Friday, June 19, 2009

Classroom Activity: Write an Episode of Your Favorite TV Show with Spanish CSL in the Plot

by Ann Abbott

Once I started to use Twitter, I found a wealth of information about community service learning (CSL) from all over the country. Truthfully, sometimes all the great information can be overwhelming. But building relationships and finding real gems makes it worthwhile.

Here's one gem: a blog post about how CSL stories can become the basis of plots for Hollywood productions.

What a great idea!

And although we missed the deadline to submit stories, I think the concept would be a great basis for a fun in-class activity. (Remember, my examples are all based on Spanish CSL, but I'm sure you could think of examples in English and in any subject matter.)

Learning Objectives
1. Students recognize and recreate the human drama of Spanish CSL and the situations they encounter in the community.
2. Students use their communication and presentation skills to enact (or summarize) a Spanish CSL-based plot.
3. Students to consider the power of stories to create change.
4. Students analyze the influence of celebrities and how it might be leveraged for good.

Before Class

1. Ask students to watch the above video.
2. Ask students to read this press release.
3. Ask students to read the examples of stories at this post.
4. Ask students to go to this website and look up some stars that interest them at this website, including at least one Latina/o star, e.g., Shakira.

In Class
1. Ask students to mention examples of celebrities who promote service and/or charity. (Examples: Oprah's Angel Network, Angelina Jolie's work with UNICEF, Brad Pitt's work with green architecture and the rebuilding efforts in New Orleans. What about Latina/o celebrities?) What are the pros and cons of celebrity-endorsements?

2. Draw a concept map on the board with "service or community engagement" encircled in the middle. Ask students to mention movies, tv shows, music videos, songs, etc. that use that as a plot element or a characterization tool. (Examples: Pay It Forward, the nun in Dead Man Walking who fights for social justice.) What image of service do these entertainment vehicles project? Charity, maintaining the status quo, "look how lucky we are," social justice, engagement, radicalism, something else?

3. Divide students into teams. Give students a genre of television show, and ask each team to come up with a plot that incorporates service in some way. Each team presents their plot, either by enacting it or summarizing it. Students can vote for the best one. Then move on to a different genre and ask students to do the same thing. Genres:
  • Children's shows. Example: A refugee family from the Congo arrives to Sesame Street. Bert and Ernie try to talk to the children, but they speak a different language. They decide to play games with the children in the park to show that you can welcome new community members and share with them even when you don't share a common language.
  • Crime shows. Law & Order, CSI.
  • Medical dramas. Grey's Anatomy, ER.
  • Sitcoms.
  • Reality tv.

Alternatively, you could assign each team a different genre and then vote on the best plot in any drama.

4. Conclusion: Ask students to connect the importance of story-telling to the communities where they work. What stories about Spanish CSL can they tell their friends and family to encourage them to engage in service? Can they write a story about their CSL work to include in the community partner's newsletter or website? Could their story encourage others to donate their time and/or money to the community partner? Finally, has their Spanish CSL work changed "the plot" of their own lives in any way? (Sometimes students decide to change majors, careers

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