Monday, November 16, 2009

How to Achieve World Domination in One 50-Minute Class Period or the Post in Which I Discuss Diversionary Tactics

When I was growing up my dad had a constant supply of gravel around our house because he was always using one of his tractors to move the gravel around to fill up potholes that would form on the many gravel drives around the lumberyard. From time to time my friends and I would climb the huge pile of white and grey granite stones and proclaim ourselves kings and queens of the world. That is, until we got knocked off our perch and onto our keisters. To this day I have scars and divets in my shins, knees and elbows from my rather abrupt ousters from being a world ruler.

From time to time I need a diversion in the classroom…maybe I don’t feel particularly well, perhaps the weather is really crummy, or it could be that a certain student is pushing my button a little too often. Then again, maybe I’m just simply not in the mood to teach that next lesson in my American Revolution unit or World War II, or I simply can’t face explaining how the Korean War has never really ended. Yes, believe it or not Elementaryhistoryteacher gets a bit worn mid-way through a unit...sometimes.

Then again….it could be the students need a diversion. You begin class and look out to find those glazed over looks that beg for a diversion. Perhaps it’s a really sunny day after a string of really nasty weather days, maybe there was a really nasty fight down the hall and it riled everyone up, and then again perhaps students need a diversion because……because diversions are…they are….

… the stuff of life!

Diversions make the mundane bearable.

So… of my little pleasures that serve as a diversionary lesson begins where I ring my little bell to signal class has begun and then on the whiteboard at the front of the board I write: Remain quiet. We are going to suspend our present study and detour down another road. Today’s lesson involves folks who wanted to take over the world, but first we are going to watch a little video and enjoy some music.

I show some song lyrics on the overhead and begin the video…..

Yep, from the mid-eighties the song is Everybody Wants to Rule the World from the band Tears For Fears. The audio is particularly good on this video, so turn it up and enjoy!

Here are the lyrics:

Welcome to your life…There’s no turning back…Even while we sleep…We will find you…Acting on your best behavior…Turn your back on Mother Nature.

Everybody wants to rule the world.

It’s my own design…It’s my own remorse…Help me to decide…Help me make the most of freedom and pleasure…nothing ever lasts forever.

Everybody wants to rule the world.

There’s a room where the light won’t find you…Holding hands while the walls come tumbling down…When they do I’ll be right behind you.

So glad we’ve almost made it….So sad they had to face it.

Everybody wants to rule the world.

I can’t stand this indecision…Married with a lack of vision

Everybody wants to rule the world.

Say that you’ll never, never, never, never need it….One headline why believe it?

Everybody wants to rule the world.

All for freedom and for pleasure….Nothing ever lasts forever.

Everybody wants to rule the world.

I ask students what they think the song is about and how it might fit into a study of history. I then inform them that when asked about the song, Curt Smith, the band’s lead vocalist, stated, “The concept is quite serious – it’s about everybody wanting power, about warfare and the misery it causes.”

Then we switch gears a little and we discuss a cartoon from the WB Television Network called Pinky and the Brain. You can find all sorts of video clips from the series at this YouTube link. Pinky and the Brain are two rats who have been altered genetically and reside in a laboratory. Pinky is good-natured but feebleminded while the Brain is self-centered and scheming. Each episode begins with the following dialogue:

Pinky: “So Brain, what do you want to do tonight?”

Brain: “The same thing we do every night, Pinky – try to take over the world!”

Added to the mix in each episode and each new plan for world domination are parodies of classic novels and popular movies.

I share with students that the show was actually inspired by an actual conversation between two men who had previously worked on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and the popular Ren and Stimpy series. They wondered like we all have what it would be like to take over the world.
We then launch into a discussion about world domination. Why would someone want to control the world? What would the pros and cons be? Would it take a particular type of individual to actually pull off such a feat?

At this point I present a list to students including some of the following: Napoleon, Ghengkis Khan, Caesar, Hitler, Alexander the Great, and a few others. Hopefully, you have recognized these names as men who sought to take over the world…..or at least the world that was known to them at the time.

Based on our prior discussion regarding what motivates someone to seek world domination I ask students to choose one name and do a little in-class research using my encyclopedias and the vast array of Kids Discover magazines I’ve been collecting over the years. Each issue is centered around one topic…..The Constitution….Ancient Rome….Gengkis Khan, etc. They are geared for younger students age 7-12, and I haven’t found a student yet that doesn’t like them.

Students complete some research on their own and then I ask them to gather in small groups based on the person they chose. I ask them to share with each other what they have discovered and analyze the information in order to conclude what motivated the person to want to take over the world and why they failed. Finally, each student meets with another student who researched a different person. They share with each other what they have discovered and keep meeting with a different student until they have heard about each man on our research list.

Diversion ARE the stuff of life and sometimes they are very, very necessary.

1 comment:

Teacher Mom said...

This is such a great lesson! Thank you for posting it. It's funny how the kids think 80's bands are "oldies". Seems like yesterday to me. Ha.