The Hunger Games: Is It Too Violent For Middle School?

Someone after viewing the movie, The Hunger Games, asked me how I could teach this novel to my 7th grade students with all that violence. This inquisitive person was curious to see my lesson plans. I thought I’d do one better and share my lesson plans here with you. Feel free to share this with other educators as well. So here goes! This one’s for you, Enid.

Are you ready? Paper? Pen? Novel at hand?

Peeta and Katniss in the cave.

Okay, I have a confession to make. You won’t be viewing these so called “lesson plans” as seen in the classroom. I could do that but it’s very boring with all the trendy educational jargon that is seen on those yawn inducing forms.

The best way to illustrate how I have taught the novel to middle school students is to talk to you as if you were in my class. First, you have to have read the novel.  You can’t teach something you haven’t done. Yes, I know that happens often in educational institutions but not on this blog.

But I digress, back to the novel.

The best way to teach the novel is to point out similarities between the novel and real life events, people and places. Make a two-column note- taking sheet. On the left, write down examples from the novel and on the right find the real life similarity.

For example, there were 13 districts in Panem and there were 13 colonies in America. You might have to help them with historical and landmark inferences throughout the novel like when the Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountains and Washington DC are mentioned.

There are also themes that students can figure out if you give them a little boost. For example, look at the way the tributes are treated before the actual killing events begin. The interviews, the background stories, the parade. Very similar to the Olympics. Each tribute represents his/her district like the Olympians. Honor is very important and winning is a must at all cost. This year would be a great year to the novel. However, I won’t be teaching it anymore because once a movie is out, the novel is too!

Aside from the Olympics, major boxing matches and end of the season championship games from various sports are often compared to the pre -Hunger Game event.  Allow the students to work in groups of no more than three to come up with several similarities and have explanations for each of the examples. Or you can have a class discussion and write the examples on the board.

You can also give the examples on a sheet of paper and have the students match them up. It might be a great exam for the end.  It’s up to you. I tend to feel my way with each class so I won’t be giving you any concrete directions.

If the students are advanced you can discuss how fear and the government work hand in hand in the novel and in real life as a means to control the population. There are too many examples to use from American history so I’ll leave that up to you.

In the movie, violence is seen too quickly, too intensely and too gory. The irony in that observation is that according to the novel, The Hunger Games events are manipulated to be gory to keep the audience in each district entertained much like the real life movie was made too grotesque to keep the non readers of the novel entertained.

An important theme to discuss with the students is the change in Katniss and her rapport with others. Katniss goes through several struggles that in my class are taught as the four basic types of conflict: man v. man, man v. himself, man v. society, man v. nature. All of these conflicts are found throughout the novel and students should keep track of the conflict and the resolution if any.

Poverty, perfectionism, propaganda, civil disobedience, and survival of the fittest are all recurring themes in the novel. Have the students jot down these themes and give examples throughout the entire novel. It’s even better if they can cite real life examples as well. I find that students who can connect real life situations to fictional books tend to comprehend higher thinking skills.

By the end of the first novel of the series, students will be able to draw inferences about real historical events, comprehend the difference between a static and dynamic character, understand the four types of conflicts and be able to come up with their own conclusions regarding the role of the government and the role of the individual.

Now that I think about it. I could never give away my lesson plans for the novel, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. It’s too much work.

But I will leave you with these questions to ask the students.

  1. Give examples that show Katniss has compassion for others.
  2. How does Peeta prove his love for Katniss? Give several examples.
  3. Is Katniss similar to a regular teenage girl in America? Give examples to support your opinion.
  4. How is Katniss’ opinion of herself different from the way others see her? Give examples to support your opinion.
  5. How does District 12 show civil disobedience at the Reaping?
  6. Why is Katniss’ greatest strength also her weakness? Explain your answer.
  7. What form of government best describes Panem? Give examples from history to support your answer.
  8. How does Effie change at the end of the novel? Why do you think that happens?
  9. Are there career tributes in real life? If so, who? Where are they?
  10. Explain the relationships between the Peeta and his mom compared to Katniss and her mom.


That’s it! If I’ve left something out please leave a comment on it. The novel has never been taught the same in any of my classes. Writing this blog post was very difficult. I wanted to get the gist of how to teach The Hunger Games as a novel that captures all of the learning benchmarks without focusing on the violence. How did I do?