Why I Love Teaching The Hunger Games

I love teaching The Hunger Games.  In fact, I think I would even go so far as to say it is my second favorite unit to teach (Romeo and Juliet is still the most fun).  What makes teaching The Hunger Games so much fun?  For starters, and this is probably the most important factor, the kids love it.  I don’t have to worry about getting them to read, and that is often half the battle.  The Hunger Games is also an ideal teaching text because it introduces important topics and themes in an entertaining way.  During our study of The Hunger Games, we explore a diverse range of topics that expand our understanding of the world, our society, and human nature.

When students truly enjoy and want to read a text, you don’t have the constant struggle of getting them to read.  You don’t have to add incentives or threaten consequences; the kids simply read because they want to.  Too often in language arts classes we force students to read texts they have no interest in.  Sometimes the struggle is worthwhile because reading these texts expands our students’ cultural literacy, and sometimes students discover that they actually like, or at least appreciate a text after they are forced to read it.  But it really is a joy when students are enthusiastic about reading, and that is what I have experienced with The Hunger Games.  In fact, one of the challenges I now face when teaching The Hunger Games is that many students have already read it.

With the enthusiasm the students show for reading The Hunger Games comes an opportunity to harness this energy and explore important issues and themes introduced in the novel.  We often spend considerable time learning about historical and current oppressive and exploitative regimes around the world.  We also look at examples of exploitation in our own society.  I love it when English and Social Studies overlap, and I never waste an opportunity to expand my students’ general knowledge of the world while practicing ELA skills.

Reality television is obviously an important element of The Hunger Games, and my students always bring great energy to our discussions and writing assignments on this topic.  We examine what the fact that the Hunger Games are televised to a rabidly interested Capitol audience says about these viewers and their society.  We compare the Hunger Games to our own reality television shows, and ask tough questions about what the popularity of these shows says about us as individuals and a society.  I am always impressed with insights shared by my students, and I invariably learn or think about something new during these discussions.  And because the students are genuinely interested in the subject matter, their writing assignments are usually of a higher than normal quality (which makes marking much less painful).

With real enthusiasm and energy coming from the students, and excellent topics to explore, discuss, and write about, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games is an ideal teaching text.

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