3 Videos to Get Students Hyped About Thinking and Writing

When I was teaching in college, I used a number of videos to help keep students interested in class. These three were staples in my first-year writing courses.

1. Why I Hate School But Love Education – Suli Breaks

By the time students get to college, they’ve actually been forced to do a lot of reading, thinking, and writing about education, but few have seen a young person convey his opinions about the purpose of higher education as eloquently as Suli Breaks does in “Why I Hate School but Love Education.”

In the spoken-word poem, Breaks uses his rhymes, a killer musical score, on-screen text, and stellar cinematography to get the audience to think about the why of education. The poem/video starts off with that very question: “So you want to get a degree. Why?”

I liked to use this video fairly early in the semester in first-year writing classes because I wanted to set up a particular tone for the class. I wanted to students to try and get beyond their preset opinions and think about the whys of situations.

2. The The Impotence of Proofreading – Taylor Mali

Taylor Mali, probably best known for “What Teachers Make,” performed this version of “The The Impotence of Proofreading” in 2005 sitting next to a jovial Billy Collins. Some may consider it inappropriate, because it says things like “get into a good colleague” and “not just anally community colleague,” but that’s the point. He’s reading something that has funny malapropisms (when the wrong words get used, usually to a comedic effect); he’s reading them as a warning against using them and as a reminder to proofread. Some other funny-but-maybe-inappropriate things from the video: “what do you want it to douche?” “careless little clit of the mouth,” “sale of two titties,” “assmates,” “laughed at pubic-ly,” and “red penis.”

I showed this video before peer review workshops, mostly because I think it’s hilarious, but also to loosen up the students. Before the first peer review workshop of a semester, students were usually pretty uptight. They were bringing in essays they had worked hard on, and they were about to share these essays with other students. They were also supposed to listen to others’ essays and give constructive feedback. All of this is tough for amateur writers and readers, so a little relevant humor lightens things up.

Think Different – Apple Advertisement

It may be cheesy, it may be old, but I can’t help but be inspired every time I see this video from Apple. It first ran in 1997 and it is widely considered the start of one of the most successful advertising campaigns ever. It got people to equate Apple products with being unique and special, like all the people in the video.

Aside from the history of the campaign and the company, just looking at the images of all the great people in the ad and listening to the words (which do not mention a company at all) give me chills. I love, especially, how it lumps together brave adventurers, intelligent scientists, social leaders, artists, and musicians. These days, if you listen to the media talking about education, it’s all about the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), but Apple figured out — and everyone should take note — that it takes more than just one thing. This video, for me, symbolizes that it takes a combination of subjects and thought-types to affect change in the world; to make the world better.

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