reneehennings


The Hunger Games

I will admit it, I hate violence.  I cringe at the sound of a sword or a scream in a film.  I do not care for the sight or idea of flowing blood.  Keep me away from any war movie ever made, no matter the budget.  I went into reading The Hunger Games feeling the same way.  In the past, I couldn’t ever get into underlying themes of movies with violence because the sight and sounds would push me away.  Reading literature that included violent acts did not quite impact me the same as visuals.  I have to say I did cringe at some of the graphic battle scenes in the area during the Games, but I was able to keep my composure and read on.  For me, I think the excitement of what would happen next in the overall story kept me going.  I wouldn’t have ever picked up this novel had it not been for a requirement in graduate school.  I have had friends offer me stories like The Hunger Games before, and I would try, but know in the back of my mind, it would never happen.  I am so happy that I took this “risk” if you will.  Had I not picked up The Hunger Games I wouldn’t have ever been introduced to such a novel that balances so many themes and ideas that are common in our society today.

I think about the popularity of this novel, and I think about video games for youngsters and teens.  Because The Hunger Games is intended for the middle school aged student and teen, I know that there are a slew of video games on the market today that have some of the same post-apocalyptic themes.  I have noticed ads for Modern Warfare III and World of Warcraft.  Both are games that are based on survival and bargaining with allies and enemies.  Computer simulated images of assaults using destructive weapons and trading those weapons speaks volumes to video gaming fans.  Think about characters from The Hunger Games,  Katniss, Rue, Thresh and Peeta all experience both of these themes.  This book series addresses some of the same elements that today’s video games portray entertainment to be popular.  Allies are built between Rue and Katniss when in battle and there are bargaining occurrences during Katniss and Peeta’s romance in the arena.  All of these characters are so easy to follow and visualize, readers can quickly understand and relate their experiences to gamers’ online experiences.

As I looked deeper into why The Hunger Games I began to think about again, the targeted audience.  Katniss is a teen, with a younger sister of 12.  She battles among tributes who are all between the ages of 1 2 and 18.  She is a unique character who captures a “tough girl” with the ability to provide for her family once her father has passed away and her mother refuses to face reality, losing her place in the world.  Katniss is relatable to some readers, because many students grow up in homes where they are raising their younger siblings and making up for losses that their parents left behind.  Katniss also follows a typical love story, which is a large hook to those of us who are saps for that thread in a story.  Although some of her actions are for show on the screen for Panem, Katniss does wear her heart on her sleeve and breaks her “tough” side down for the viewers of the games.  The reader can relate to her attraction to Peeta and to Gale because most teens have had their first “crushes” by the time they’ve read and understood The Hunger Games.

The final piece that makes The Hunger Games attainable is the fact that there is a movie that is about to be released.  I feel that any time a novel is created into a film; readers are more likely to get on the train and try out the story.  In the past, other novels such as The Harry Potter series, The Twilight Series and even recent novels such as The Help all provide readers visuals to see what they’ve read, after they’ve read it.  I think some like to connect their own perceptions of a piece of work to the perceptions of Hollywood’s status quo of movie characters.  I know that in the past, I have had experiences where I’ve read a story, created a visual in my mind, and when I’ve had the opportunity to see the film, I’ve felt almost let down.  At the same time, there have been instances when the movie has aided me in the understanding of the story.  I think that The Hunger Games trilogy had such an uprising from the reading community that the movie makers saw the chance to jump in and take a popular text and bring it to life in the theaters.


Wonderstruck? Who Would Go There?

After having Wonderstruck placed in my hands, I would suppose that it would take me at least two full weeks in a lazy summer to complete this story.  Although it is written on a child’s reading level, I know that a book that thick would take quite a while!

Thinking about the students in my class currently, I can name about four or five students that would be willing to pick up such a large volume.  Jeda would be interested because he has read Hugo in the past.  He seemed to truly enjoy this story, and found solace in his findings within Hugo.

A students who would never pick up this selection of text would be Austin. Austin is a student who reads on a lower second grade level and is taken aback by having to read any selection of text by himself.

I think an average 5th grader would take roughly a couple of weeks to complete.

…………….

I stand corrected.  Now that I have taken a look inside the cover of Wonderstruck I think it would take me about a day to enjoy a book this thick.  With the mix of photos and text, and the background that Dr. Frye has provided our class with, I now know there are two main characters who make the story.

I still believe that Jeda would be the first student to pick up Wonderstruck. He enjoyed Hugo so much that he would be interested in any genre of story that included such vibrant drawings and story line.

As I think about my reluctant reader, Austin, I think if he peeked at this story, he’d enjoy the illustrations, but would still need to be boosted in to the reading selection.  Reading this story in partners for him would get him comfortable.

Now, after taking a look at Wonderstruck I think it’d take an average 5th grader about a week to complete.


Response to Articles (1/26/12)

As I read all three articles for class on 1/26/12 I found myself reflecting on my own practices of reading for enjoyment outside of required readings for graduate classes or work.

     I wanted to focus on what type of reader I am depending on the time of the year.  In The Peter Effect by Applegate and Applegate readers are categorized into two distinct categories: aesthetic and efferent. Within this article Ruddell mentions that teachers can be divided into two separate groups: influential and un-influential. 

     I feel that in the summer, I fall into a category of “recreational readers”.  I find myself enjoying both adult and children’s literature when not actively teaching from August until June. I am not sure that “recreational” falls totally under the topic of aesthetic, but I find myself relating some of the characteristics of aesthetic readers to the way I enjoy reading in the summer. During the school year I am doing my reading, but the purpose is not necessarily the same. I don’t think of labeling myself as “recreational” anymore but a reader who looks for facts and answers.  I don’t think I would quite fall into the efferent reader either during this phase of my reading.   I have to admit I enjoy about 90% of what I am required to read for graduate classes and for work purposes.  I find myself constantly perusing teacher forums and blogs looking for extra reading resources and ways to improve my classroom instruction.  I am not quite sure what I could categorize that type of reading into, but I know that I use these resources for the better, and retain them for future reference. 

     Either way, I feel that I work to be an “influential” teacher in my classroom throughout the school year.  Applegate and Applegate mention that Ruddell (1995) has established that classroom teachers can be broken up into two types of literacy instructors: influential and un-influential.  When colleagues are using basals and leveled passages each week to maintain 5th grade level reading, I am finding myself planning small group novels with leveled reading that differentiate instruction for all learners.  I enjoy conducting whole group lessons on novels that can spark discussions among my students and their small groups that will reoccur throughout the school year in other disciplines. I want to include science and social studies content into my language arts and reading lessons to capture those reluctant readers who might feel reading has no purpose besides hunting and pecking for “useless” facts.

     After reading, Can you be a teacher of literacy if you don’t love to read?  by Powell-Brown, I totally felt comfortable that I am a lover of literacy.  I think it is important that undergraduate and graduate instructors are talking with preservice teachers about how important it is to be avid readers in their own lives.  I had the blessings of instructors in my own undergraduate experience that encouraged me to go outside of my box of reading genres and try new types of text and new stories.  This helped me once I became a teacher of reading so that I could provide my students with suggestions, some details and ideas about types of literature that might be the best fit for them.  I could relate to their lives by sharing my thoughts on the books that they were reading in their spare time, and in turn created closer connections with those students.

     In Gomez’s response to Powell-Brown’s article on the love of reading, I related my teaching experience to students I have had in the past who do not make efforts to read for pleasure.  I, too, have found myself encouraging reading in the home.  I send home my own personal books for children to enjoy, conference with their families and have them to sign reading logs.  Our grade level uses AR to build around each child’s individual reading level and we offer rewards for those who make their goals.  Even with these offerings, I still battle with students who don’t want to try.  I refuse to “punish” these students by assigned silent lunches with a book, because I don’t want to imply that reading is a chore that shouldn’t be enjoyed away from peers and social time.  I feel that I am a good model of enthusiastic teaching of reading, and when I have all students involved in text together in the classroom, I reach out to 99% of my kids.  It’s the piece that moves from teacher-guided to a students’ motivation to enjoy reading without being guided so heavily in small groups or partners.  I found Gomez’s suggestions of successful promotion of reading for students in today’s classroom.  I think her idea of creating comfortable places along with large classroom libraries will be the most beneficial for my 5th graders at this time to get them hooked on reading without much support from others or myself.  If I can create that hook, then I can suggest students to try to find places in their homes where they would find comfort and enjoyment while curling up with a good book


About Me

My name is Renée Hennings.  I am a 4th year teacher in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.  I graduated from ASU in December of 2007 where I obtained my BS in Elementary Education.  In the summer of 2009 I re-enrolled at ASU to start the Reading Education program.  I am *crossing fingers* hoping to graduate for a second time at ASU in the fall of 2012.

I am a 5th grade teacher of all subjects at Moore Elementary.  I recently found out I was selected as my school’s TOY for the 2012-2013 school year!  This was such an honor to be voted on by my peers.  Many of them have been in education for at least 15 years, and to know I’ve only tried my hand at it for four means quiet a lot to me! I feel so blessed to be a part of a wonderful team at Moore Elementary.

Along with working full-time and graduate school part-time, my boyfriend and I are currently self-contracting our own home on the side (whew!) We started almost a year ago May and would like to say we’ll be done in 2012 (at some point). Again, I count my blessings to be able to handle such a unique and exciting experience with our families together.

Last but not least, I love my dog, Boone.  He was a Christmas gift in December of 2010.  He came as a total surprise and I have loved every bit of that surprise.  His namesake, of course, came from my first experience at ASU.  He is a Brendle Boxer mixed with an Australian Shepard.  He’s a wonderful companion and a big bundle of joy.  I can’t wait to have him in our new home! I’m a braggy dog “mom” so here’s one of my favorite photos of him:


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