Have you ever been online and run into a video or meme about something you've taught? It probably made you laugh out loud, and you probably learned something from it as well. Maybe it was a funny exaggeration of a theme or a character, or maybe it was done to make a particular point. Either way, there was value in the comedic relief it provided. This is one of the major reasons I am an advocate for having students create modern day adaptations - parodies, rewrites, modern language - of works in my classroom.
Writing in literary forms like parody and satire is a strong tool to use in the classroom. The nature of these forms requires students to utilize higher order thinking skills. Whether you adhere to Bloom’s Taxonomy, or Webb’s Domains of Knowledge, these activities direct students to the highest forms of skills and knowledge such as analyzing, evaluating, and creating.
Take, for instance, a junior or senior English Language Arts class that has just finished reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and has been asked to create parodies from it. In the example below, Hamlet is summed up and imitated by capturing integral moments of the play. It hits on the significant (yet absurd in retrospect) plot points of Hamlet’s conflict, exaggerates the characters’ struggles and traits, and even lightly mocks the play. Students had to analyze important plot points, character traits, scenes of the drama, and central themes to the tragedy. Next, they deciphered and evaluated which pieces to combine for a mocking look at the tale. They finished by creating a storyboard that imitates the basic moments of the play, making the profound absurd.
Grade Level: Adaptable for Grades 3 -12
Time: Two 45-Minute Class Meetings
Objective: Students will be able to re-create their own version of a work of literature in one of the following methods:
This activity is designed to incorporate rigorous creative writing into a unit you are currently working on with your students. By asking your students to produce a parody, satire, or modern day adaptation, they are internalizing and synthesizing information. Although this might seem like just a fun activity, it also requires students to follow structural rules like rhyme patterns, meter, or syntax structure, all of which require thought and creativity.
When asked to create a parody, students can look to numerous methods and forms, such as poetry, film, song, and visual art. Storyboards provide students with an excellent option that combines carefully constructed prose (and/or dialogue) with visual representations. Visual intelligence is often a part of students' programming, and storyboards offer a unique option to meet this need.
Once you have completed a work of literature with your class, this assignment is an excellent extension or idea for a project. As the teacher, you can choose to give students a choice of which type of adaptation they want to produce, or you can choose it for them. If your students are unfamiliar with the following ways to create a modern adaptation, go over the terms and show some of our examples.
|A humorous or deliberately exaggerated imitation of a serious piece of literature|
|The use of irony, sarcasm, or ridicule to expose, denounce, or deride vice, folly, etc.|
|Transformation of a piece of literature from language in its original period, to language of the current period|
One necessary step into familiarizing students with each of these adaptations is to provided them with real world examples. To do this, you can research and find videos online or you can ask your students to find examples and share with the class - or check out some of our examples at the bottom of the page. Examples of parody also appear on television and viral videos all the time, such as Sesame Street and Saturday Night Live. Bringing real life application into the lesson is essential; it helps students remember the information and shows them relevance.
To create a parody of a work, a student must first take stock of important concepts and details, central themes, and defining character traits, then select elements that capture and represent the work. The student can then evaluate the symbolic relationships and create an inventive and unique perspective of that work through humor and mockery.
Once they are familiar with the types of modern day adaptation, students should create an outline and a first draft. In a three or six-cell storyboard, students can successfully accomplish a common form of parody: summarizing a piece of literature with humorous brevity.
When students are creating their drafts, it is also important to ask them what they see when they think about their story or poem. This can help the students to decide where to go next in the sequence of events. Once they are ready to complete the final stage, they should publish it by creating a storyboard that depicts their modern day adaptation.
The following is a list of compiled ideas that any teacher can adapt for any unit. Remember to think outside the box and allow your students to showcase their creative skills.
Rewrite a famous poem in modern language
Take Shakespeare (or any author/novel) and create a parody or satire about one of his plays, a character, or a particular part, like a soliloquy or favorite scene
Write your own Hero’s Journey, where you are the hero
Create your own Greek god or goddess! Or take yourself or someone you know and make them a Greek god
Take an important premise from a work of literature and apply it to your own life
Although this lesson can be used for multiple grade levels, below are Common Core Standards for Grades 9-10. Please see your Common Core Standards for the correct grade-appropriate strands.