Response based off of: “What the Hunger Games Can Teach Us about Disciplinary Literacy” by Saunders.
The article discusses the issues of introducing literacy in the standardized testing age. In the United States “state standards and high-stakes tests have pushed creativity out of many schools altogether” (Saunders, 2014, p. 42). Saunders proposes that one way to get around this issue is to have an interdisciplinary unit of study that is flexible, focuses on literacy and uses a novel as the binding agent. I believe that this would be very engaging and would show students their purpose for learning about a topic and the connections that can be made. Also, learning different subjects with the same topic means students get more time to understand and work with the text. Planning interdisciplinary units would be challenging and requires intense collaboration but gone are the days where we can shut our doors to the world and just teach a lesson plan. As we have learned in many classes, curriculum is more than just the formal documents but rather it is everything that happens, or does not happen, inside and outside of our classroom doors.
Here in Saskatchewan with the Continuous Improvement and Achievement Framework, literacy is one of the four main initiatives that all schools are required to work on. This means that it is not only the English teachers’ responsibility to teach literary skills. (Can you say, “Sigh of relief”)? We are all accountable for students’ literacy achievement. Furthermore, the new workplace math it is full of word problems. At the end of the day, if our students are not reading close to grade level they will have trouble succeeding in any of their classes, not just English. I agree with Saunders that a team approach would work best because then the English teacher can provide some reading strategies to their colleagues and all professionals could share data and teaching strategies.
If the interdisciplinary units stem from a book, students may start to see themselves as readers and literacy experts (Saunders, 2014, p. 42). Saunders suggests using Susan Collin’s Hunger Games because it can help “teach about dystopia, tyranny, social justice, hegemony” (2014, p. 43). I also see a connection with this book to Residential schools, as the children were taken away from their parents and many did not come back from the abuse. Also, in both instances the affluent society just stood by. Furthermore, the people in the Capital had fancy technology and the people in the districts were more primitive. Teaching treaties and First Nations history, perspectives and worldviews is mandated in the province of Saskatchewan. This text could be one way to introduce said topic. You could also look at film making, critiques, movie reviews, problem-solving in the arena, benefits or consequences of our choices, probability of being selected, the geographical setup of Panem and the arena, distribution of wealth and resources, categorization of people, environmental issues, the dimensions of the arena, othering, race, oppression, reality television, body image, celebrity obsession, trafficking, drug use, the use of power and manipulation, rights and obligations, revolution, taking action, inaction, war and so much more! I bet as Val read this article she got excited for the various literary lenses that could be applied (Marxist, reader response, class, gender, post-colonialism, deconstruction) and I must admit that I was excited to see the connections, too.
You could teach this text using literature circles, various reading strategies, webs, comic strips, movie clips, character sketches and other strategies from math and science (that I do not know, thus I would collaborate). This text is rich with possibilities and very high interest. It is something that I have thought about teaching. However, Carmen suggested that schools might not have this resource. Hopefully the schools I go to do because I would love nothing more than try to uncover a third of what this text has to offer all while checking off curriculum outcomes and trying on different lenses! I wrote a ten page essay on the connection between reality television and The Hunger Games in a university class and loved it! I think students would love studying something that is popular culture and teachers would enjoy teaching something that is so rich with many themes and possibilities.