Analyzing a Character's Traits: Is Katniss a Hero?

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Objective

Students will be able to write an argumentative piece of writing by participating in a class discussion.

Big Idea

I'm holding out for a hero.

Quickwrite

5 minutes

Yesterday students created a framework for a hero.  They defined what a hero is. To review, I asked two students to take turns reading the qualities aloud.  Here's the list of the qualities of a hero that the students identified as being heroic.

I then posed the following question to students--is Katniss a hero?  She's certainly the protagonist, the main character.  But is she a hero? She's certainly considered a hero.  A simple Google search of Katniss and hero turns up 1,090,000 results. But should she be considered a hero?  Does she truly have and display the traits of a hero?  And finally, is there another character in The Hunger Games that is a "better hero" than Katniss? 

To begin our discussion, I asked students to write a quickwrite answering those questions.  Is Katniss a hero? Should she be a hero? Is there another character that is more heroic than Katniss?

Discussion: Is Katniss a Hero?

30 minutes

After students wrote their quickwrites, we started our last discussion of the school year. Due to cleaning out lockers and a funky schedule, I did not have the students move the desks into a circle.  We only had thirty minutes, and I didn't want to take three of those precious minutes to move desks. 

We very quickly reviewed the rules of a discussion that we've established--only one person should talk at once. It's best if I, the teacher, doesn't need to call on people.  The conversation should be organic and natural.  I told students that if I needed to, I would call on people, but I hoped that I wouldn't have to.  (I had to do that very rarely). Of course, claims should be supported by evidence from  the text. It's okay to disagree with someone, but it's critical that if you disagree with someone, you do it politely. 

  • "I see what you're saying, but. . ." 
  • "I interpreted that event differently.  Here's how. . ."
  • "That's an interesting thought.  Have you considered. . . "

Throughout the discussion, students brought up the characters in the  picture to the left. Yes, there was one student in each class that tried to argue that President Snow and the Peacekeepers were heroes to the people in the Capitol or the citizens in the districts because they kept the. . .peace. The rest of the students, however, asked for evidence, and neither of those students could support their claim with evidence and logical commentary.  They tried to use details from the movie, but "we're talking about the book, not the movie!" Students also reminded each other of the framework list we'd created, which was an organic list.  It became apparent that we needed to add traits to the list.  One student even got up because I wasn't moving fast enough and wrote the additional traits on the board herself.

I didn't share my thoughts with the students about which character I thought was a hero.  I went into the discussion today firmly believing that Katniss was not a hero, because everything she did was done out of her selfish desire to save her own sister.  Going out of the discussion?  I wasn't so sure.  Yes, she volunteered to be a tribute to save her sister.  That was selfish desperation.  If she had stayed there, if she was a static character, then no, she wouldn't be a hero.  But she's a dynamic character.  She grows and changes, and maybe, just maybe, she unwittingly grew into being heroic.

Responding in Writing

7 minutes

The last thing students did was respond in writing.  They returned to the original question--is Katniss a hero?  Are there other characters who were heroes in addition to or instead of Katniss? The pictures I've included shows their first response and their second response so you can see how the students' thinking solidified or changed.