Personal Investment: The Hunger Games Project

My middle school staff has been working on a project involving the book “The Hunger Games” for the past two months.  Really this brain child of ours was conceived waaaaay back at the beginning of the school year.

Our idea was to have our students investigate the book with the mindful purpose of having them film a scene from within it.  This soon became a mixed grade project that involved our students in 6,7, and 8.  Then, through a round of twitter conversations, it grew to include a school to the far north in our division. It grew even bigger than we imagined.

Personal investment is a crazy thing.  Since we had been working on this since September, as teachers our personal investment was really high.  We spent some of our AISI fund working with a Critical Thinking Consultant who helped us to form and shape out paper ideas into reality.  There were many hours of planning, blood, sweat, and tears that went into this project.  Then it came time to actually do it…..

Since our personal investment was so high, it was a little crushing when it didn’t go exactly as we had envisioned it.  Some of the kids weren’t as engaged as we thought they’d be, our timing was a bit off in terms of reading the novel, scripting, and filming scenes, and of course there was the small glitch of having filming right smack during the week of report cards and parent teacher interviews (BIG oops there….)

We spent hours with the kids after school and came in on weekends to help them with this project.  When personal investment is high, you are willing to do pretty much anything to get the job done.  Even if it’s searching google images at 2:00am to try and find the perfect background picture for a green screen because it’s all you can think about anyways and you just can’t sleep…..

But what about the kids?

We knew about 80% of them were highly invested in this project as well.  20 of them even gave up 5 hours on a Sunday to come film at the school.  The brought in costumes and spent forever in the makeup room perfecting their look because they wanted things just right.  They begged me to come in on my day off to help them film because they honestly believed my guidance would get them the scene they wanted (and yes, I did go in…..dragging my 3 year old with me the whole time…..)

So we took them to see the movie in a special screening yesterday.  Their final project is a comparison between the Hollywood Version and their own version to answer the question…..Which movie was a more accurate representation of the novel?  There are several criteria elements that go with that but the layout of the project is another blog post altogether (and yes…..it’s coming).

The results were astonishing.  After the movie, several of my students were looking glum and told me they hated it.  Why?  Because:

1.  Their scene was cut.

2.  Their scene was severally diminished.

3.  Their scene was so different from the one in the Hollywood version.

At first I thought….dear Lord what have we done to these poor kids?  But then I thought better of it.  They were critical of the movie because they were so personally invested in their own work!  They knew their scene inside and out!  The plot, the characters,even the lines in the script had become so personal to them that any deviation from it resulted in a serious negative reaction.

We polled the groups afterwards (all 20 of them) to find out what they thought.  While some kids really liked their scene they were in the minority.  Most kids either gave it a “thumbs down” or a “thumbs to the side”.

Personal investment……I love it.

This project has been huge.  It took over our school, it took over our lives…..I lost many hours of sleep at night simply because my brain would NOT SHUT OFF when it came to planning or ideas that were rolling around in there.

And in the end we are going to have a final product that’s amazing.  And what an experience this has been!  Years from now the students probably won’t remember my lessons on script writing very much, but I bet when they see each other they’ll say….”Hey, do you remember that time in Middle School when we made that movie…..?”

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About Cherra-Lynne Olthof

I've been a middle school teacher for my entire career (which began in 2001). Like my students, I too am a life long learner. My goals include helping my students to achieve their goals, support them in their learning, and to encourage them to think "beyond the grade".
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