YOLO: A Defining Moment in the English Language

In this lesson students will discuss YOLO’s recent inclusion into the Oxford English Dictionary and also create their own suggestions for the next slang or tech term to be added.

This year the Oxford English Dictionary added the term “YOLO”. YOLO was popularized by its use in the hip-hop song The Motto by Drake. It is defined as You Only Live Once; typically used as rationale or endorsement for impulsive or irresponsible behavior. Some consider this phrase as the present day version of “Carpe Diem”.

This lesson will also allow students to conduct a dialogue on the process of creating a new word for the dictionary.

#CuttingForBieber: The Power of Social Networks

Recently, a disturbing online campaign was created as a response to the exposure of Justin Bieber’s marijuana use. Started by online pranksters from the image board website 4Chan, the hashtag #CuttingForBieber showed tweets with pictures of fans who allegedly cut themselves in hopes that Bieber would stop smoking marijuana to prevent fans from continuing their self-mutilation. In this lesson, students will create their own anti-drug campaigns as a response to the drastic measures displayed on 4Chan.

Classroom Top Chef: Making Healthier Eating Choices

The objective of this lesson is for students to understand the nutritional contents of food and how to make healthier eating choices.

Food labels appear on virtually every food item. We constantly see restaurants and food manufacturers churn out healthier food options. Ben & Jerry’s Greek Frozen Yogurt and Lay’s Baked Potato Chips are both examples of food companies offering healthier options. Many of these companies have felt pressure to reevaluate their products and create healthier options. People like First Lady Michelle Obama, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and chef turned TV personality Rachael Ray have all voiced their concern about the unhealthy food options available to the public and most importantly, the youth.


The Theories Behind Time Travel

Great Scott! How many gigawatts does it take to write a story with time travel and parallel universes? It doesn’t take that much electricity, but it does take a lot of planning, researching and creativity.

H.G. Wells, Isaac Asminov, Ray Bradbury, Octavia Butler, Kurt Vonnegut — they’ve all written famous science fiction books that focus on time travel. Wells’ Time Machine dates back to 1895, before Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and before the ideas behind black holes and wormholes existed.

Traveling in time to alter our destinies has been a pop culture fascination for a long time. Many superheroes have experienced time travel in different ways. Superman could go back in time by flying around the world quickly enough to reverse Earth’s rotation. Similarly, The Flash could travel fast enough to go back in time. Even the mutant, Wolverine, traveled back in time in X-Men: Days of Future Past to change the fate the world.

The plot lines involved in time travel and jumping through alternate realities are not easy to follow and are even more difficult to write. This lesson takes a look back in time at how some science-fiction stories have rules and a structure to the way time and alternate universes function within their fictional world and how you can create your own narrative structure to write your own tight story involving parallel universes and time travel.

The Art of Storytelling

The objective of this lesson plan is to engage students in the art of storytelling and improve their public speaking skills.

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: How to Write a Public Domain Mashup


Reviewers are surprised that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies follows the plot of Jane Austen’s original novel so closely, but they shouldn’t be. The book of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is mostly made up of the original text. The author made a fortune by just adding a few paragraphs here and there to an existing book. This is the start of a new genre: classic book mashups.

Book remixes are possible because copyrights do not last forever. Copyrights are designed to increase the earnings of authors and their immediate descendents. Most expire between 50 and 90 years after the author’s death since it’s a little silly to think that Jane Austen’s great-great-great-great grandnephews deserve a cut of her book sales.

Once a copyright expires, the book enters public domain. Public domain works have no restrictions at all. They can be stolen, republished, edited, used in music, movies, or video game, or just zombified. The public domain includes millions of books ready to be butchered.

In this lesson, we’ll be doing the messing. Why stop with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? How about a romantic comedy, Moby Dick in Manhattan? Or a sci-fi Romeo and Juliet? There are many possibilities, but executing them is harder than it appears.

Just like mixing music, mashing up classic literature takes some real thought. The newly edited portions need to match up to the original text, in grammar, cadence, word choice, and structure. In this lesson, we do a deep dive into how classic literature and modern genre fiction work, so that we can mix the two together flawlessly.


History vs Hollywood: Analyzing Lincoln

In this lesson, students will review two short representations of the life of Abraham Lincoln — one in the recent Hollywood films, the other in a documentary — and will analyze, discuss, and think further about how history and historical figures are re-constructed through fiction, as well as the boundaries between fact and fiction in such portrayals.

Knock, Knock. Who’s There? The Art of Creating and Delivering The Perfect Joke

The objective of the lesson is for students to create and perform their own comedy segments.

Some folks have it; some don’t. What is it that gives some people the ability to deliver jokes that have entire audiences laughing hysterically? Is it the energy with which they tell the joke, or is it their magnetic personality, or it a combination of both? Ever wonder who writes the jokes for your favorite comedy show or skit? Comedians like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Jerry Seinfeld didn’t just start out on their own shows but started off as stand up comedians or comedy writers.