Thursday Round-Up: Hunger Games Arena Game On Sale!

For this week's Thursday Round-Up, my Hunger Games Arena Board Game Activity is on sale! It is all digital and downloadable. The game is an excellent review for the final test and fun to play. Students can also create their own version of the board game. Includes everything you need to play, but printing/cutting is required. Detailed directions are included. :)

Check out all the great lessons included in this week's Thursday Round-Up on the Teacher2Teacher website: http://tchr2tchr.blogspot.com/2011/03/thursday-round-up-10.html


Why is the Rating of "The Hunger Games" Movie Questionable?

I've read several articles over the past few months that discussed the concern over the PG-13 rating for the upcoming "The Hunger Games" movie (which will star Jennifer Lawrence, in case you haven't heard). When I read these articles, I wonder what all the fuss is about. To me, the violence–because it is used to teach a valuable lesson–is not enough to warrant an R-rating. And there just aren't other factors (like drug use, sex, language, adult situations) that would push it further than a PG-13 rating.

I thought writer Sharon Eberson of the Pittsburg Post-Gazette wrote an excellent article about the concerns, offering many different views from credible sources. I just wonder if it is an article that needs to be written. Are there that many concerns over the rating of the movie? Have these people who are concerned read the book? How is the violence any different than other teen books/movies with PG-13 ratings?

One student in the article brought up the violence in the Harry Potter series. But I believe a more equitable comparison would be to "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith," the third installment of the Star Wars saga, which happens to be rated PG-13. If you haven't seen it, there are some spoilers ahead.

"Revenge of the Sith" features child violence. Actually, the entire saga is violent in nature, although the other five films had PG ratings. "Revenge of the Sith" is the darkest and most disturbing of them, though, as we see the young Anakin Skywalker turn to the "dark side" and commit evil acts of violence. Acts that are utterly reprehensible. Acts against innocent children. Just recall the scene in which Anakin kills all the young jedis-in-training. This was part of a universal call for mass murder, with evil triumphing over good. In the opening scenes, viewers witness a decapitation. And, yet, I remember reading about the concern that it would be rated PG-13 rather than just PG, but never that it should have an R-rating.

So my question is: why are so many people making a big deal of a PG-13 rating for "The Hunger Games" movie, which isn't even as dark or violent as "Revenge of the Sith"? Both are set in the future and deal with government control, both deal with children being the victims of society/controlling government, both deal with the good vs. evil theme, and both feature a young adult as the main protagonist.

For some reason, it seems, many parents are opposed to their children reading The Hunger Games, yet probably have no problem letting them see any of the "Star Wars" movies. I would just like to know what, really, is the difference? Just because "Star Wars" has cute, fluffy characters does not mask the violence. Heck, "war" is part of the title.

My point is, I think people are making a much bigger deal out of the violence in The Hunger Games than they should when it comes to appropriateness for children 12 and up. Students learn about far more violent things that happened in history (such as the Holocaust) by the time they are 13. And if they haven't, they should. The only way to prevent the past from repeating itself is to educate our youth on alternatives to violence to solve our problems. This is what Katniss Everdeen, our protagonist in The Hunger Games, teaches readers by modeling a non-violent, defensive (rather than offensive) behavior. She's a much better role model than our own leaders, who have offensively taken us into unnecessary wars with little or no remorse. Katniss' remorse over the violence is powerful, and contagious.

I wish more people would focus on the valuable lessons that can be learned from the series rather than the rating itself.

Spring Break = Reading for Pleasure!

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Even though I could spend my spring break cleaning my house (which needs it), catching up on laundry, or organizing closets, I probably won't. Why? Well, for starters I hate to clean or do housework. But more importantly, there are too many great books that I've been wanting to read but never have time during the school year.

One book I plan to start today is Delirium by Lauren Oliver. I've heard great things abut this book, so hopefully it will live up to its reputation. If I could get a copy of an arc of Divergent by Veronica Roth, I'd probably read that first since I heard great things about that novel, as well. But, unless I win the contest hosted by Writing Jewels (which ends tomorrow, by the way), I will have to wait for the May release.

The amazing Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness.
I did happen to finish the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness this weekend and, oh my, is it good! I'll be writing about The Knife of Never Letting Go (which is book #1 in the series) soon. I am developing materials for teachers right now and am going to see if this is a book I might want to read with one of my English classes. Next year I'll be teaching a small group of seniors and I could see reading the entire trilogy with them. If you are interested in materials for your students, I hope to have some posted by the end of the week. In the meantime, you can download a FREE prequel to the series called The New World. I don't own a Kindle, but I use the Kindle for Mac program (which is a free download) to download. Since my students all have MacBooks, this will be a great introduction to the series. If you own a PC,  you can use the Kindle for PC program.

Another book I'd like to read over break is Matched by Ally Condie, but I do believe one of my students has it checked out (which is great; I do love that they read my books!). I've already pre-ordered Crossed on Amazon based on the reactions of those who have already read it.

I've also heard rave reviews about The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. A Young Reader's Edition will be released this fall. I read the review a while back in Entertainment Weekly (one of my all-time favorite magazines, by the way, and reason I purchased The Hunger Games initially) and the fact that the reviewer could not stop reading it, even while she was sick with the flu, was quite convincing. So I purchased it, but it has been sitting patiently in my "to read" pile.

Collection of essay on The Hunger Games trilogy.
Last week I received my pre-orders of The Girl Who Was On Fire: Your Favorite Authors on Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Trilogy edited by Leah Wilson and published by Smart Pop Books. I had already read all the teases of the essays on Smart Pop Book's website, and read a couple of the chapters/essays while hanging out at the dogpark and baseball diamond while my son practiced. It's very hard to do a close reading when you have to pause to tell your dog to stop humping another dog or when you are dodging foul balls coming your way. Plus, I kept thinking about Monsters of Men (the third book in the Chaos Walking trilogy) and how I really wanted to finish reading that before starting another book. So I plan to sit down for a closer read this week and take in all the different authors' perspectives on the trilogy.

For now, I'm going to end my list there because I know how long it takes me to develop new teaching materials (which I am working on), and plan for the rest of the school year, so if I finish at least two books this week on top of that, I'll be happy. And I will probably do a little cleaning and laundry, just so my wonderful husband–who normally does most of our housework and cooking so I can write, plan, and read–won't have to.

So what is on your spring break to-read list? Comment below to share!

This Week's FREE Downloads! TpT's 50th Newsletter

This week marks TeachersPayTeacher's 50th Newsletter of 10 FREE Downloads for teachers. If you haven't signed up for the weekly newsletter, click HERE to do so (input your email in the box on the bottom right side of page). You'll get it emailed directly to you each week. And each week owner and CEO Paul Edelman will fill you with hope and inspiration for the coming week with his little pep talks and wisdom. Enjoy!


T-Minus One Year and Counting...

Jennifer Lawrence will play Katniss Everdeen.
Just one year from today and we could be sitting in a movie theater (with or without our students) watching Katniss and Peeta come to life on the big screen! I don't know about you, but I am both excited and a little nervous about seeing The Hunger Games movie. Mostly excited. But nervous because very few of my favorite books ever satisfy me when they are played out in the movies.

For example, Twilight. Great book. Terrible movie (sorry fans, but the acting really stunk). And did it get better with New Moon? No. In fact, I think it was worse. I did find Eclipse to be a little better. But breaking up Breaking Dawn into two movies?? Seriously!? I mean, I just don't see how there will be enough material to do that. It's not like Harry Potter where there's plenty of scenes to choose from in order to break it up.

Another terrible movie made from a decent book is My Sister's Keeper. The ending really ticked me off but there were so many other changes I questioned that just didn't make sense. It's not like I really loved the book, so maybe that's why I really hated the movie.

 The Time Traveler's Wife was disappointing, as well. I really loved that book. But the movie left me...unsatisfied. I liked the actors and most of the changes were OK, but the final scene, again!!  Why mess up the end of the book, I ask!?  Why!?

So, besides the Harry Potter movies, I've been a little reluctant to get excited about novel-inspired movies lately. But there is hope. There are some really great role models. Some of my favorite movies-made-from-books include Gone With the Wind, The Outsiders, and The Joy Luck Club. And I shall include To Kill a Mockingbird. It is still good when comparing it to other movies-from-novels, but there are some parts that I really wish they hadn't changed because it defeated the author's purpose.

I know that Gary Ross will do a great job directing; he has already listened pretty well to fans and kept an open mind. Suzanne Collins is involved, which is great because it is her vision, ultimately, so having that source's input is never a negative for a movie. And the more I read/see/hear about Jennifer Lawrence, the more I really like her in the role as Katniss. To be honest, I could not picture anyone in either her role or Peeta's. So I do like that they selected someone mature who can act and who can pull off the toughness of Katniss, as well as the glamorous Katniss.Yep, Jennifer does have both qualities.

Josh Hutcherson should be Peeta.
OK, so the second most important role is Peeta and I do believe Josh Hutcherson would be a perfect compliment to Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss. Like I said, I really couldn't picture anyone until I had read that Josh was a contender. Then light bulbs went off and I thought, "YES!"  I really loved him in "Bridge to Terabithia" and "The Kids are Alright". And even though "Zathura" wasn't the greatest movie, I really liked him in that, too. He has that sweetness–a special quality as a person that you can't act or learn. You can just see it in him. A mixture of innocence and modesty. That is how I picture Peeta. So what if he doesn't have blond hair and blue eyes now? Plenty of people are able to change hair & eye color, so I'm sure Hollywood would have no problem helping him look the part.

So the other roles? I'm not sure. The voice I've always heard in my head for Haymitch has been that of Brian Doyle-Murray (think "Groundhog Day"). It's that scratchy, rough voice. I can totally hear him saying, "You got about as much charm as a dead slug." But he's probably too old. I also pictured Nick Nolte, but again, too old, probably. Robert Downey, Jr. could look the part, but his voice would need to be a little gruffer, I think. Haymitch isn't a big word-slurrer; he's just a rude drunk. The part shouldn't be overacted, which I could see someone like Downey doing. Now that Charlie Sheen is available, he may just be insane enough to pull off Haymitch.

So who would fit the bill for Gale or Prim? Those two I just don't know. Gale needs to be a tough guy; cocky and a little rough. Prim needs to be sweet and caring, petite. I really think Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch are the real stars in the series, so those are the ones that are the most important to cast correctly. The rest have minor roles (yes, even Gale's role really is minor until Mockingjay, but even then it's not as important as Peeta's, in my opinion).

A younger Josh Hutcherson...yes, that sweetness is definitely Peeta!
I just hope Alex Pettyfer is NOT cast as Peeta. That role is not right for him at all. Have him be Finnick or Cato...but please not Peeta!

Ok, so that is my two cents. Feel free to put your own two cents in the comment section. :)


Happy World Poetry Day!

 March 21st is World Poetry Day, a celebration to promote and encourage poetry worldwide.

As we begin the week in our classrooms, recite your favorite poem to your students and ask that they share theirs. Talk about why you like the poem, why it holds meaning for you.

If you are teaching a unit that does not allow much time for a poetry recital, have students write a poem (rather than a journal entry, essay, or complete sentence response on a handout). Yes, song lyrics–including rap–count as poetry! I always tell my students to make sure it is school-appropriate, however. If you are currently reading The Hunger Games, have them summarize a chapter with a poem or rap. Or pick out your favorite dialogue between characters and arrange them into a poem. Encourage them to use words in a different, unexpected way.

To honor this day, I typed a lesson and handout that can be used with your students today or any day. It is free and you can download it HERE. It encourages using Twitter as a way to spread the love and appreciation of poetry (or Poetweet!). Download my lesson so you can create a poetweet or twaiku with your students!

For more information about today, check out the official site for World Poetry Day HERE.

  I hope you & your students have a great time reading, writing, and sharing poems. Happy World Poetry Day!


Beware the Ides of March: Lessons Men Can Learn from Julius Caesar

William Shakespeare's work is full of lessons that, even hundreds of years later, we can relate to and learn from today. I must admit that teaching The Tragedy of Julius Caesar isn't my favorite Shakespearean play to share with students, but it does have some priceless gems that are hard to resist.
Comic by Mark Parisi.
   For example, one of the lessons we learn is to pay attention to others and your surroundings because they may be trying to send you a message. March 15th is the "ides of March," or middle of the month. The phrase "Beware the ides of March" is from The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, spoken by the Soothsayer as a warning to Caesar that something was going down on the 15th and he better watch out. But do you think big, macho Caesar listens to this blind crazy man? Of course not. And do you think he was paying attention when a tempest hits Rome or when an owl appears in broad daylight warning the people in the marketplace of imminent doom or when the beast he has sacrificed turns up heartless? Heck no! And neither do the other men in the play! For example, Casca sees these bad omens–the lion skulking past him in the street or the men in flames running through the streets of Rome–and Cassius assures him that those are just signs that they must kill Caesar, not that anything bad will happen to them.
  Now, I don't really like the fact that Shakespeare includes very few women in the play. (Come on, how 'bout an appearance of Cleopatra, at least!?) But, I will give him credit for making the women the most sensible people in the play. I think they are the ones who truly drive home the most important lesson in the play: always, always, always listen to your wife. It doesn't matter how cocky you are, how much power you have, or if you promised to keep a secret, because if you don't listen to your wife you'll just end up...well, dead. Look at Caesar: his wife had this awful dream that his statue would spurt blood as the Romans danced happily in it. Kind of sick, right? She begged him to stay home with her on the 15th. But noooooo, Decius had to call Caesar a girly-man who is whipped by his wife. I'll give Decius credit; he knew exactly what to say to Caesar to get him to disregard his wife's warning and insistence that he stay home. And we all know what happens next, right? I always imagine a new scene where Calpurnia hears the news of Caesar's assassination and says, "Well, duh! I coulda told ya he was gonna be killed! If he had listened to me, he'd still be alive!"
  Then there's our tragic hero, Brutus. While he's not at all conceited like Caesar, he still doesn't listen to his wife, Portia, when she begs him to tell her what is bothering him. He decides to keep it inside, deal with his decision to join the conspiracy all on his own. And where does that get him, do you think?  Well, he becomes a single man because Portia decides to kill herself by eating hot coals. Not only that, he eventually sees that taking Cassius's side was not the noblest thing to do, so he takes his own life in the end. Once again, if he had discussed the conspiracy with his wife in the first place, she may have been able to say, "Cassius is totally playing you! He is a forger and is using you so he can be the top dog!" But, once again, the men in the play are too stubborn, too proud, to listen to their wives.
  So on the eve of the ides of March, I always like to remind my students of the valuable lesson that can be learned in The Tragedy of Julius Caesar: listen to the woman (or women) in your life. They are always right! And you know what? Even if they aren't always right, you will most certainly be happier and, of course, alive if you do!

Teachers: You can find my lessons on The Tragedy of Julius Caesar by clicking on these links:
   Beware the Ides of March/Feast of the Lupercal Activity & Handouts
   Julius Caesar Facebook Activity Project
   Julius Caesar Introduction Powerpoint


This Week's Free Lessons

Here's a link to this week's free lessons:
TpT Newsletter

Teachers around the world have found much success selling on TeachersPayTeachers.  Every teacher knows that lesson planning and creating handouts and presentations takes a lot of time--time we may not have with the increased demands for re-writing curriculum, aligning it with the Common Core Standards, and all the other extra paperwork placed on us. So more and more teachers are turning to TeachersPayTeachers for materials for class. The site is expanding every day and the potential for earning is also increasing. It's nice to have that extra income, especially as so many states look to cut benefits and pay from teachers.

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Don't miss the opportunity to double your current income by selling the materials you've already created! It's easy, exciting, and costs nothing!


Bail Out Wall Street, but No Sympathy for Teachers!

Jon Stewart once again shows the hypocrisy in America with his sarcastic show comparing the Wall Street CEOs who were bailed out by the government and the teachers in Wisconsin who are demanding what was rightfully promised them.

One of the arguments that Stewart calls the media out on is the notion that teachers don't work a full year, therefore don't deserve higher pay. I'm pretty sure most educators will agree that our jobs do not end when school lets out for summer because we are usually still working in our rooms, attending workshops and conferences, taking graduate classes, lesson planning, teaching summer school, and/or coaching, just to name a few.  In fact, we probably work more hours than many professionals during the school year, as well. For most, our work day begins early in the morning before school and ends after grading papers, coaching, planning for the next day, and/or tutoring, late in the evening. It is not uncommon for me to work from 6:30 a.m. until midnight with a few breaks to eat and use the restroom when I have loads of research papers or projects to grade.

Of course, we all know how hard we work, but it's nice to see Stewart (who is the son of a former school teacher) support us by exposing just how warped the perceptions of teachers are in our society. 


Using Glogster to Promote Creativity

Encourage students to try new websites, such as Glogster (or eduglogster), for different assignments. Here's a prompt I made for creating a chapter summary:


SALE: 10% off all week on TeachersPayTeachers

TeachersPayTeachers is having a site-wide sale this week to celebrate their $2,000,000 in earnings! Don't miss out!! Sale ends Saturday, March 12th at midnight! And with Daylight Saving Time Change, you might want to buy early just to make sure you get the sale!
  Think of all the great products you can buy on sale--including my 3-CD Hunger Games Trilogy Teaching Units! That's almost $6 off the price!

Use promo code G2R2M at check out.
You can find the latest 10 FREE downloads here: TPTNewsletter

Have a great week, teachers!


Teaching Vocabulary with Creativity

Teach Vocabulary Creatively (and Other Engaging Activities)

Are you looking for a better way to introduce or review vocabulary words? Here's an activity you can use with any unit that is quick and effective, versatile, and encourages creativity in your students.

I call it "Vocabulary Scattergories," which is a play on the game Scattergories®. If you're familiar with the game, you know that you have lists of categories, such as "Things found in the kitchen," then you roll an alphabet die to choose the letter. Finally, you have a set amount of time to write down as many words that begin with that letter for each category.

Vocabulary Scattergories is slightly different. Students have their set vocabulary lists. Then, they choose a category and must find some connection to the word. This allows the student to think creatively (or "outside the box") and have some fun with words.  The categories are random but include things students can relate to, such as "Something you find in a teenager's locker" or "Something you find under a child's bed" and even "Character from the novel Twilight." Sometimes it is hard to find a connection and they must stretch for one. But that process really pushes their creativity and thinking skills–something they (we) all need to do more often.

To help them form their comparisons, I usually give them a prompt, such as:
____________ [insert vocabulary word] is/are like _____________________[insert category] because ______________________.

For chapter 1 in The Hunger Games, I would assign each student (or for larger classes, pairs of students) one vocabulary word. Next, they draw a category from the bucket. I give them a few minutes (the older the student, the less time they need) to complete the task in writing, then ask that they share their sentence with the class.

An example sentence may be:
Entrails are like cold leftover spaghetti [item you find in a refrigerator] because both are long, stringy, gooey, and not very appetizing.

Allow students to ask one another why they made that connection. In this case, the student clarified to the class that entrails refer to human or animal intestines that have been removed and/or exposed. (Insert groans and "Gross!" from the crowd here.)

This activity shouldn't be used for every chapter or even every unit.  I try to use it sparingly so it remains a "fun" activity rather than a chore. If you need Common Core vocabulary lessons, I have two packets for Common Core Vocabulary Graphic Organizers by grade levels (they are editable):
Common Core Vocabulary Activities/Organizers for Grades 6-12
Common Core Vocabulary Activities/Organizers for Grades 2-5

I have used the categories in other ways, though. You can use the same prompt but instead of vocabulary words, use character names. (I created "character tags" that uses this same concept, except instead of categories I use pictures.) This is a great way to review characters before a test.

Teach Vocabulary With CreativityAn example for character review is:
_______________[character name] is like a/an ________________[category] because __________________.

Katniss is like a grapefruit [type of fruit] because even though she looks like a sweet orange, she can be sour.

Other ways to use "Vocabulary Scattergories":
Daily Bell-ringer for Word of the Day: To add some fun to your word of the day activities, have a student draw a category for the entire class. Each student writes a sentence comparing that word to something from the category. (The students would still need to look up the word of the day for the definition, but instead of writing out the definition, they would form a comparison instead.)

Word Game: Have five-ten minutes left of class? Have students use scratch paper and draw a category. Say it out loud and give them one minute to write as many words they can think of that fit that category. Make it harder by choosing a letter the words must start with (like Scattergories®). For large groups, allow teams of students to work together. 

Poetry writing: Have students draw a category and write a poem based on that topic OR each line of a poem must be a new category.

Story Starters: Are students stumped writing short stories? Have them draw a category for inspiration.

Longest Word Contest: Draw a category and see who can come up with the longest word relating to that category.

8 Simple Ways to Inspire Creativity in your ClassroomScrabble® with a Twist: Leave all the letter tiles face up. Each player takes a turn by drawing a category and forming a word relating to that category. They can draw tiles for each turn and only pick the amount of tiles they need for their word (blank tiles can be distributed to each player first or could be "purchased" with points). This encourages them to choose longer words, but also to think about words that relate to that category. It's a little bit easier for kids, yet encourages some creativity. When all the tiles are gone, the player with the most points wins.  For a real challenge, play Scrabble® the traditional way, but with the categories.

There are so many ways to use this activity. I copied mine onto colored paper and laminated them. I had a student office helper cut them with a paper cutter and I store them in plastic baggies. I usually dump them into a recycled bucket (laundry detergent, whipped cream, or margarine spread bowls work well) and have students draw from there so they can't see the categories as they choose.

Download the free preview or the separate FREE product link to try it out & see if you like it.


'Hunger Games' search heats up with Lawrence - Entertainment News, Top News, Media - Variety

Hey Fans! What do you think about Jennifer Lawrence playing Katniss in The Hunger Games movie? Personally, I think she would make a great Clove! I can totally see her in the Cornucopia "feast" scene. Tell me what you think and read more about it on Variety:

'Hunger Games' search heats up with Lawrence - Entertainment News, Top News, Media - Variety
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