Using Parodies to Enhance Student Learning

The Hunger But Mainly Death Games A Parody by Bratniss Everclean

  Perhaps you've caught WinterSpringPro's music video parody "I Wanna Go" or read The Hunger Games Parody's book The Hunger But Mostly Death Games. Whether or not you find them funny, your students surely will.
  I've used parodies to enhance my curriculum since I started teaching. Why? First, they add humor to my lesson. I may not be the funniest teacher (in fact, I know I'm not--my husband would be in the running for that title at our school), but I will try to incorporate humor somehow. Students like to laugh. And they are more attentive when the teacher adds a little humor to the lesson.
  Second, students must be familiar with the original work in order to "get" the parody. That might be incentive enough for them to pay attention in class.

  And third, having students write their own parodies gives them critical- and creative-thinking practice. Again, they have to be familiar with the material in order to write a parody. Then they have to make it funny. Writing humor is difficult. Jokes don't always pan out on the page like they would if they were acted out. Which is why I do encourage them to try acting them out (or at least reading them aloud) to practice that humor. When they write dialogue they need to ask themselves, "Is that what the character would say?" This helps with editing in any type of writing, of course.
  Normally I have my students do an end-of-the-unit parody with our Tragedy of Julius Caesar by Shakespeare unit. I choose this one because it's usually the hardest unit for them to understand so creating a parody helps them "get it". Plus, it tends to be not the most exciting units (even though there's plenty of what they love in it: Betrayal! Murder! Revenge!), so bringing in as much humor as I can really helps.
But you can assign a parody for any unit. I would limit it to one or two per year (or course). Great ideas can be spoiled by overuse. I only assign the parody once and it does tend to be memorable for my students. If I assigned it for other units, I think it would lose its appeal.
Once I get my parody handout ready, I'll post a link to it on this post. It's just a simple one-pager that gives students guidelines for their parody. (And mine is specific to Caesar, but I'll edit it and make it generic so you can use it for any unit.)
  I have my students present their parodies as a class (yes, they work in groups). I've had some that made complete iMovies, others who used their favorite video game and did voice-overs, some who did it in Spanish, and still others who did the red-neck version of Julius Caesar.  After completing the project and sharing with their classmates, they have a new understanding for the material, they realize it's a lot of work to write satire, and they realize that being funny is not as easy as it looks.
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