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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

THE HUNGER GAMES – Susanne Collins

On 12/10/10 our middle school had a “Hunger Games Book Party.” Our school purchased multiple copies of this dystopian YA novel and for a long period of time last year they were all checked out with reserves pending. The high school Literati group read it liked it so much that this school year we decided to open it up to the middle school and plan a “Hunger Games Party” to follow up. Any student in grades 6-8, who wanted to, could sign up to take part. They were given a period of several weeks which was over Thanksgiving break and through the first two weeks of December. 45 students completed the book, passed a quiz, and were sent invitations to attend a “Reaping in Area 12.”

The library was set up segmented by numbered “Districts” using large paper circles on the tables. A cornucopia was at the entrance containing folded papers with items printed on each one to signify what might have been available to the tributes. On a table, were decorations to set the scene such as bows and arrows, loaves of bread, herbs and bandages, and a large North American map with transparencies representing districts so we could discuss where they might have been and move them around on the map. In preparation for our own “Hunger Game” we made up brown paper bags with treats and prizes to be awarded during the game.

The students got invested in this post-apocalyptic world where Panem is a loosely disguised North America. Most knew that Katniss was from somewhere in what is now Appalachia but placing the other districts around the continent took a lot of clue searching and speculation. It is amazing what the readers remembered about the differing districts. Some high school students had been able to relate this book to Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Orwell’s 1984, but middle schoolers are not so savvy so I was very please that some knew to connect it to The Giver by Lowry, and The Last Book in the Universe by Philbrick. They of course were intrigued by the concept of the hunger games, the sponsors sending things to the tributes as they fought for survival, and the idea of the rest of the nation watching the games live on TV. The students were very vocal about the character development and of course they liked the love story unfolding. I retrieved some discussion questions from the author’s web site but we didn’t need them. These readers were so into this book that they freely discussed how they felt about the plot and what they thought would happen, their feelings about the deaths, and even the psychology of the effects on the tributes who survive. By the end of discussion I was sure most of these students would go on to finish the series.

Students sat by “district” as each got a corresponding number and also one item from the cornucopia. A “parachute” (umbrella) hung from the ceiling with a basket of snack food attached which was the final prize for the winning team of our game. At each place was a treat, relevant to the book, of bottled water, bread & jam, and cookies (from Peeta’s dad), and score sheets.

We played a simple but animated game which I would like to say I made up but I am pretty sure I simply adapted one I heard or read about. I read short pretend game scenarios which included points for having cornucopia items which each team tallied. As I was reading I would stop occasionally and shout out an announcement and give out “sponsor packages” such as a bag of beef jerky to the team with the least amount of points, candy coal to those who were resourceful and took shoes from the cornucopia, or candy corn to the team with a shovel. At the end of the game the team with the most points got the parachute prize.

It is rare to get so many kids this excited about one book. Discussion was animated and there was much speculation about what actors would be good to play the lead parts.

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