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Posts Tagged ‘popular culture’

Screenplays in the Curriculum? Of Course!

Clapperboard (Credit: Photo by Will Jackson, via Flickr Creative Commons)

Television and movies are–for better or for worse–a dominating cultural force. They feed popular culture and the young minds imbibing it.

According to a 2012 Nielsen report, teens watch about 22 hours of television a week. And that’s not including movies, social media, YouTube, videos, and all sorts of other technologies.

Educators may find all of this media exposure distracting to their students. According to a report by Common Sense Media, “Many teachers think their students use of entertainment media has hurt their academic performance.”

So what’s an educator to do?

I recently watched the School Library Journal webcast Pop Literacy. (I highly recommend it.) It’s a great overview of how (and why) to incorporate pop culture into your curriculum, including a fascinating discussion of the word “appropriate” in terms of pop culture in the classroom.

One thing, in particular, struck me as worthwhile, fun, and exciting for students, as well as for teachers.

Screenwriting.

If young people are watching an average of three hours or more of television a day, it probably would benefit them to know WHAT they are watching and HOW it got there. Television shows and movies require a lot of elements along to way to becoming a finished product. One of the first? A screenplay.

A screenplay, or a script, is created by one person or a team of writers. Dialogue, interaction, action, and reaction, setting, set design, costume, and prop descriptions are woven together to create a world not just to be imagined, as in a book, but also to be brought into form.

How can this project be beneficial to students?

Most students watch and enjoy television. They are drawn in by the story, intrigued by the characters, immersed in the narrative, invested in its conclusion. Some students do not enjoy classroom creative writing–the process can be intimidating and overwhelming. Screenwriting is a way to engage students as part of the collaborative and creative process in writing a screenplay.

Reading. You can start by reading, analyzing, and discussing a screenplay. There’s a huge selection at imsdb.com, including Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, La La Land, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You can search by genre, or for a specific script. For younger students, try the read-aloud plays in SIRS Discoverer.

Discussion. Introduce students to the codes and conventions of screenwriting and review the significance of the three-act structure. Explore how to create a unique voice for each character and consider why a convincing setting is an important element of the screenplay.

Writing. Your students now have a basic idea of the screenwriting process and screenplay elements. Now, divide the students into teams, give them parameters, and set them to work imagining, discussing, and writing! Try this Writing a Screenplay lesson plan for guidance and inspiration.

Ready to move one step further and create student films from the finished screenplays? This filmmaking unit for 6th through 8th grade students gives an overview of the process.

Interested in learning more about screenwriting in the classroom? Check out the links below.

Teaching Scriptwriting, Screenplays and Storyboards for Film and TV Production
How to Bring Screenwriting into the Classroom
Teaching Screenwriting to Teenagers
Scriptwriting in the Classroom

Do you have thoughts about or experiences with screenwriting as an activity for your students? We’d love to hear them! Tweet us #ProQuest.

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10 Things About the King

Elvis Presley rose from humble beginnings to become the ‘King of Rock and Roll.’ He remains an international pop culture icon almost 40 years after his death. On the eve of his 81st birthday, here are 10 things you may or may not know about Elvis:

Elvis Presley's Birthplace, Tupelo, Mississippi

Elvis Presley’s Birthplace, Tupelo, Mississippi [public domain]
Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive via Library of Congress

1. Elvis Aaron Presley was born on January 8, 1935 in a two-room house in Tupelo, Mississippi to Gladys Love (Smith) and Vernon Elvis Presley. He had a stillborn identical twin brother, named Jessie Garon.

2. Presley, who never received formal music training or learned to read music, studied and played by ear. He identified the Pentecostal church as his primary source of musical training.

3. When he was 13 years old, he and his family moved to Memphis, Tennessee. His music career began there in 1954, when he recorded a song with producer Sam Phillips at Sun Records.

Sun Records Studio, Memphis, Tennessee

Sun Records Studio, Memphis, Tennessee [public domain]
by Carol M. Highsmith via Library of Congress

4. In December of 1957, Elvis was drafted into the U.S. Army. Three girls from Montana wrote a letter to President Eisenhower in which they begged him not to give Elvis a G.I. haircut and cut off his sideburns.

5. While he was in the Army and stationed in Germany, he met 14-year-old Priscilla Ann Beaulieu. They married eight years later, on May 1, 1967, at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas.

6. Elvis is the best-selling solo artist in the history of recorded music, selling more than 1 billion recordings worldwide.

7. His only child Lisa Marie Presley was born on February 1, 1968. Ironically, the daughter of the ‘King of Rock and Roll’ was briefly married to Michael Jackson, the ‘King of Pop.’

Richard M. Nixon Shaking Hands with Entertainer Elvis Presley in the Oval Office

Richard M. Nixon Shaking Hands with Entertainer Elvis Presley in the Oval Office
[public domain] via White House Photo Office/National Archives and Records Service

8. On December 21, 1970, Presley visited President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office. The photo of Nixon and Elvis shaking hands in the White House is the most-requested image in the holdings of the National Archives.

Visitors Pass by the Presleys' Graves--Graceland (Elvis Presley Mansion)

Visitors Pass by the Presleys’ Graves–Graceland (Elvis Presley Mansion)
by Adam Jones on Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0

9. Elvis died at age 42 at his Memphis home on August 16, 1977. Elvis bought the mansion named Graceland in 1957 for $100,000. It was opened for tours in 1982, and since then an average of 500,000 visitors pay tribute annually.

10. Elvis was buried twice. Elvis was originally placed in a crypt next to his mother, Gladys, at the Forest Hill Cemetery in Memphis. Shortly after, several young men attempted to steal his remains. His father Vernon then decided to move both bodies to the grounds of Graceland. He received special permission from city officials to do so, and they both rest there today.

To learn more about Elvis Presley’s life, music, legacy, and his lasting influence on American culture, visit ProQuest’s eLibrary Research Topic page, or one of these editorially selected websites, available on SIRS WebSelect:

Elvis Presley

One Life: Echoes of Elvis

When Nixon Met Elvis

Anniversary of “The Raven”: Why Poe’s Famous Poem Lives On Forevermore

On this day in 1845, Edgar Allan Poe’s narrative poem, “The Raven,” was published in the New York Evening Mirror. Although the poem earned him a mere nine dollars upon its publication, it immediately captured readers’ imaginations and made Poe a household name. More than a century and a half later, our continued fascination with Poe and his mythical bird are evident throughout popular culture. What other poem can be said to have inspired an NFL football team (the Baltimore Ravens), a rock album (Lou Reed’s “The Raven”), a Hollywood film (“The Raven,” starring John Cusack as Poe) and an episode of “The Simpsons” (“Treehouse of Horror”)? Even those who’ve never read the poem are likely to recognize its most famous line: Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”

Poe considered the death of a beautiful woman the “most poetical topic in the world,” and he believed that bereaved lovers made great narrators. Thus “The Raven” follows an unnamed narrator who is beset with grief over the death of his beloved Lenore. Late one dreary December night while reading a book in an effort to distract himself from his sorrow, the narrator is visited by a mysterious guest—the raven, who answers the narrator’s every inquiry with a single, maddening word: Nevermore. The poem’s supernatural atmosphere and gothic setting give “The Raven” its spooky appeal. But the narrator’s mental anguish gives the poem its emotional power. By the end of the poem, the bereaved narrator, so distraught at the prospect of never seeing his love again, has lost his sanity. If you’ve never gotten around to reading this most famous of American poems, give it a shot! Find out why “The Raven” continues to haunt and enthrall readers. After you’ve read it, visit the Literary Corner in SIRS Renaissance to learn more about the poem and its legendary author.