Setting the Stage: Using Voki to Introduce a Classroom Simulation

When  I decided to read “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins with my seventh and eighth grade language arts students, I knew I had the opportunity to engage them in something really fun and interesting. Rather than simply reading about Katniss and the other tributes, I turned my students into tributes in our own classroom version of the games. I could write several posts (and maybe I will!) about the different activities students encountered in this simulation. I knew, though, that the first days of this project would be the most important. How could I hook the students in, make them believe they were part of this competition, and engage them with the unit right from the start? I knew that first day in my classroom had to look and feel different from anything they had experienced with me before.

Picture this: you leave your last class and head down the hall to Language Arts. Rather than finding the usual open door and welcome smile from your teacher, you come across a closed, locked door. The light is off inside and your teacher is nowhere to be found. Across the door are two pieces of caution tape, crossed over each other like a giant X forbidding you from entering. A sign over the caution tape reads:

Hunger Games Training Arena: Do Not Enter Until Told

Wait Here for Further Instructions

You are your classmates mill nervously around in the hallway, asking one another what is going on and wondering what is about to happen. When the bell rings, the door slowly swings open and voice from inside bellows, “You may enter. Silently seat yourselves in the center of the room.” As you walk into the classroom space, you find it to be completely different from the way you left it yesterday. There are no desks, no chairs. The lights remain off and an image is projected on the screen at the front of the room. Your teacher sits behind her desk, stoic. She makes no move to smile, welcome you, or provide you with details. You look around at your classmates and then sit, silently on the floor facing the projection on the screen.

Once everyone is seated, you wait for the teacher to get up and speak, but instead, the projection on the screen greets you:

And that isn’t all.  Once she is finished, another projection appears with instructions too.

A total of five of these trainers give you explicit instructions about what will take place over the next few days. The final projection instructs the entire class to line up, single file, at the door and stay absolutely silent. Finally, the teacher stands, but without saying a word, she opens the classroom door and motions for all of you to follow. You aren’t sure where the class is going next, but you are certainly intrigued and excited to find out.

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