Thursday, October 27, 2011

Been too long...

It seems the school year has gotten the best of me :)

Sorry there has been no new information for a couple months. Four preps adds up to a lot of work.

At any rate, we are a couple weeks into our unit. We were unable to start at the beginning of the school year mostly due to being under-planned. After a couple more sessions and a few flurries of emails, we were ready to jump into the Games. So far, our students have been incredibly engaged. My class read Chapter 9 in class Wednesday and jaws dropped when I read the final line (Peeta's bombshell confession during his interview). The class was thrown into disarray at the news. Excitement, confusion, shock. It was awesome. To have a moment in a story you, as the teacher, are waiting to savor and enjoy with the students and get to actually HAVE the reaction you are hoping for? It's amazing.

One of the really cool things about this project is the fact that nine of us (all our 9th grade teachers) are working with this text at the same time. My students come into my class asking about an activity they heard about from one of their friends. "Ms. Reed, are we doing that hunger thing another class is doing?" "My friend in Ms. Farkas' class said they're making the Games." My next favorite thing is probably the way we are collaborating. Someone creates an awesome activity on the fly and shoots out an email or leaves copies in our department office. Since we're more or less in the same part of the book, we can pick it up and try it out. We wander into each other's rooms before school and during breaks (well, that isn't exactly a new occurrence) to see and hear what others are doing. We put our own spin on the activities of others.

It's just really cool, is what I'm trying to say.

We're in the early planning stages for a big event at the end of the unit. Something significant that involves our school and the rest of our community. Big ideas like the ones in THG should be part of a bigger discussion, and we're going to give our students the opportunity to show what is important to them about this book. Very exciting business in the works.

I'm planning on sharing a more detailed account of our plans, lessons and adventures soon. Within a week, for sure. For now, I'll leave you with an anecdote that certainly warmed my English teacher's heart.

I have one student who has read the entire series, one more student who has already read just THG, and one more student who decided to just read ahead because he "was bored at home" and ended up finishing over the weekend (we were on Ch. 7, I think). Students 2 and 3 have been arguing over who gets to borrow Student 1's copy of Catching Fire first. They come in annoyed that the library's 4-5 copies are checked out and there's a wait list. I decided to just buy a couple copies of Catching Fire and Mockingjay for my classroom library so they didn't need to wait. 2 and 3 are (im)patiently waiting for them to arrive.

Monday, August 29, 2011

We are almost, almost done! $300 left!

School has started and we are only a couple dozen books short. Please help us out through these last few steps.

For more info on our progress, check out our previous post!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

School is starting soon!

School will be starting this Tuesday, August 16th. We're exceptionally excited about starting our big Hunger Games Project, but we're still a couple hundred books short. At least. We've had many new freshmen register in the last couple weeks, so we're hoping 600 copies will still be enough. Even though we haven't reached our goal yet, we've got a couple irons in the fire, so to speak, and we're planning to start around Labor Day, which gives us about three weeks.

As far as planning our unit, things have gone well. Anyone who has worked in a group knows the challenges involved, and I want to acknowledge how pleased and proud I am of our group's work together. We've still got some decisions and details to finishing working out, but the themes and topics we've put together really cover many of the most important concepts of the novel. At the core of these themes is our "big idea": What does it mean to be human? This question will lead us in a number of directions, from the power of compassion and love to the desire to exert control or power over others, from basic human needs, such as food, to the perils of a decadent and excessive lifestyle for an "elite" class.

I've mentioned before that one of our major goals with this project is building community within our freshman class. On a small scale, we've partnered up our sections so each freshman class has a "buddy" class that is being taught the same period. This will give us a chance to mix our students up and have them work with others on small projects. The large-scale project is getting a bit more fleshed out, but by choice, it will remain a bit "unplanned" so our students will have greater input in its creation. We do know it will be something that allows the entire freshman class to come together to celebrate the positive messages of The Hunger Games. We're also considering partnering with our local movie theater, the Roxy, to do some sort of project with the film's release in March.

There are more amazing developments on the horizon, but I'll save those for another post. Thanks to everyone for their continued support (you can still donate if you'd like to), and special thanks to Tracee Orman and Jen Curwood for their support with curriculum and planning. School starts in just two days, so to both teachers and students, may the odds be ever in your favor!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Please donate! We're SO CLOSE to reaching the total!

As the title states, we are extremely close to being able to buy all our books and having them in time to start the year. Due to a ridiculously awesome sale on Amazon, we need about $1200 LESS than we previously calculated. We still need about $1,000 though, so every donation helps us get twice as close!

Right now, $4 will buy a book, so if you like the idea of how many books rather than how much money, think if it this way: $20 will buy us FIVE books. That's TWICE as many as the regular retail price!

Even if you have already donated or are unable to, you can still repost or share this blog with other folks you know. Spread the word and help up reach our goal!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Hunger Games Fireside Chat Episode 16

Exciting news! I will be a guest on the chat tonight, July 19, at 7:00 pm PST. The hosts, Savanna and Adam, have been kind enough to invite me on the program to speak about our Hunger Games Project at MHS. They usually open with a news segment, which is when I will be sharing a bit of background about how the project was conceived, some of our reasons for choosing The Hunger Games to work with, and a few ideas we have for the project. We're definitely hoping to inspire folks to help us fund the project. We still need quite a bit of money and we're less than a month from the start of school (August 16). Thanks to everyone for their support so far, and please enjoy the chat tonight!

You can listen live at this link:

For more information about the podcast in general, you can go here.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Our Objectives

A few folks have been interested in our specific goals and objectives, the big ideas that we will be focusing on during our unit on The Hunger Games. A few of us met recently to put some of these ideas down on paper, so to speak.

My original post focused mainly on the social and community-building objectives. As I mentioned there, we really want to create a genuine sense of community among the students and get them to see each other beyond surface impressions. We also want them to work with a variety of their classmates, not just those they seek out as being like themselves.

In addition to these few community-building goals, here is a bulleted list of some other themes, topics, and ideas that will be part of the project:

  • Examining social classes and poverty
  • Does "the land of the free" truly exist?
  • What does it take to survive? How do ordinary people survive in extraordinary circumstances? How does a person go from barely surviving to becoming a revolutionary?
  • The hero's journey - learning to trust, being vulnerable, facing danger, risking for others
  • The effects of death and war on children
  • Reality television - is it entertainment? 
  • Surveillance & "Big Brother"
With each of these ideas, we will not only analyze and examine how it present in the novel but also make connections to students' lives and the world we live in now.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Update, Jun 21

Thus far, thanks in large part to the extraordinarily generous parents who already work hard as part of the Montgomery Education Foundation, we've raised about $500. We still have a long way to go to reach our $4,000 goal though, and we need your help. If you can donate, we'd greatly appreciate it. If you have friends who would see the value in this project, please feel free to pass the link along to them. If you know of any businesses you think might be interested in sponsoring or helping fund our project, let us know and we can contact them.

In the next few days, I'll be posting an entry that explains what I love about the novel and why it has inspired me to help spearhead this project. I hope you'll consider sharing as well.