10 Activities for Teaching The Hunger Games

If your students are anything like mine, then they probably love dystopian fiction or they don’t know they love it (yet) and just need the chance to discover it! The genre is popular with teenagers, thanks to its suspenseful plots, compelling questions, and rebellious, relatable characters. But dystopia is more than just popular, accessible fiction: it’s perfectly teachable, too. Dystopian literature is ripe for dissection, whether you want to analyze character development, the impact of setting, the theme, author’s purpose, the genre, or almost any other important ELA skill.

While there is no shortage of engaging, curriculum-worthy dystopia, one the most teachable options is the book that set fire to the genre back in 2008: The Hunger Games. Katniss is resilient, stubborn, and rebellious, a complex character that readers can’t help but root for and teachers can’t help but analyze. The setting of Panem is well-developed, the plot is perfectly paced, and the parallels to our society are strong.

Students can read the novel as an exciting, survival story and analyze it as a complex dystopia that reflects contemporary issues and fears. The Hunger Games is accessible enough to help struggling readers find success, but complex enough to challenge advanced readers. You can scale your unit up or down, scaffolding for extra support or ramping up the rigor. Whether you teach it as a standalone novel or an anchor text before genre-based literature circles, The Hunger Games is a great way to introduce students to the dystopian genre and teach almost any ELA standard.

Whether you have a class set of The Hunger Games you want to take off the dusty shelf and refresh with a brand new unit, or you’re considering teaching this contemporary classic, there’s no better time. With all the buzz around the recent release of the prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, it’s the perfect time to engage your students with a unit on The Hunger Games.

Ready to start planning your new unit? Here are 10 of my favorite activities to teach The Hunger Games.

Engaging activities for teaching The Hunger Games

Dystopia: What Do You Notice? Activity

This student-centered activity is the best way to begin your unit on The Hunger Games. “What do you notice?” is a simple, inquiry-based strategy that gives your students a chance to explore, investigate, and learn about the dystopian genre before you formally introduce it. During this activity, students gather information about dystopian novels by exploring the texts, searching for common elements, and chatting with their peers. It’s a great alternative to the traditional “Introduction to Dystopia” slideshow you might have used in years past.

The best part of this activity is that it’s actually two activities in one. The first is having students use it for what it’s intended for, having the students look at what they notice about common dystopian elements. The second way you can use this activity is by turning it into a book-tasting activity if you want students to be reading a choice novel in the same genre while you are reading The Hunger Games as a class (or after your whole-class novel unit). You can find this resource HERE or in the unit bundle for The Hunger Games.

Dystopia: What do you notice? Activity

Dystopia: Introduction Learning Stations

Learning stations are my favorite strategy for hooking my students before reading. They are versatile, engaging, and effective, and I use them at the beginning of almost every novel/unit. A good set of learning stations is the perfect way to get students into the novel, especially when students are learning about a new genre like dystopian literature. Stations make this information accessible and engaging, so students aren’t overwhelmed with a huge “information dump” from a lecture or handout.

Here is an example of the dystopian introduction learning stations I created to introduce novels like The Hunger Games:

  • Station 1: Students preview and discuss essential questions with an anticipation guide.
  • Station 2: Students explore the genre by browsing different dystopian books.
  • Station 3: Students learn about the key elements of dystopia and connect them to real-world examples.
  • Station 4: Students answer intriguing “Would You Rather” questions that examine common dystopian scenarios.
  • Station 5: Students listen to a short podcast episode about dystopian literature and answer/discuss what they learned

As you can see, these station tasks engage students and help the class start the novel with a strong foundation. These print/digital pre-reading learning stations are available separately HERE or bundled with other resources for The Hunger Games HERE.

For more information on using learning stations to introduce novels and units, check out the following blog posts and resources:

Learning stations to introduce dystopia

Character Report Card for Katniss

A “character report card” is one of my favorite ways to help my students understand protagonists. During this activity, students “grade” Katniss on specific traits and give comments and evidence on why they gave her that grade. This activity gets students critically thinking and discussing the text. It’s a great way for students to start to understand Katniss’s identity so they are able to analyze her choices and actions throughout the rest of the novel.

In my bundle for The Hunger Games, there are two different versions available to choose from: one report card already filled in with traits and one that is completely blank if you want your students to dive a little deeper into characterizing Katniss on their own. 

Character report card for Katniss

Literary Analysis Question Trail for Chapters 10-18

A question trail is my go-to activity to switch things up and break the normal routines of any novel unit. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, it is a unique, kinesthetic activity that gets students up and moving on a “trail” of questions around the classroom. This activity consists of different multiple-choice “stations” around the room. At each station, students answer a multiple-choice question. Each answer (a,b,c, or d) will send the students to a different station. If students answer each question correctly, they will travel to each station and complete a full circuit. If students answer a question incorrectly, they will eventually find themselves at a station they’ve already completed, which tells them that they need to backtrack. This gives you clear, immediate feedback so you can see who is getting it (“on the trail”) vs. who is not (“off the trail”).

Since question trails are great for preventing the monotony that can sneak up in a novel unit, I created one for Chapters 10-15 of The Hunger Games. This is a great interactive activity for students to practice their literary analysis skills with excerpts from these chatpers. You can find this specific question trail available separately HERE or in The Hunger Games bundle HERE.

To learn how to create your own question trails, head to this blog post or check out my create-your-own question trail template HERE.

The Hunger Games question trail

Eulogy/Elegy + Funeral for Rue

Character funerals have been an activity that I have been using since my days of teaching The Great Gatsby in high school, and they are always one of the most memorable lessons of the unit! Taking a moment to stop and think about the character who passes away always feels the most natural instead of trying to move on business as normal. 

After Chapter 18, we spend time reflecting on Rue’s tragic death. Before the funeral, students write eulogies or elegies from the point of view of Katniss. During the funeral, I pass out funeral “programs” to have students answer questions and spark discussions among their peers. Students can volunteer to read their eulogies or elegies out loud during our class service. This is a great way for students to think critically about the importance of Rue as a character and how her relationship with Katniss impacts her.

You can find this activity, as well as other creative writing tasks, in The Hunger Games bundle HERE.

Funeral for Rue + Eulogy or Elegy Writing

Capitol Commentary Creative Writing Task

“Capitol Commentary” is a fun writing activity that will help students summarize The Hunger Games and get into the point of view of the Capitol. It requires them to write from the perspective of a Hunger Games commentator in the Capitol. Students have to think critically about the characters, as well as the “reality TV” aspect of the Games. They are also looking at the tone and mood of what a Capitol commentator would portray and using language that reflects the Capitol’s attitude towards the Games.

You can do this writing activity for Chapters 11-13 and beyond. You can give students a couple of chapters OR just 1 chapter. You can also do this as group work and assign each group a different chapter. The possibilities are endless! Like everything else mentioned in this blog post, you can find this writing task in The Hunger Games bundle HERE.

Capitol Commentary Creative Writing

Postcard to District 12 Activity

Writing a postcard is a great characterization activity for students to help students understand more about Katniss. They have to think creatively and critically while exploring Katniss’ point of view, the impact of setting, character relationships in the book, and so much more. There are pre-designed templates included in my activities for teaching The Hunger Games pack or students can create from a blank one. This activity can work at any point during Part 3 of the novel, and it’s a fun lesson to mix things up and keep students engaged until the end.

Postcard activity for The Hunger Games

Panem vs. Our Society Activities

When teaching The Hunger Games, it’s important to give students a chance to make connections and think critically about Panem and our society. The more parallels students can notice, the more they will be able to analyze the purpose of the genre and articulate why Collins may have written the novel. This can be challenging for students, so it’s helpful to scaffold these questions with activities that gradually increase in complexity.

If you want to support your students while challenging them to dig deeper into the dystopian setting of Panem, here are a few different possibilities:

  • The Panem vs Our Society activity/reflection invites students to compare and contrast the two with a Venn Diagram and then reflect on their answers after. This can also spark discussions in your class about what each student is seeing throughout Part 1 of the novel. This activity also reinforces the ideas of common elements in a dystopia.
  • The Emerging Parallels graphic organizer is a quick way for students to look at the dystopian setting of Panem. It focuses on a few specific elements, scaffolding connections so that students can then compare Panem to our current society.
  • The Flaws of Our Society organizer builds off Emerging Parallels and can be used at the end of the novel. Students are asked to take a look at issues, trends, or situations that are exaggerated in the book and then explain how each issue is portrayed in The Hunger Games. Then, students reflect on the issues in the book and compare them to our society.

These assignments are helpful because they guide students through the story, helping them understand the complexities of society in both The Hunger Games and “the real world.”

Analyzing Panem's parallels

Speed Discussion

At the end of a novel, especially one with such big questions and life lessons, the idea of wrapping everything up nicely can be daunting. How can you help students understand the big themes and appreciate the story? How can you help students truly understand Katniss’s character arc? There are so many things left to discuss by the end of the book, but before you try to host a whole class discussion, try a speed discussion first! This strategy gets every student engaged at the same time and it can help readers think through important questions before a whole-class discussion. 

During this activity, students discuss different questions with different peers during multiple rotations of discussion. In each “round” of discussions, students rotate to a new peer and discuss a new question. This means that by the end of class, students will have interacted with at least a dozen peers and discussed a dozen or more questions. It all adds up to a lot of low-risk discussion practice. It’s a great way for students to discuss and debrief The Hunger Games as a whole.

To learn more about speed discussion, head to this blog post or check out my resource for The Hunger Games HERE or in the novel bundle HERE.

post reading speed discussion

The Hunger Games Film Analyis

Anytime I teach a novel with a film adaptation, I’m all about showing that movie in class–not just for fun, but also to keep students engaged in meaningful film analysis. This means no “busy work,” comprehension questions, but challenging, meaningful questions that will make students think and stimulate engaging class discussions. Teaching students how to analyze a movie is a key skill of literary analysis and a skill that they can continue to use for years to come. 

Film analysis is such a great way to end a unit because this gives students a chance to think critically about choices the directors made when adapting the story to the screen. These kinds of discussions will spark thoughtful insight and engaging discussions throughout the movie. As you continue to encourage your students to think critically about what choices the director is making from the book to the movie, they will want to discuss more. 

The Hunger Games is a great movie to watch because you can discuss all the ways the director changed the story when making the movie, from small details like extra conversations between characters that didn’t take place in the story, to the absence of Katniss’s inner thoughts and narration in the movie. The film analysis is divided into 3 parts that correspond with the parks of the book, so that you can use it as an end of unit activity or throughout the book if you wish to break up the novel as you go. For print/digital worksheets with these types of questions, check out my film analysis worksheets available separately or in my activities for teaching The Hunger Games bundle.

The Hunger Games Film Analysis

BONUS: “Examination Day” Escape Room

Whether you want to introduce the genre, pair The Hunger Games with dystopian short stories, or review plot/theme, you should consider adding “Examination Day” by Henry Slesar to your unit. This short story is actually short (unlike some “short” stories), very accessible, and fun to read. (Just wait for your students’ reactions to the “plot twist” at the end.) The best part? I’ve created a super engaging print/digital escape room for this short story. You can use it at the beginning of your unit to introduce the genre, during reading so you can make connections, or at the end of the novel to reinforce plot, theme, and textual evidence before an assessment. You can find this engaging escape room HERE. (It’s separate from the bundle for The Hunger Games).

The Hunger Games novel

I hope these ideas bring new life to this dystopian classic. For more engaging activities and resources for teaching The Hunger Games, check out this unit bundle full of print/digital learning stations, quickwrites, creative activities, speed discussions, and more creative lessons!

To see some of this unit in action, check out some of these Instagram posts for more info:

To learn more about teaching dystopia, check out the following blog posts for more info:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *