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Top Ten Posts of 2015 #1: Mockingjay lesson plans and resources

I’m sure most of you are doing the same thing I’m doing right now. Spending time with family and friends, watching football, catching up on that book you’ve been dying to read, eating too much, and enjoying the occasional nap.

Between now and the first week in January, you’ll get a chance to re-read the top ten posts of 2015. Enjoy the reruns. See you in January!


It’s coming. If you haven’t been paying attention and don’t know what I’m talking about, chat for a few minutes with some of your students. I’m guessing that they can help you out.

Yup. That’s right. The last half of Mockingjay, the third and final Hunger Games movie opens November 20. It’s guaranteed  to set records for ticket sales after it opens.


Cause people love the book. Seriously love the book.

I became very aware of the power that Katniss and other Hunger Games characters have on people when my daughter and wife started reading the series several years ago. And the more I talked with them and as they shared more about the story, I began to realize the possibilities for integrating that story into social studies instruction.

Way back in September 2010, I wrote:

I’ve heard from some that this sort of thing is too much like “entertaining” students. That we shouldn’t have to use pop culture to teach social studies. I disagree. I will use pretty much whatever it takes to engage kids in content. And if the relationship between Katniss, Peeta and Gale hooks students into a better understanding of civic and geographic concepts, we ought to be all over it.

I still believe that. The Hunger Games series gives us a wonderful hook for teasing out some amazing social studies themes and topics:

Hope. And courage. Loyalty and trust. Democracy. The power of the media. Control vs. freedom. The cost of war and violence. Choices and consequences. Rights and responsibilities.

And there have been, and will continue to be, conversations about the violence in the series. Author Suzanne Collins shares some interesting thoughts:

One of the reasons it’s important for me to write about war is I really think that the concept of war, the specifics of war, the nature of war, the ethical ambiguities of war are introduced too late to children. I think they can hear them, understand them, know about them, at a much younger age without being scared to death by the stories. It’s not comfortable for us to talk about, so we generally don’t talk about these issues with our kids. But I feel that if the whole concept of war were introduced to kids at an earlier age, we would have better dialogues going on about it, and we would have a fuller understanding.

For social studies teachers, you’ve got politics and geography. (Especially the geography!) Economic decisions. Connections to historical events. Connections to contemporary events.

But what might that look like in the classroom? What resources are out there?

My original post focused on using descriptions of the districts in Panem to help kids make sense of place. And how place impacts people. We had kids create maps of Panem that showed where they thought the districts might be located. They had to be able to justify their decisions and explain why their maps looked the way they did.

A quick Google search quickly reveals just how many Panem maps have been created since then.

panem maps

And after the release of the first half of the Mockingjay movie last year, there are not just more maps out there but also more Hunger Games lesson plans, resources, and materials.

So today?

Five recent additions to the Hunger Games lesson plan canon:

You might also like these older links from earlier posts. May the Force be with you. Or the odds ever with you, in someone’s favor. With force.

  • GradeSaver Mockingjay Study Guide
    Summary, suggested lessons, essay questions, quizzes. My new fav. Be sure to click along the left hand side.
  • Shmoop Mockingjay Learning Guide
    I love this site. Tons of teaching resources. (Be sure to also check out all of the social studies guides.)
  • TedEd
    TedEd lessons are great for flipped classrooms as well as whole group instruction. This one focuses on the question of what makes a hero using Katniss as one example.
  • 7 Tips for Teaching the Hunger Games
    Helpful suggestions for using the series in your classroom
  • Pinterest
    756 pins. Do the math. You’re gonna find something you like.
  • Edutopia and PBL
    A complete Hunger Games unit with lessons, materials, and resources in a PBL format.
  • Hunger Games Wiki
    Can’t get enough? You say you need to spend multiple hours digging into Hunger Games trivia? Here ya go.

Social Justice:
People can sometimes get lost in the dystopian and violent events in the books, But at the heart of the story is a sense of hope, of a desire for social justice, of the need to protect the disenfranchised and under-represented. And I think that is the message we need to make sure our kids hear.

There are some tools out there that can help you deliver that message, Be sure to check these out.

  • Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence
    The IDVSA has put together two very nice units using the Hunger Games as the foundation – one onsocial justice and another on gender equality.
  • ReThinking Schools
    A helpful lesson using the Hunger Games series that talks about social class and the impact that socioeconomic differences can have in society.
  • EduCurious
    An interesting lesson asking kids to think about how and why a society like Panem could have developed. What similarities and differences can they find in current world situations?

There are several organizations that work to fight hunger and social injustice around the world. You might find their resources useful as you develop you own lessons.


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