Thursday, March 29, 2012

Does That Make Me Racist?

*edit on March 30, 10:20 PM*  To my students who've already read this: you might find THIS POST interesting.  It's a fantastic letter to Amandla Stenberg - the girl who played Rue.  I hope you loved the movie as much as I did.  Have a great spring break.*

The past few days, there's been a hullabaloo surrounding The Hunger Games and how it was cast.  Given the tie-ins to ethnocentrism, human rights, and current events (new and confusing reports are constantly being brought forth in the Trayvon Martin case.) I thought it would be worth discussing in class.

I saw THIS ARTICLE ON CNN, followed by MSNBC and various writers commenting on the blogosphere and... ummm.. "twitosphere..."  Both of these articles referred back to a blog article entitled, "Racist Hunger Games Fans Are Very Disappointed" as well as the tumblr Hunger Games Tweets who promises to "expose Hunger Games fans on Twitter who dare to call themselves fans, yet don't know a d*** thing about the books."  WARNING: Both of those last two sites contain some offensive language.  Students and parents reading this blog, I figure it's best to tell you here rather than letting you click and find out for yourselves. 

These issues actually crept up a while ago, but remained relatively on the fringe of the entertainment industry...  Given the current ubiquity of the movie - the issue has been pushed into the mainstream.

Without spoiling the book, let me give some background.  The characters Rue and Thresh are black - in both the book and the movie.

"And most hauntingly, a twelve-year-old girl from district 11.  She has dark brown skin and eyes, but other than that she's very like Prim in size and demeanor." (p. 45)

"... and see the little girl from District 11 standing back a bit, watching us.  She's the twelve-year-old, the one who reminds me so of Prim in stature.  Up close she looks about ten.  She has bright, dark eyes and satiny brown skin and stands..."  (p. 98)

"The boy tribute from District 11, Thresh, has the same dark skin as Rue, but the resemblance stops there."  (p. 126)

Now, I read this book out loud to each one of my classes.  I teach 7th graders in a public school, and I've got a great group of students this year.  Outstanding.  When we watched the trailer, there was quite an outcry of surprise from  my classes when they "found out" that Rue was black.  Does that make them racist?

When I originally read the book, I read Rue as a white character as well.  Does that make me a racist?  No doubt some people out there will say, "no, it just means you have poor reading comprehension skills..."  I'll make sure to address both charges.

Before we jump off the deep end, I think we need to examine a couple things.

In her article 'The Hunger Games': From the book to the big screen Stephanie Goldberg quotes Will Fetters as saying, "Reading is a really intimate, internal experience where you play your own movie in your head."

I believe there are two reasons many people read the character of Rue as a white girl.
  • Whenever she enters the scene Katniss mentions how much Rue reminds her of Prim (Katniss' sister.)
  • We place ourselves/settings into the story.
The book is 374 pages long, and a page-turner.  In reading fast, some things get missed - or even if they're picked up on - they're forgotten later.  The fact that Rue was always mentioned next to Prim forced an association of the two, and because the number of times this is brought up as opposed to the number of times it's mentioned that Rue is black - well, I think it worked its way into a lot of people's brains.  And, if I'm a white kid in a white school surrounded by white white white white white - there's a chance that I'm envisioning each one of the character's in the book as white.


This does NOT excuse the blatantly racist posts you'll find on the tumblr and Jezebel sites.


But, there's also something to be said for the movie we play in our minds, and the depth our minds want for our version - MY version - of the book to be THE version of the story.  Fans were upset because Peeta was too short, but they weren't called "heightists."  They were upset because Jennifer Lawrence was blond, but they weren't called "hairists."  (Though, in fairness, they were called over-zealous lunatics.)  My point is: people take their books seriously, and they take their mental image of that book seriously as well - however mistaken it is.

Poe's "A Tell Tale Heart" is taught every year in Language Arts.  Yesterday, the students listened to this version, performed by Vincent Price:

Today in class, as bellwork, I asked the students to tell me what the story was about.  Every single one of them said it was about a man who was a caretaker and murdered...  I cut them off.  "Man?!?" I said.  "I'm pretty sure it was a woman."  We argued a bit, then I showed them the first three minutes of this version:

Nowhere in Poe's story does it mention that the caretaker is male.  Yet, it's almost always read that way.  Does that mean my students are sexist?  (Does it mean that I'm sexist if I read the murderer as a woman?)  Does it mean we lack reading comprehension skills?  No.  No. and No.  It just means we got an idea in our head and ran with it...

Now, if I'd gone on twitter and posted comments demeaning women and how she "ruined The Tell Tale Heart" for me... then the charges of sexism might have merit.  But maybe I just showed an adolescent lack of judgement and posted something stupid before thinking.

Students: if you want the extra credit, discuss the blog with an adult - preferably one that you live with, but whatever...  Then, write some thoughts about it on a scrap piece of paper and have that adult sign it.  Don't forget to add your name.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Learning About OPEC

If you're looking for extra credit, read the entry and follow the instructions at the bottom.

First, go to Stushare, open the students folder, then Habecker, and open the word document.

(If you're a teacher outside our school system using this lesson, you may click on the OPEC Document to go download a copy of the document.  I did give a little prep using this startup and a couple minutes of discussion, but there wasn't too much.)

Once you have the document downloaded, add your name, date, and hour to the top of the page.

Click "save as" and then save it to your network drive.

Then, go to OPEC's Website and read through some of the Frequently Asked Questions. The paper you are working on tells you which you should read.

There is some difficult vocabulary on OPEC's website. No need to fear, the world is at your finger-tips. If you come across a word you don't know, go to

Type the word "define" followed by the word or phrase you need to define:

Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy.

Once again, like it says in the instructions on the paper - make sure you summarize. Do not simply cut and paste.

Finally, you have a couple questions that come from a graph found HERE.

Answer those questions as well. If you've got questions, ask away. I'll be walking around the class helping you out. Just raise your hand, ok? Seriously... what's with all the shouting out in here? (You know who I'm talking to...)

If you finish up before the end of class, play the world geography games. Play the Middle East Countries. (That's the middle column.)

Extra credit: So... that was class today.  First hour was a little rough because the link was blocked, but other than that it was pretty smooth.  To get the extra credit, discuss this blog (and OPEC) with an adult - what it is, why it was created...  Then, write the following on a piece of scrap paper: "Ahhh... 6000 years of human history condensed into one handy 35 question test.  THAT'LL prove how smart I am."  

Don't forget, the piece of scrap paper needs two names on it: yours and the signature of the adult you discussed it with. 


Well, the test went well.  I gave the students 4 essay questions to choose from - they had to answer 2.  The actual test was only 30 questions, not the usual 3-day, 100 question behemoth I generally give.

I'm writing this while their still in here working...  At this point, all the grades are up to date.  Extra credit has been awarded, and late work graded.  It might be wise to check STI to see if they're missing anything.  Honestly, this would go for all classes.  The end of the marking period is this Friday.

To get the extra credit today, discuss what was on the test with an adult.  (Preferably one from your home... but honestly, any adult will do...)  Do you think you did well?  Why or why not?  What were some of the questions?  Which essays did you answer?  BAM!  Extra credit awarded!

After you finish discussing the blog, write the following on a sheet of scrap paper: "BAM!  Extra credit awarded!"  Don't forget to have the adult you discussed it with sign the sheet, and make sure YOUR NAME is on it as well.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Study Study Study

The test tomorrow is going to be a little bit more economics-heavy than I had originally anticipated, but you should all be able to handle it.  It's all on the review guide.  (Or at least most of it is...)

To get the extra credit today, study the review guide with an adult for 15 minutes.  (If you don't have one, look at yesterday's post.) 

Then, on a piece of scrap paper, write the following sentence: "Yeah, I heard a funny thing - somebody said to me, "I think that I can be in love with social studies."

Make sure your name is on the paper, and have the adult you studied with sign it too.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Essay Question and Test Review

We reviewed for the test today - which included giving a question that may be the test's essay as the bellwork.  Overall, the students did a good job answering the question, though I'll probably be more specific in what I ask come Tuesday.

If you want to see how your child responded, you should check out the review guide.  The essay is on one side, the review guide on the other.

In case they forgot the review guide, I'm posting it as a picture on here.  Click on it to enlarge.

I would suggest studying this for about 5-10 minutes each night over the weekend.  Quiz each other over the questions - see what you know, what you don't know.  If there's anything you don't understand, make a note of it and ask on Monday.  The test is Tuesday.

You can get the extra credit if you study with an adult for 5-10 minutes Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  (Lets face it, you should probably be doing this anyway.)  If you've done this, write the following statement on a scrap piece of paper: "27 years is a long time to spend in a South African jail."

Have a great weekend.  If you're following basketball I hope your bracket is everything you dreamed it would be.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

CNN Article and Acuity

We read an article from CNN today (found HERE) and answered some reading comprehension questions about it.

Then we went through the Acuity test and looked at the questions most students missed.  It is interesting that most students missed questions that were reading comprehension questions... 

It's getting late, and it's a beautiful day outside.  I'm not sure I can offer extra credit for reading the blog if you don't discuss social studies somehow - I'm not even sure you should today.  It's nice - go outside.

If you want the extra credit, write down 3 reasons you think you deserve it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Acuity Today

Basically, if you're here, you get the points today.  We took the Acuity Test all hour.  It went pretty well.  I think the students had a good handle of the information overall.


For the extra credit, discuss what was on the Acuity Test, and how you did.  Then write the date on a scrap piece of paper and have the adult you discussed it with sign.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Acuity Tomorrow

As I've mentioned before, we've got the Acuity test coming up tomorrow.  I'm counting it for a grade.  Today we mainly reviewed.  We did a bellwork assignment that the illustrious Mr. Andrew Cowells developed.  Most students did a good job, though some have forgotten much of what we learned.

For extra credit today, discuss whether or not they feel prepared for the test.

To get the extra credit today, write the following on a piece of scrap paper, then have the adult you discussed the blog with sign the paper.

"Mount Fuji is a volcano."

Monday, March 19, 2012

Acuity Reviewity + Hunger Games

Wow... It seems like The Hunger Games is everywhere these days...  How will it live up to the hype?

We have acuity coming up on Wednesday.  Most classes are done with HG, so we're going to focus on Acuity until then.

It's interesting, some of my students don't see the value in reading during class.  I don't understand this.  The Acuity test will have something like five reading comprehension questions on it.  That's the social studies test.  ISTEP is the same way.  How can they not see that reading is a part - the KEY part - of every subject?

I was sometimes frustrated with how long it took to get through the book, but felt somewhat vindicated when I read THIS ARTICLE.  I'm working really hard to give your child the education they deserve - and not just teach to the test (or tests.)

That said, testing provides us with some good data.  So maybe you could ask and discuss these review questions:

Who decides what to produce in a command economy?  A market economy?

Which empire is the largest the world has ever seen?

What is "human capital?"

List an invention from ancient China.

 When you're done, write the following on a sheet of paper: "Should I change the world?"  Then, make sure your name is on it, and have the adult you've read and discussed it with sign it.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


We've got the acuity test coming up next week, and there are bound to be some geography questions on it.

So, in preparation for that, to get the extra credit today, you have to play ASIA (Click the word ASIA...) 5 times after going through the tutorial once.  PLAY THE MIDDLE COLUMN: COUNTRIES.  Make sure to print your scores, then turn them in tomorrow.  I know it will take a little more time, but remembering the Student Accountability Plan, and Acuity's impact on the plan - it's probably worth it.

Also, if you don't play the game the full 5 times you can turn in what you did and get some extra credit.

Remember, you can ALWAYS get extra credit by playing those games.  I've had a couple students who have been really cashing in lately - turning in a blog PLUS the online games.  Well played.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Well, we took a quick break from The Hunger Games today to look at some stuff going on in China.  Well, in a couple classes we actually tied it in to The Hunger Games anyway.  Junior Scholastic published an article about a village in China that was upset about the Chinese government taking their land.

The article mentioned China being a totalitarian, unlimited government.  It mentioned human rights violations, and "the great firewall of China."  China strictly limits the internet access of its people.  The article mentions that China employs "tens of thousands of censors."  In most classes, as soon as I mentioned (or Mr. Frantz mentioned) that China was doing this for many reasons - including limiting the contact among the people - students connected to the way the Capitol in The Hunger Games wouldn't allow interaction between districts for fear of an uprising.

To receive the extra credit points for today, read and discuss the blog with an adult.  Then, on a scrap piece of paper, write the sentence: "Censorship is everywhere."  Have the adult you read it with sign the paper.  Make sure the student name is on as well.

Finally, Hunger Games fliers went out today.  The sooner they can be signed and returned, the better.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


In Mr. Ogle's class you learned about "themes" during your reading of A Day No Pigs Would Die and There's a Girl in My Hammerlock, as well as multiple other short stories.  He taught you that a theme is what the author is trying to teach you through the events of the story.

Sometimes a story has one central theme, other times a story has multiple themes.  Some of the themes that come out in The Hunger Games are trust/reality; importance of family, sacrifice, effects of censorship, entertainment and the love of entertainment, the effects of unlimited power...

Now, we haven't really talked about this stuff in class - other than when I interrupt the reading to point it out.  But I want you to discuss it right now with a parent or adult you live with.  Choose one of those themes and discuss what it is you think the author, Suzanne Collins, is trying to say.  Whichever theme you choose, you need to talk about examples from the book - so if you choose the effects of censorship, you might mention the fences around the districts, and how they aren't allowed to interact with one another.  You might mention that Katniss said she and Thresh probably would have been friends, had he lived in District 12.  You might mention her living in fear of saying something that would offend the Capitol, or even worse - having a young Prim overhear her and repeat it at school.

Of course, you can't use those anymore... but I've left you plenty to choose from.  You could even add your own to the list.

When you're done discussing the theme, on a scrap of paper write down the theme you discussed.  (You don't have to write down what all you said about it...)  Then, have the adult you discussed it with sign the paper.  Make sure your name is on it as well.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Finishing the Games

(We're keeping this the same through Tues.)

I'm anticipating being done with The Hunger Games by the end of this week.  I'm also hoping that permission slips for the movie go out at the beginning of this week.

I've been reading the book with a very critical eye this time around.  I've been thinking, man, there's a writing prompt, or there's an essay question.

I've also been reading a book of essays on The Hunger Games.  It's called The Girl Who Was on Fire.  (If you click on the link, it will take you to reviews of the book.  ...I haven't reviewed it yet, as I'm not finished.)  Now, I wouldn't suggest reading this book unless you've read the whole series, but it's very good.  Most importantly, it has given me some ideas that I hadn't thought about - or at least, it's forced me to think about them in greater depth.  And it's given me more possibilities for discussion, writing prompts, and essays.

I think the best essay question comes from a student in my class though.  He caught me in the hall while I was supervising and asked, "Mr. Habecker, do you think non-violent non-cooperation would work against The Capitol?"

What an intriguing question.

To get the extra credit for this weekend post, discuss the blog with an adult that you live with.  Then write down two questions that could be essay questions for The Hunger Games.  They could deal with characters, or themes of the book.  They could compare the book and movie.  They could tie in with social studies, but they don't have to.  If they don't, I'll pass them off to Mr. Ogle if they're well thought out.

Finally, have the adult you discussed the blog with sign the questions.  Make sure your name is on it as well.

Friday, March 9, 2012

E.C. Later

It's been a busy day.  Two meetings during prep.  I'll post the extra credit blog later in the weekend.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Rue's Flowers

We have all past the Rue scene now.  (I don't want to spoil it for any of the parents who haven't read the book yet... if your kid tells you - that's fine.)  Katniss wants to shame the Capitol, and in her speech ends up saying, "I want to do something, right here, right now, to shame them, to make them accountable, to show the Capitol that whatever they do or force us to do there is a part of every tribute they can't own."

It reminds me of a scene from Gandhi, which I think we edited out this year for the sake of time.  (Fair warning: there are a couple of minor swears in here if you don't fast forward to the part I'm telling you.)  I would start the clip at 2:45 and watch until 4:00.

Gandhi here is essentially saying the same thing.  It's an interesting theme of power that plays out in many stories and all throughout history.  It took America a long time as a country to grasp this very concept.  Sometimes I wonder if we have it even now.

In order to get the extra credit today, watch the Gandhi clip and discuss how it relates to The Hunger Games with a parent or adult.  If they're okay with it, tell them about Rue's flowers.  Tell them what Katniss was so upset about.  Tell them what Peeta had said up on the roof.

Finally, write the following sentence on a piece of scrap paper and have the parent or adult you read and discussed the blog with sign it:  "I keep thinking of a way I can show the Capitol they don't own me."  

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Welcome Back, Katniss

In case you missed it, I added a Hunger Games preview to yesterday's blog.  It's pretty awesome.

We're going to be finishing up the reading in the next couple weeks.  I'll have a letter out to parents in the next couple of days telling them our plans.  (Hint: comparing the book to the movie/ discussing the Arab Spring)

It's difficult to write about this because all of my classes are at vastly different spots.  So, for today - to get the extra credit, tell the person you're discussing the blog with what happened in today's installment of the games.

Finally, on a sheet of paper write the following, "Then they'll have my dead body, not my obedience."  Have the adult you discussed the blog with sign it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

You Step

*extra edit at the bottom*
I hope you all enjoyed your breakfast.  You should tell your parents about it.  Answers: elephant and McDonald's.

I hope you all took your time answering the questions on the ISTEP.  I'm not going to ask you to discuss that with your parents - as we're not supposed to discuss the ISTEP.  But I will say get another good night's sleep tonight.  Seriously, go to bed early.

We're back in The Hunger Games.  It's been a LONG time.  We're reading it through now.  Seriously, no stopping.

If you want extra credit for reading and discussing today's blog, just write down the words "McDonald's and Elephants" on a piece of paper and have the person you read/discussed it with sign the paper.  It's as easy as that.  I'll give you more in depth questions tomorrow.  ...Or the next day...

*It's kindof late, and I'm just editing this in...  Someone mentioned today that there was a Hunger Games TV Spot that included the apple/pig scene.  Just saw it.  It's clutch.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Crazier Days

Today was one of the craziest days I've had in a while... it was interesting...

Once again, I'm bummed out about missing Gandhi, but excited to get back into The Hunger Games tomorrow.

It was nice to see what all the kids got out of Gandhi.  We talked a little about civil disobedience and cell phones, questions they had from the movie, and grades, grades, grades...

ISTEP Tomorrow!  Get a good night's sleep!

To get the extra credit today, discuss instances of civil disobedience found in the film Gandhi.  Also, Gandhi cared most about nonviolence.  He cared about it more than gaining independence.  Given all the violence that the Indians went through to get their independence, Gandhi thought his life was a failure.  Do you agree with him or not?  Was his life a failure?  Why or why not?

To prove you read this blog entry, write the following sentences: "Maybe India should make iodized salt...  I read and discussed the blog with ___________________."  Then, have the adult you read and discussed the blog with sign on the line.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Goodbye Gandhi

So, I was at the school today and a student from my first hour class came up to me - really sad and dejected-looking and said, "Well Mr. Habecker..."


He kindof stammered around a little before tearing up a bit.  "Well... Gandhi died today."

"Well, he actually died in 1948."

The kid gave me one of those, 'you're an idiot' looks.  "I know that Mr. Habecker... uggg... you know what I mean."

Yeah, I do.

So today, discuss with your parents/ an adult what you thought about Gandhi.  Why was he killed?  What do you know about the Indian Independence Movement?  Gandhi had called for three things to happen in order to gain a successful, peaceful independence: 1- get rid of the caste system/ untouchability; 2-there needed to be Hindu/Muslim unity; 3-defy the British.  Which of these were the Indians able to accomplish?  Which didn't they accomplish as well as Gandhi would have liked?

In order to get the extra credit on Monday, read and discuss the blog with a parent or adult (preferably one that lives in your home.)  When you are done, write the following sentences on a scrap piece of paper: "The odd thing about assassins, Dr. King, is that they think they've killed you.  I read and discussed the blog with__________________."  Then have the person you read and discussed it with sign on the line.

Gandhi Martin Luther King Jr Political Cartoon

(Image credit: Asia Society)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Missing Gandhi

I can't believe I'm missing Gandhi.  It's one of the high points of the year.

I'm not posting much today, but I want to make sure you have the opportunity to get some extra credit if you want it.

For today, just discuss with an adult what happened in the film.  What's going on between the Hindus and Muslims?  The British and the Indians?  How are Jinnah, Nehru, and Gandhi all interacting?  Gandhi said that there were 3 main things that would have to happen in order for Indian to have a successful independence.  Do you remember what those three things were?

After you discuss that with an adult, write the following on a piece of paper: "Tunisian fruit-vendor/ Katniss Everdeen.  I discussed the questions about Gandhi with_______________"  Then, have the adult you discussed the question with sign the line.