My Spring 2013 experiment is drawing to a close...with inconclusive results, I might add. I had two sections of ENG 120: Composition this semester, so I assigned one to read The Hunger Games and the other to read Ender's Game. Both classes wrote weekly journals on the chapters they completed each week, had weekly (sometimes bi-weekly) discussions in class, and wrote novel-related essays throughout the semester. The carrot dangled in front of both classes was a week of watching The Hunger Games film (starring Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen) while they were completing work on their research papers. (The film version of Ender's Game comes out this November, otherwise I would obviously have show it to the class reading Card's novel).
All of my students have completed their "Exit Journals," in which they detail (rather openly, as I encourage them to be) 1) What they expected the course to be like, 2) What the course was really like, 3) How they felt about the course, and 4) What suggestions they might have to me for future classes. Here is where the conclusions come into play...the class reading The Hunger Games was consistently more on top of life than the section reading Ender's Game (and I mean from Day 1). The HG section was consistently on-time, in class, and attentive. The EG section was rarely more than half full, usually very late, and hit-or-miss attentive. While some students in the EG section did genuinely enjoy the sci-fi classic, the majority (I'm fairly certain) flat-out did not read it; ergo, I can't really use their feedback.
I can, however, report that the feedback from my second group of students to read The Hunger Games was overwhelmingly positive. So positive, in fact, that a number of students recommended that future classes read the entire trilogy! Color me shocked: College students who ask for more reading. What is becoming of the world of academia?!
I will have to do some soul-searching as to whether I will include Ender's Game in my Fall readings for ENG 120, but I will absolutely use The Hunger Games a third time. Perhaps I will even orchestrate a class field trip to see Catching Fire in theater when it releases! (I know, I know--I'm on the edge of insanity!) I do intend to poll my HG section to see how many students would honestly have read all three books if they had been assigned. And, if I do assign the trilogy, I will need to consider actually making students buy the books from the bookstore, as opposed to buying them myself and lending them to students (which, by the way, I have about a 98% return rate on).
Overall, including a novel in my ENG 120 course has absolutely been a success!