Prometheus, Batman Begins and X-Men Origins: A Writing Exercise in Prequel Character Development

This lesson will use recently released prequel films to inspire students in their own creative writing and character development. Over the past several years “origin” films have been wildly popular. Prometheus, Batman Begins, and X-Men First Class are all examples of such films. These films take well known characters and provide a back story that depicts the life events that shaped their personalities. They explain and justify the characters’ actions, for better or for worse. It is an non-traditional, non-chronological method of story telling. In this lesson your students will use these films as inspiration to do the same with their own writing.

Art Imitating Life? Reality TV and Stereotypes

The objective of this lesson is for students to critically analyze reality TV shows that perpetuate stereotypes and develop their own new reality TV show concept.

Shows like Jersey Shore, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Mob Wives, and MTV’s newest show, Buckwild, showcase the lives of different groups of people. Some argue that these shows negatively depict the people featured in the programs and reinforce injurious stereotypes. Most recently, the show Buckwild, which focuses on a group of teens in Appalachia, has faced backlash from the Appalachian community. Even the US Senator from West Virginia labeled the show a sham and called for MTV to cancel it.

Analyzing Satire in The Simpsons and Other Forms of Popular Culture

In this lesson, students will become familiar with the literary device of satire through The Simpsons, they will analyze the elements of satire present in The Simpsons, and they will research, analyze, and write about satire as a literary device present in other examples of popular culture.

I Did WHAT?!? Alcohol, the Brain, and the Blackout

In this lesson, students will discuss the role of alcohol in popular youth culture and will learn about where alcohol comes from and how it affects the brain. Students will specifically examine why people sometimes blackout when they’ve had too much to drink.

Royce White vs. The Rockets: Just How Real is Mental Illness?

In this lesson, students examine their own perceptions of mental illness to help the class reach a consensus on the following question: Should the Houston Rockets provide Royce White everything he demands, or is White asking too much?

Royce White was drafted in the first round of the 2012 NBA draft and picked 16th overall by the Houston Rockets. White has yet to play a single minute in the NBA, however, because he has demanded that the team make special accommodations to deal with his anxiety disorder.

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.

Is The Snooze Button Bad For Your Health? Understanding the science of sleep

There are very few things in life that feel better than those 10 extra minutes of sleep after pressing the snooze button on your alarm in morning. Unfortunately, hitting the snooze button to get a few more precious moments of sleep can potentially do more damage than good.

The reason sleep feels so good, and bonus sleep feels even better, has a lot to do with chemicals being released in our bodies. Whoever said sleep is like a drug wasn’t lying. As you fall asleep, your body releases a chemical called serotonin into your bloodstream. (Also, see our post Dubstep on the brain for other examples of serotonin’s effects on the human body). Serotonin is a chemical that tells the brain to soothe the body and creates a calm, peaceful feeling of well-being and happiness. Hitting the snooze button is literally like taking another hit of serotonin to the brain. So why is this bad for us again? Don’t worry I’m getting there…

During a normal 8 hour sleep cycle, your body releases serotonin to send you to dreamland and then slowly brings you back by lowering the levels of serotonin and shooting you with a dose of dopamine, another chemical known for energizing the body, giving you that feeling of alertness and motivation. As your body naturally lowers your serotonin and increases your dopamine levels, every time you hit the snooze button you are re-injecting yourself with serotonin mixed with high levels of dopamine. This chemical high leaves you feeling good in the moment but you eventually crash from the chemical imbalance and may lead to waking up feeling disoriented and drained of energy for the rest of the day.

While I enjoy those extra minutes of sleep just as much as the next guy, there are some studies that show snooze sleep may cause a decline in brain function that lead to loss of memory, slowed reaction time and lack of focus and concentration.

We each have our own unique sleep/wake cycles. If you’re having trouble sleeping and you wake up every morning feeling unrested and drained of energy you can analyze your own sleep cycle by journaling the rhythmic pattern of your sleep schedule throughout the week. Keeping a sleep diary and doing some simple data analysis can help figure out the root of insomnia, and other problems related to mood and fatigue. After a few days of collecting data you will notice a pattern start to emerge from your sleep schedule. You may discover daily habits or changes in mood that affect your sleep. Once you have this data you can make some slight changes to your daily habits and routine or even diet. Visit your doctor and bring your notes with you to come up with a plan together.

Are Pop Stars the Best Advocates of Political or Social Awareness?

In this lesson, students will use Justin Bieber’s recent gaffe at the Anne Frank House to debate and explore whether or not pop stars can act in a useful way regarding sensitive social and political issues. They will also consider whether or not pop stars can make decent politicians.