Hunger Games Mini-lesson: Literary Genres

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Aside from being a wildly popular novel trilogy and now a series of movies, the Hunger Games series offers teachers fertile ground for ethical questions focusing on survival vs. humanity.  Additionally, we can incorporate standards-based instruction throughout our lessons.

Hunger Games Lesson Genres

Mini-lesson: Literary Genres: Science Fiction and Fantasy/ Utopia and Dystopia

Common Core Standards:

Key Ideas/Details

  • Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

  • Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Background information for students:

“The concepts of utopia and dystopia, which explore social and political structures, are commonly found as part of science fiction and fantasy novels.

Utopian fiction is a genre that creates an ideal society. The term “Utopia” was first used in Sir Thomas More’s Utopia in 1516, describing an island society that evidenced perfect law, government, and civilization.

Dystopian fiction, an outgrowth of the utopian, examines the opposite—society at its worst. Dystopian literature imagines the future as it could occur with the consequences of tyrannical government, war, poverty, and natural disasters. Dystopian fiction is quite popular among young adult readers, in part because it explores the reasons for the squalor, thus creating a social statement.”

–From Beauty and Brutality of the Human Spirit”/Ethics of Survival unit of study/Teengagement

Mini-Lesson:

The teacher can then facilitate a conversation and/or activities that explore the Hunger Games series through the lens of utopian or dystopian literature, including discussion of the distinction between the two genres. As part of their analysis, students should identify themes that place the Hunger Games in one genre over the other, along with specific passages that support their opinion. Excerpts from additional texts such as Thomas More’s Utopia, Orwell’s 1984, or Golding’s Lord of the Flies could be used to compare/contrast the two types of literature, as well as asking students where the Hunger Games novels fall along the utopian-dystopian continuum. Students may use the following description of the Hunger Games in their analysis:

“In a country called Panem, citizens of twelve districts must follow their government’s all-powerful rules. Every year each district must offer two young tributes to the Hunger Games, one male and one female, where the 24 players fight to the death. This is the punishment for a failed rebellion against the Capitol many years ago which left the districts impoverished and oppressed.”

–From Beauty and Brutality of the Human Spirit”/Ethics of Survival unit of study/Teengagement

Bring the lesson alive:

Based on the time available and the needs of the students, teachers can bring the lesson alive by using the following:

Video clips that relate to the topic, such as this one:

Dystopian Literature, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYqYwzZXGcc,YouTube

Introduction of outside text to extend the discussion:

“In all, there are four “kinds” of utopias: a paradise (Garden of Eden), an externally altered world (Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels), a willed transformation world (Dwight’s Greenfield Hill), and a technologically advanced world (Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy). The common themes of utopian societies in literature are technological advancement, a non-existent setting, extreme governmental control, lack of individual freedoms, a sense of superficial happiness, and all basic, biological needs are met. It is because of the lack of individual freedoms, heavy-handedness of government, and superficial happiness that there is major discussion on whether or not utopia is a realistic possibility.”

Source: https://sites.google.com/a/depauw.edu/utopian-visions-in-science-fiction-literature/test

Images are also a valid form of text, and there are hundreds of them available via the Internet for the Hunger Games, as well as some of the literary connections discussed above. (Observe all copyright laws, of course.)

Student-created connections can engage students who have checked out mentally from school. How about students writing their own utopian or dystopian tale? Better yet, a graphic novel, a song, or a rap? Tap into your students’ individual strengths; any of the above can assess their understanding of the topic.

Once you start brainstorming, you will come up with many of your own great ideas to extend your units, whether you are using a Teengagement unit or those gathered from other sources. If you are excited and engaged, your students will be, too!

Next time we’ll explore how to increase vocabulary and word knowledge in the midst of all this.

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