turkmenistan, and Burma limit their citizens' right to read materials of their own choosing. Roughly two-thirds of the world's population lives under government-sanctioned internet censorship, according to a 2016 study by Freedom House.

Panem is controlled by an authoritarian government who chooses what its citizens listen to, watch, read, and learn. President Snow decides what is appropriate and acceptable for ALL citizens, whether it is real or not. This is not unlike North Korea, where cell phone use is restricted and only the "political elite" are allowed internet access. The government controls what is printed in the newspapers and other periodicals, as well as what is broadcast over the airwaves. (Source: https://cpj.org/2015/04/10-most-censored-countries.php)

So if we think a fictional world like Panem could never exist in the real world, sadly, it already does. There may not be real-life Hunger Games competitions, but there's no shortage of world leaders willing to poison their dissenters. (See this New York Times article and this report from Amnesty International.)

How does this relate to Banned Books Week?
Challenging books--which involves one person or group advocating for the removal of the book(s) from the library or school/classroom--is a threat to our First Amendment right of freedom of speech. It's the first step in limiting access to information like the government-controlled countries previously mentioned. If the door is opened to allow one person or group to dictate what is appropriate for all, it could have negative ramifications, including other persons or groups demanding the removal of all kinds of books for various reasons. And why stop at books? The floodgates would be opened for censorship of all the information we receive. When this happens, our democracy will cease to exist.

We currently have a president who does not speak out against Neo-Nazis who violently protested in Charlottesville, but speaks out against Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players who exercise their First Amendment right to peacefully protest the racial injustices in our country. Does this remind you of a scene from Catching Fire?

Are we living in Panem?  www.hungergameslessons.com

 When a leader encourages violence and/or backlash against a citizen for exercising his freedom of speech, our democracy has already begun to crumble. (sources: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/24/sports/nfl-trump-anthem-protests.htmlhttp://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-trump-race-analysis-20170923-story.html)

Take a stand against censorship: Become a Rebel Reader 
Banned Books Week: Be a Rebel Reader  www.hungergameslessons.comJust as Katniss, Gale, Peeta, Finnick and all the rebels in Panem took a stand against the suppression of information by President Snow, your students can take a stand against censorship by becoming "rebel readers." A rebel reader will celebrate his/her freedom to read and freedom to choose what to read. A rebel reader doesn't allow the government, media outlets, or social media to decide what is "fake news," but will seek the truth him/herself by researching the facts. A rebel reader will step out of his/her comfort zone and read works by new and different authors about people and places and events that are foreign to him/her. A rebel reader will read with an open mind and look at both sides of an issue or viewpoint.

How to be a rebel reader  www.hungergameslessons.com

To encourage your students, give them opportunities to practice being a responsible rebel reader. When researching facts, require students to use several trusted and reliable sources. Surround your students with a variety of reading materials; vary the works you read with your students.


Topics of discussion   
• Discuss how the United States differs from other countries when it comes to censorship of the internet and news media outlets. Many students have experienced some form of internet censorship at schools with internet filters; for most, it is very frustrating to come to these roadblocks when searching for information. The difference, however, is that in our country, there are ways around the filters when necessary. But how would students feel if there were no other options?  

• Using the 2016 election as an example, discuss how social media filters (i.e. Facebook ads that target certain users) influenced the results of the election. If voters hadn't been bombarded with damaging articles posing as real news, would the results have been different? Ask your students why they think some people deem articles shared on social media as reliable information? Why aren't a majority of Americans turning to trusted news sites for their information?

• Ask students how they feel about peaceful, silent protests. Do they think NFL players should be fired for taking a knee during the national anthem? Why or why not? If they think it's inappropriate, ask them what alternative protest could they partake in that has the same impact/viewership?

• Compare today's peaceful protests with peaceful protests of the past. For example, revisit my post about Olympic protests. Why are some athletes punished, while others aren't? Does it boil down to race? What must happen for us to move on as a country?

Celebrate our freedom to read
Even if you are not able to fit any "banned book" discussions or activities into your curriculum this week, try to do one thing: give your students time in class to read something of their own choosing.   Let's ensure that our students realize that reading--and the freedom to choose what to read--is a fundamental right in our country that we all value.

If you are in need of materials for Banned Books Week, my previous post showcases my bulletin board display and warning labels bundle, complete with an introductory activity.

Banned Books Week caution warning labels with bulletin board display

You can also visit the American Library Association's site for Banned Books Week here: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks 

9.23.2017

Banned Books Week: Create an Interactive Classroom Display

Banned Books Week Classroom Display  www.hungergameslessons.com


Banned Books Week: Create an Interactive Classroom (or Library) Display
Banned Books Week is always one of my favorite weeks for teaching because I love the reactions my students have when they learn one of their favorite books was challenged or banned.

"What!? That can't be!"

"No way! That's so stupid!"

"No one can tell me what I can't read!"

Students who seem nonchalant and disinterested in reading all of a sudden become passionate book lovers and defenders. It is truly a glorious thing for an English teacher to witness.

So how do you incite this behavior? 

One of the things I like to do is raid my classroom library for all the books that have been banned or challenged. I then cover them up with warning labels with the reasons they were challenged.

Banned Books Week  www.hungergameslessons.com

When I first started doing this a few years ago, I placed the books in paper sacks (or covered them with whatever I could find) and taped the warning labels to the outside. Students could lift up the sacks to reveal the book.

Banned Books Week Classroom Display  www.hungergameslessons.com

Eleanor & Park Banned Books Week Classroom Display  www.hungergameslessons.com

This worked well, but some of my labels were messy or didn't have the "Caution" tape warning. So two years ago, I streamlined all of them into one bundle. You can find them HERE.

The labels can be used alone, on a paper sack, or just with a piece of paper to wrap around the book (use colored paper in a variety of colors to make them stand out).

The Hunger Games Banned Books Week Classroom Display  www.hungergameslessons.com

If you are using paper (as shown above), use a scrap piece of paper or an index card in the back to tape the two ends of the paper/label together. This serves several purposes: it makes the paper/label long enough to fit around the book, it secures the paper/label without damaging the book, and it allows the students to easily pull the paper/label up to reveal the book.

I guarantee your students will be shocked to learn of some of the reasons their favorite books have been challenged and banned.

Don't have books? No problem!
For those who don't have a classroom library, I've got you covered. My label bundle also includes an interactive display (complete with "Caution" tape) to use on a bulletin board, wall, chalkboard, or wherever you can find room. Your students won't be able to stop themselves from lifting the flaps to reveal the titles. 

Banned Books Week Classroom Display  www.hungergameslessons.com

I also made both formats with a blank template so you can type any updated or new labels directly onto the page.

The bundle also includes an activity to introduce the interactive display and begin a serious
discussion about censorship and the dangers of limiting our freedom to read.


Caution Labels and Bulletin Board Display for Banned Books Week  www.hungergameslessons.com


For more information about Banned Books Week, check out the official website by the American Library Association. It includes downloadable posters, a coloring page, lessons, and many other free resources for teachers and librarians.

11.13.2016

Focus on Kindness

Focus on Kindness: Dealing with the aftermath of the election


Focus on Kindness: Dealing with the aftermath of the Presidential election

The 2016 Presidential election is over, along with the negative campaigning, name-calling, relentless ads, and uncomfortable debates. We are left, however, with the aftermath of this hate-filled campaign season: a country divided with citizens threatening one another, protests in the streets, and children who fear their families will be ripped apart. Our reality is starting to look more like Panem than America.

In Mockingjay, Katniss learned to deal with her nightmares by focusing on the acts of kindness she witnessed each day:

Mockingjay Acts of Goodness
 "I'll tell them that on bad mornings, it feels impossible to take pleasure in anything because I'm afraid it could be taken away. That's when I make a list in my head of every act of goodness I've seen someone do. It's like a game. Repetitive. Even a little tedious after more than twenty years.
But there are worse games to play." (From p. 390 of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.)

Recalling these "acts of goodness" is a cathartic activity for Katniss. It reminds her that there is, indeed, kindness and good left in the world.

You don't have to be a survivor of the Hunger Games or suffered under President Snow's tyranny to use this technique to cope with your anger, fears, or uneasiness that you might be feeling right now. It's a great activity to remind us all that kindness is still alive.

You can download this free activity from my TpT store. It includes directions and a handout for students with an optional writing component. While implementing the activity, you may use these tips:
acts of goodness
• Remind your students to focus on the positive things they see each day.

• Have students share their findings with the class.

• Start a kindness or "Acts of Goodness" wall in which students write their daily observations.

• Don't offer rewards for kind acts; this sends the wrong message to students. We want students to be kind for intrinsic reasons.

What I have noticed is students who are actively looking for examples of selfless acts are often inspired to be kinder themselves. And isn't that the ultimate goal?

1.20.2016

Hunger Games Coloring Book Pages for Teens and Adults

Hunger Games Coloring Pages


Looking for quality Hunger Games coloring pages? I just posted a pack of over 20 pages in my teacher store. {They are currently on sale!} Get them here:



Coloring is a great way to reduce stress and we all know how stressful it is being a teenager! Use these coloring pages as a motivational tool in your classroom. The less your students are stressed, the better results you'll get from them academically.

Some designs are more intricate and others are more simple (see preview for image of pages) to allow for both differentiation and for students (and adults) to add their own doodles. 
The beauty of the designs is that both teens and adults enjoy them.  



Adult Coloring Book Hunger Games

The coloring pages download is not affiliated, connected to, or endorsed in any way by Suzanne Collins, Scholastic Books, Lions Gate Movies, or any of the aforementioned affiliates. Clip art used is a combination of images created by Tracee Orman, Caryn Wheeler, and Kimberly Geswein (KG Fonts).

11.21.2015

Mockingjay Part 2 Movie Review

Mockingjay Part 2 Moview Review from @HGLessons

The final movie in the series, "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2" was a satisfying, albeit bittersweet, ending.

For those of you who have not read the books and do not want spoilers, I will give you this: we get much more Katniss, Peeta, and Gale. Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth work so well together and do a spectacular job portraying the characters from author Suzanne Collins' trilogy. 

We see very little Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and even less Effie (Elizabeth Banks); their absence is felt with the lack of humorous exchanges and lightheartedness. This is a dark, serious film without the one-liners the the previous three films had. Which is appropriate: the final book in the series is a solemn, pensive resolution to the war-torn Panem. The fact that many of the serious lines spoken by Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman) were either delivered via a "letter" or cut adds to the somberness.
But make no mistake: this is the mood that is appropriate for the conclusion. Any attempt to lighten it would have been a slap in the face to the series. 

I highly recommend seeing it; but even more, I beg you to read the books first. So much is glossed over and left out, leaving the viewer to fill in the blanks from the novel. I think those who have not read the book will be left with some unanswered questions, many of which are answered in the book.

OK, time to move on to the specific scenes I felt were important. This means there are SPOILERS ahead!

Mockingjay Part 2: Top Scenes, Favorite Moments (Contains Spoilers!)

SPOLIERS!! 

My favorite moments from the movie include:


Beetee ©Lions Gate Entertainment
1. Beetee and Gale discussing bombing methods (including studying the hummingbird's flight patterns--thank you for including that detail!): This was a subtle moment and if you weren't listening you may not have caught it, but it was definitely essential to include in order for the resolution to play out like it does in the novel. By the way, was it just me, or was Liam Hemsworth wearing eyeliner? I swear Gale had more eye makeup than Katniss. It looked out of character.

Commander Paylor ©Lions Gate Entertainment
2. Commander Paylor as a strong leader: I was surprised how Paylor (Patina Miller) was portrayed in Part 1. Why make her look like a peasant? She is a strong woman in the book and knowing she would become the leader of the country in the end, I was disappointed that Francis Lawrence didn't portray her character that way. So I was extremely glad to see her more polished and confident in Part 2. 

3. Katniss getting shot in the subway tunnel to the Nut in District 2: Though it's not as emotionally charged as in the book (when we get all the reminders of her father), it's an intense moment and played out well on screen.

Primrose ©Lions Gate Entertainment
4. Finnick and Annie's wedding: Again, so much was cut, but viewers get to enjoy a poignant moment between Prim and Katniss, a funny exchange between Katniss and Johanna, and a tender kiss between Finnick and Annie.

Peeta ©Lions Gate Entertainment
5. Peeta joining the Star Squad and Katniss telling him his favorite color, among other things: This scene brought tears to my eyes. Even though I know Katniss flees in this part in the novel, this is one moment that she could have broken character and just paused a little longer before fleeing to Gale's side. It was awkward when she plopped down next to Gale after that. But, I remember wanting to slap her at that part in the book, so I guess director Francis Lawrence was successful in capturing the emotions of that scene.

Katniss and Boggs ©Lions Gate Entertainment
The Holo ©Lions Gate Entertainment
6. Seeing what the "holo" looks like and how it works, finally: I had a hard time picturing the holo and the Capitol pods in the book, so I appreciated Boggs (Mahershala Ali) showing us. I also appreciated the pods correlating with those in the book. While many were left out, the important ones remained.

Terrifying Lizard Mutts ©Lions Gate Entertainment
7. The tunnels and lizard mutts: Though I hated, hated, hated seeing Finnick defeated, this sequence was intense and well done. I missed Peeta delivering the line about how valuable Pollux (Elden Henson) was, but it was an emotionally-charged moment with Castor (Wes Chatham), nonetheless. And those mutts...oh my gosh. Terrifying. Seriously horrifying.

Tigris ©Lions Gate Entertainment
8. Tigris' den: Her basement was how I imagined and I'm glad Gale and Peeta had the conversation about Katniss, though I don't think it had the same impact that scene delivered in the novel.

The girl in the lemon yellow coat ©Lions Gate Entertainment
9. The girl in the lemon yellow coat: Again, thank you Francis Lawrence for including these little details that mean a lot to the fans of the book. While movie-goers may not notice the symbolism, book-enthusiasts know anything yellow and child-like represents Primrose, also a yellow flower. (Just like Rue.) When the rebels gun her parents down, and then her, we realize that the rebels are just as ruthless as the Capitol Peacekeepers. The sense of foreboding is apparent; we know another innocent life is about to be taken.

Parachutes ©Lions Gate Entertainment
10. The "Capitol" parachutes, which are, of course, the rebels: While the book portrays the children as a shield to protect Snow, the movie shows a kinder side of him, telling the audience that the children should be saved first. I think it was smart to go that route. The movie also speeds up this moment like the book did; we barely have time to register what has happened when all of a sudden, there's Prim, then Boom. All is black. I wish the movie showed Katniss questioning why Prim was sent in as a medic, which would be another clue that Coin is evil. People who haven't read the book must rely solely on President Snow's words in the rose garden.

Katniss ©Lions Gate Entertainment
11. Katniss killing Coin: Yes, just as satisfying in the movie as it is in the book.

12. Crazy Cat: This is where the tears started rolling down my face. Just like in the book, Katniss's depression is all-consuming and it's not until she grieves with the stupid cat that both she and the reader (or, in this case, the viewer) begins to sob, as well. Is this moment as touching for those who haven't read the book? Probably not. 

13. The kids: Seeing Peeta and Katniss with their children, and Katniss delivering the acts of goodness (though I think she used kindness in the movie) routine and the "there are worse Games to play" line was definitely a satisfying end. That baby, though. She was cute, but not so sure about the casting of her. I know it's picky that I should be critical of a baby, but the girl was born first in the book. And they are both playing in the meadow at the end. It's fine to have a baby in this moment, but all I could think was that she didn't look like either one of them. 

SHOCKING MOMENT OF THE NIGHT:

What was that kiss between Haymitch and Effie!!?? Was definitely more than just a playful tease on Haymitch's part. The entire theater reacted in some way, either with a gasp of shock, a laugh, or an encouraging hoot. I was one of the gasps. My husband was one of the "bow-chicka-wow-wow" hoots.


COMPARING THE FINAL MOVIE TO MY PREDICTIONS...

Last year I wrote that there were 13 essential scenes from the book left (after MJ Part 1), and predicted whether they would make it into the second part or not. I'm surprised that many of my predictions were actually right or close. Here's an abridged version of what I wrote, with my comments reflecting on how it was portrayed:

1. Gale and Beetee's death traps: *MUST BE IN MOCKINGJAY PART 2* 
Yep, made it in.

2. Delly helping Peeta remember scenes: *PROBABLY WON'T MAKE THE CUT*
Yep, didn't make the cut. I thought it was appropriate that Prim filled that spot.

3. Finnick and Annie's Wedding: *MUST BE IN MOCKINGJAY PART 2*
Yep, made it in, although it was such a brief scene.

4. Katniss and Johanna rooming and training together: *PROBABLY A MODIFIED VERSION*  Well, the modified version was basically Johanna stealing Katniss's morphine and talking at the wedding. I really wanted MORE Johanna, didn't you?

5. Star Squad 451 going to the Capitol: *MUST BE IN MOCKINGJAY PART 2*
Yes, made it in, but the sequence was a little out of order and condensed. Peeta enters when both Leegs are still alive. But I thought it worked well for the movie.

6. Hiding at Tigris's: *MUST BE IN MOCKINGJAY PART 2*
Again, a condensed version, but glad this part was included.

7. President Snow's wall of children protection: *MUST BE IN MOCKINGJAY PART 2*  I do like how the children weren't necessarily a wall of protection, but were genuinely there to make sure the children first were safe.

8. Katniss' physical and mental trauma from the bombing: *PROBABLY A MODIFIED VERSION*  The deep depression was omitted and I really don't think the full-circle of how Katniss becomes her mother from Book 1 translates at all in the movie. This was a theme that just didn't translate as well as it could have. Maybe because it is subtle in the book (I usually have to prompt my students to realize she as become her mother), they felt it wouldn't translate to the screen.

9. Finding Snow in the rose garden: *MUST BE IN MOCKINGJAY PART 2*
It had to be in there, right!?

10. The decision on whether or not to continue the Games with Capitol children: *PROBABLY WON'T MAKE THE CUT*  I was way off on this one. But I don't think this scene made much sense in the movie. I think they tried when all the victors (except Katniss) were in an uproar when the idea was brought up, then half voted for it. Katniss was the one whose mind was reeling that Coin would even suggest there be another Games. In this scene, she was silent and voted yes like she actually wanted another Games. It was so wrong in every single way. I wish they would have cut this part, because it showed us that Katniss didn't learn a single thing through her experience. People who have never read the book must be wondering what in the world is wrong with her? Did she learn NOTHING from her experience? Francis Lawrence, you really dropped the ball on that scene.

11. Katniss killing Coin instead of Snow: *MUST BE IN MOCKINGJAY PART 2*
This was an easy one.

12. Katniss being imprisoned in the Training Center for months while her trial takes place: *PROBABLY A MODIFIED VERSION*
Definitely cut short. And not having Plutarch escort Katniss home was so sad. Haymitch reading the letter just made it even worse. I think instead of the letter, they should have just reworked the lines for Haymitch. Plutarch was almost nonexistent in the movie anyway, so why not let Haymitch have his own lines? I don't think fans of the book would have cared. It was awkward hearing that letter.

13. Returning to District 12: Katniss becoming her mother: *MUST BE IN MOCKINGJAY PART 2* I'm glad they showed the Crazy Cat and Peeta coming back to plant the Primrose. And, of course, the kids. The depression wasn't really played up since Peeta came back sooner than in the book. Also, the scrap book was pretty much omitted and just a letter from Annie and a picture took its place. But, overall, I was satisfied with this resolution.

Classroom Connections: Have students write their own resolutions for unresolved characters

Here's a Classroom Connections activity: Have your students write their own resolutions for unresolved characters. For example, what happens to characters like Ceasar Flickerman, Tigris, Effie, and other Capitol citizens? What does Johanna do? Enobaria? Beetee? What kind of a president is Commander Paylor? Does Katniss's mother ever come back to see her grandchildren?

Students can speculate in a class discussion and/or write their own resolutions. 

For additional activities, see my pack for comparing the novel to the movie: Mockingjay Novel vs. Movie Activities It is completely aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

Mockingjay Novel vs. Movie Activities https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Mockingjay-Book-vs-Movie-Activities-Common-Core-1548667

Hunger Games Lessons: Classroom Connections

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