Writing Your Own “Epic Rap Battle”

In this lesson, students will demonstrate an understanding of two historical figures and their opposing ideologies by writing their own “Epic Rap Battles of History.” They will also exercise their debate and persuasive writing skills.

Emcee Shakespeare

The goal of this lesson is for students examine the differences between Shakespearean English, modern English, and Hip Hop slang by analyzing and interpreting lines from some of Shakespeare’s plays. The lesson can be extended into a creative writing assignment by asking students to incorporate lines, themes, and storylines from Shakespeare’s writing into their own raps. This lesson is especially effective during a class unit on Shakespeare or one of his plays.

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Why Fairy Tale Reboots are a Necessary Part of Society

Fairy tale reboots are so in right now.  Cinderella’s in the theatres, Once Upon a Time had a strong last season, and Maleficent rocked the box office. Versions of all these stories have already been made. So why are we rebooting them? Is it a cynical cash grab by studios? Well, yes, partially. But it’s also something more.
Fairy tales are a way to communicate shared values. As our values change, so to must our touchstones that convey them.

Magic Mirror by Greg GuilleminThe old versions of fairy tales just don’t work for people today. We don’t seem to find them entertaining, funny, inspiring, or relevant. Our culture has changed, and so our stories are changing as well.This is not the first time that we have changed fairy tales. Disney itself became rich rebooting the dark German peasant tales of the Brothers Grimm into something light and fun for consumerist America, then rehashed them again with a spate of direct-to-video sequels in the 1990s. Now, Disney, and others, are again changing fairy tale characters to make them more relevant to society today. The changes to fairy tales show us many changes in how mainstream society views both the media and the world.

Why Do Fairy Tales Matter?

Fairy tales, or similar folklore, appear in most world cultures. Often, when they were written, they were not believed to be fiction. For example, the Brothers Grimm published “Hansel and Gretel” in 1812, 66 years before the last real-life witchcraft trial in the United States was held in 1878. These fairy tales had real relevance to people who believed in witches, fairies, and other evil creatures. Now, few people believe, but fairy tales are still relevant. In fact, with the rise of fantasy literature, movies and TV shows, it’s clear that we are interested in magic almost as much as those ancestors who believed in it. Partially, this is because we still use fairy tales as what literary critics call “touchstones.” Touchstones are references that most people can understand, like the phrases “wicked stepmother” and “magic beans.” These touchstones carry a lot of meaning in a small package, and can be used for metaphors, morals, political speeches, and more. They are a way to communicate shared values and understandings. As our values change, how do we update our touchstones?


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.

How to Write an Op-Ed Using Pop Culture Topics

In this lesson, students will learn how to write a successful op-ed by focusing on a controversial topic in popular culture. They will research the topic thoroughly, choose a side to argue, and convey their positions in a 2-3 page op-ed.

You’ve Been Catfished!

College football star Manti Te’o was in the news for his alleged victimization in an online relationship hoax. For two years, Te’o believed he was in a monogamous relationship with Stanford student Lennay Kekua. This relationship, however, was an elaborate hoax created by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who was pretending to be Lennay. While Te’o and Lennay never met in person, they did have extensive conversations on the phone and via email. This hoax was leaked to sports and media news outlets, and it was eventually revealed that there was no Lennay Kekua.

Te’o is not alone. One in five relationships begins on an online dating site, and that’s not counting romances that bloom via Facebook, Yelp, Twitter and during gameplay of popular games such as World of Warcraft. The Manti Te’o story also isn’t the first instance of false impersonating online. MTV recently debuted the reality TV show Catfish (a person who engages someone in a fake relationship online), which highlights a different “couple” each week who met online but have yet to meet face-to-face.

The objective of this lesson is to introduce students to the implications of online writing and the ways our writing reflects certain images of ourselves to capture different people. This lesson will also allow students to think critically about why and how they evaluate people, what sort of snap judgments they make, and how they read into situations without even realizing it.

BANJI: Understanding Individuality and Writing Personal Essays

In this lesson, students will embrace the “BANJI Movement,” a term originally coined by Missy Elliot’s new protege, Sharaya, by explaining how they embody the concept of “Being Authentic and Never Jeopardizing Individuality” and reflecting on the aspects of their lives that have shaped their individuality. They will then use this understanding to write a personal statement or essay about an experience that shaped them into the individuals they are today.