Happy New Year! The calendar New Year brings in a fresh year of possibilities and in China marks the winding down of the first term before the winter holiday and Chinese New Year celebrations. This term I have spent a large amount of time doing a study of The Hunger Games story with my two grade 8 English classes. The novel written in English was going to be a challenge for my EFL students and so our study also combined the Chinese translated version of the novel and the 2012 film adaptation with Chinese subtitles. One of the wonderful things about the program I work with is the opportunity to try new things and challenge myself as an educator to think of creative ways to bring content, interest, discussion and learning into my classroom. I chose The Hunger Games with the aim of taking our study of the book more from the perspective of a Social Studies class where we look less at the language, and more at the content. I wanted to engage students in a widely popular story within North American teen (and adults as well) culture which has high interest content and would challenge them on a critical thinking level to explore the dystopic world created by Suzanne Collins.
Yesterday marked the official end of our study and ended with groups of students presenting a Power Point presentation and a theme project on one of the larger themes within The Hunger Games. Students had a week worth of class time to find their themes, find examples from the story and prepare their presentations. Over the week as students worked on their projects I took time to reflect on how this term long study went. If I were to do this again I would in reflection change a few things, however when I think of the two basic aims I had, which were to create interest and an opportunity to think critically I am incredibly pleased with the results. I observed students actively involved in the content, the characters, interested and wanting to know what happens next in the story. They were thinking about the story on a deeper level and really exploring the themes and lessons they had learned.
As we went through the story I used three versions of the story; the English novel was primary and I would read aloud as students followed in their own copies, the Chinese translated novel was used to ensure understanding of key parts in the story and then the film adaptation was used to provide a visual understanding. I did hesitate in the beginning to include the movie, as I wanted students to use their imagination to create the visuals as they read, yet I found students had a difficult time with this (I believe because of the challenging vocabulary) and it would have taken us much longer to get through the story. At the front end I started to see students not interested and “checking out” and needed a hook to grab their attention and the film worked well to hook them. Also, I knew a couple of students had already seen the film, and the second film Catching Fire was due to release in November. The inclusion of the film was the first of several moments when I told myself to “go with it and embrace the change and make it work.” In making it work I was able to then use the film to create a character wall, which over the term has been very useful as students got up and wondered over to see who a character was or what their role in the story was. As well, I started with the English only version of the film and then added the Chinese subtitles. I did this because I have a range of students in the class, many are within the same level, however I have a few who are at a high level (beyond their grade) and a few who are at a very low level (below their grade) and with this in mind I was aiming the create opportunity for both groups on the extreme ends of understanding to be able to follow. Overall combining the three different sources of the story was supportive to their understanding and I ensured after each Chinese translated section or film clip students had questions to think about and answer where they would use their English skills to answer the questions.
Throughout the study we explored many questions and students did smaller assignments to deepen their understanding. One assignment was to think like a Gamesmaker and create their own Capital mutation, like Jabberjays and Tracker Jackers. As well, I found some great websites where teachers posted various things they had done with their classes and I was able to bring in some interesting activities. One website provided a list of field style games which could be played; the most popular one I did with my class was a style of freeze tag where some students were Tributes, some Tracker Jackers and a few were the antidote leaves. At the end of this post is a link to a website I found very useful and below are some pictures from my classroom to show some of the things we did throughout the term.
With The Hunger Games complete and seven classes till the final exam I am looking towards next term and will be using the momentum and interest created by our study to introduce silent reading in class. The parents group from both my classes has been very generous to provide funding for the creation of a class library and over the winter holiday I plan to build a library with a range of different reading levels. My aim is for students to engage with new stories, share their thoughts on what they have read and again look at the theme or lesson, which can be learnt. I plan to create a reading wall and when a student completes a book they will fill in a square where they will rate the story out of four or five stars, provide their opinion and what they thought the theme or lesson was. I am looking forward to next term and curious to see their engagement in new stories.
The Hunger Games study was a term long project and when I think of what I have learnt as an educator I can’t help but see the parallel of teaching with my personal life. This past December I successfully completed my first full marathon here in Shenzhen and have been personally reflecting both on the training and the race. My race training followed closely along with my teaching of The Hunger Games and there were times, many times, I had to adjust for the ebbs and flows of a good training run or well received lesson and those runs where I hit the wall both literally and figuratively and the lessons where I asked myself “what have I gotten myself into.” Yet, in the end by sticking with something that seems so long and daunting whether it’s a marathon, a moment you wish would pass faster or a challenging lesson there is something great that comes from seeing something through. Although at the beginning of our class study I didn’t know how we would get to the finish I did know it was something I wanted to try, I saw value and potential and stuck with it. I am grateful for my students who also trusted me enough to stick with something challenging and so pleased with their hard work and all they have achieved.
A great posting on the website From Surviving to Thriving called Teaching With The Hunger Games is a solid place to start looking if you are interested in doing The Hunger Games with your students. Also feel free to email me if you are interested in learning about the questions I asked, assignments we did and games we played.
Ms. Kolshuk's Blog
Welcome to my blog where I post about my teaching practice, ideas, findings and discuss topics of an educational nature. Please feel free to comment and/or email with any topic suggestions.