LESSON PLAN — Prince Ea and His Message for Getting Life Off the Ground: Using Motivational Content in Writing Instruction

Teachers in any classroom are not simply teaching content. Providing instruction about Columbus and his voyage across the Atlantic to Hispaniola is irrelevant unless the student can make a connection between that voyage and something in his or her own life. In the case of Cristoforo Colombo, the context created in the classroom could be anything from: journey to the unknown, preparing for an important project, working in groups, meeting with a different culture, or considering the ripple effects of one’s actions -the externalities, for example. A teacher helps to guide students into those connected, relevant contexts, assisting the student to think beyond the facts.

Videos of many kinds can aid in the critical thinking part of the school experience, the “thinking beyond”. I have used TED talks for over a decade, but occasionally, I come across a video that lends itself to both skills enhancement and thoughtful responses. Prince EA, an American spoken word artist, musician, and motivational speaker, created a video about the end of life, or rather about the life that can be lived before the end. In class, the video expands the students’ points of reference and then narrows the focus. Repeated viewing of the video helps non-native speakers and native speakers alike absorb the content, while class and group discussions anchor the ideas and provide a foundation for writing.

STEP 1 — One minute of no sound.

Students watch the first minute of the video without any sound. When it is over, in groups, they discuss what the content might be and then go to the board and write their hypothesis. The guesses remain on the board through the second full viewing of the video.

STEP 2 — Full viewing with sound. Students are encouraged to write down quick notes about the content as they listen. Not detailed notes, but notes about the ideas. I suggest at least 5–7 short phrases to help trigger recall later on.

After the video, which is 5:41 minutes long, the class will check the board to see if any of the group ideas were on target. HINT — Usually, the guesses are way off but occasionally groups have written something about old people.

STEP 3 — Based on the first full viewing of the video and the short notes, students respond to the following prompt with a short paragraph. “What message did the speaker want to convey?” This is a broadly based prompt without a lot of structure.

Have the students keep the paragraph and the notes handy.

STEP 4 — Students are asked to add to their notes during the second full viewing. Afterward, they will write another paragraph based on a slightly different prompt with a bit more structure. “What were the most important aspects for you in the speaker’s message and why?” In this paragraph, students need to relate information about why they responded to the message as they did, communicating on a more personal level.

When this paragraph is complete, students can share within their group or with the class.

STEP 5 — A final showing of the video is interspersed with stops for discussion. Ask the students leading, open ended questions and monitor where the discussion goes, but don’t guide it. You will not use all of these in every class. They can be alternated at your pleasure.

A. “If you were a braver person, what risk would you have taken that you haven’t taken yet?” (Around :40)

B. “What is your gift?” (About 1:00)

C. “What does it mean when he says “That dream had him”?

D. “How can you relate the airplane example to yourself?” (About 1:38) HINT — Great opportunity to teach the concept of counterintuitive.

E. “What is the thief in your mind?” (About 2:32)

F. “Give an example of someone you know who is a “kinda”.” (About 2:52)

G. “Why does he say that ‘Struggle and Criticism are prerequisites for greatness.’?” (About 3:57)

H. “Why does he say ‘You were born anew in each moment,?” (About 4:20)

STEP 6 — Bringing it back to the person. In class, this last writing assignment is due several days or even a week into the future, in order that students can mull over and discuss the ideas without the urgency of an immediate response. Students will write a paragraph or essay about how they see the future for themselves and whether the ideas in this video might have an impact on how that future unfolds. Since my students are international, they often come from cultures where parental aspirations guide their first three or more decades. Therefore, it is not necessary for students to write about how they are going to buck that system, but rather how they can incorporate or blend their parents hopes with the student’s own dream.

Not Everyone Lives