What Teachers Can Learn From Marvel
That title probably caused a few eyebrows to be raised. I know what you are thinking..."I don't have superheroes in my curriculum. There is no Tony Stark, no Captain America, no Thor in my standards." While it would be awesome if we did have those characters in our curriculum, I want us to dive deeper past all the actors, special effects, and promotion teams to the writing that takes place on Marvel's hit movie and TV shows. What can we learn from how these shows are written and the YouTube channels that break down every moment of them?
What if my students had the same desire to search for more content about my lessons?
When Marvel movies or TV shows come out, I am always excited to sit down and watch. My wife's comment the other day was, "I feel like all we ever watch is Marvel stuff". She isn't wrong in that observation. However, I am not a "super fan". Prior to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I couldn't tell you much, if anything, about these characters. I don't have a collection of comics in my attic...or anywhere in my house. Nevertheless, I really enjoy watching Marvel movies and TV shows. Not only do I enjoy the movies and shows, I enjoy watching the breakdowns on YouTube channels that search for "Easter Eggs" and predict what is coming next. It fascinates me, and I often spend more time watching breakdowns of shows than the actual shows themselves. After completing the LOKI series on Disney +, the thought occurred to me..."What if my students had the same desire to search for more content about my lessons?"
How awesome would that be? "Hey Mr. Barkes! I spent two hours last night reading and watching videos about George Washington." I mean my mind would be blown and I might just spend the day running up and down my street telling everyone I had solved all the problems in education. Really...how can we do this? Is it possible to create enough intrigue, interest, and passion about our content that students would want to find out more on their own? I think it is!
Where do you start? I would start, much like a Marvel TV show, with episodes instead of lessons. I would create a video of my content. It could be shot on your phone using a tool like Apple Clips, or you could go big time and use your schools recording equipment (if they have it). Create a 45 minute episode with "Easter Eggs", suspense, character development, and don't be afraid to leave loose ends for kids to want to investigate. This 45 minute episode is your lesson...FOR THE ENTIRE WEEK! (We will get to what the kids will do throughout the remainder of the week below.) If you are unsure how to tackle this, I highly recommend checking out the article from mission.org that they shared on Medium by clicking HERE. They do a great job sharing 20 Storytelling Lessons We Can Learn From Marvel. Creating just one 45 minute episode may sound like an easy task, but to do this well, I highly recommend collaborating with a team of teachers that teach the same subject and are willing to tackle this same plan together. I would assign "episodes" to teachers to write, and have them bring it back to the group to review. Collaborate on how to add interest, how to leave loose ends for student to research, and how to keep it all moving towards the same ending for the Unit being taught. Once you have your script you can start filming your episodes. Have fun with it. Don't be afraid to use the team of writers as characters or to add images to the video that help keep students engaged. It doesn't need to just be you sitting at your desk talking...however, it also doesn't have to be Marvel level filming here either.
What do your students do on the "non-episode" days? This is where we go back to the time I spend on YouTube watching breakdowns of each episode of Marvel's Disney + shows. Your students throughout the week will create their own videos that break down your episode scene by scene. They can look for things that connect to previous episodes, make predictions about the loose ends you have left for them, and predict what they think is around the corner in future episodes. At the end of the week, you could share several of the students videos to wrap up. Having students share their content each week does several things. First, it shows them the importance of the work they are doing. Next, they have the opportunity to learn how to improve their own videos by seeing what their peers are doing. Finally, it helps review the content that was covered in the week's episode.
What does a breakdown episode look like? I am hooked on New Rockstars. They do a great job of breaking down Marvel and other comic related shows. Check out their breakdown of Spiderman No Way Home below.
More To Come
The monkeys in my head have been batting this idea back and forth for a long time. There is so much more that I want to share, but I think that it will be easier to do so on my Podcast. Be sure to tune in next week for more on What Teachers Can Learn From Marvel and be sure to subscribe so you don't miss my planned upcoming episode with a writer for Marvel. For additional content follow me on Twitter and as always, thank you for taking the time to read my content. Have a great day!