Satirical Video Plotlines
In this lesson, students will continue to look at Seinfeld’s use of the word really and how its use is satirical. Students will also begin to create a basic plotline for their groups’ satirical video.
- Read the lesson and student content.
- Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
- This task offers one final experience with voice, building on the previous lesson’s reading.
Review and discuss Jerry Seinfeld’s letter.
- What did Jerry Seinfeld say in his letter to TheNew York Times that you read in Lesson 23?
- What made it satirical?
- What categories of voice that you explored earlier do you notice: diction, sentence structure, subject matter, details, or ironies?
- What is actually being satirized?
- You’ll begin with summarizing what actually occurred, and you may need to assure students that they don’t need to understand the specific news references to grasp the humor.
- Determine the best method for students to share or pass along their entries depending on the layout of your classroom. You could have students share with the students to their left, for example.
- Here, of course, the satire changes: in the New York Times letter, Seinfeld was criticizing the op-ed columnist’s lack of understanding of the power of his signature expression “Really?” He was also criticizing the columnist’s lack of a sense of humor and perhaps even imagination.
- SWD: Monitor that all SWDs are able to engage in this activity productively. If they have trouble, be sure to practice with them briefly or to pair them up with students who can support them so that they can be successful.
Begin a Notebook entry titled “Really?”
- What does that word communicate? Why does Seinfeld seem to consider it so important? Write a sentence or two in response to the questions.
- Share your response with a classmate and look at a response from a different classmate. What can you add to his or her thinking? Write a sentence or two in response to your classmate’s thinking.
- Share this response with yet another classmate and get a response from a different classmate. Read the response without reading the original entry, and write one or two sentences in response to the response.
- Return the entry to its original owner.
Seinfeld?s Use of ?Really??
- You are hoping students see the power of understatement in this satire: instead of arguing at length, all Seinfeld has to say is “Really?” and his point is made.
- You’re also trying to draw students’ attention to the power of a single word as they head into writing.
- Seinfeld’s tone of voice, deadpan expression, and dismissal of a longer argument suggest a Juvenalian tone: it’s as if he can’t be bothered to respond at length to the opposition. This is the great power of sarcasm! Students might be interested in the root of the word, which literally means “to tear flesh.”
- ELL: Invite students who speak another language to translate “Really?” to their primary language, and ask them to think about how Seinfeld’s letter would (or wouldn’t) “work” in the other language.
Think about the responses you received, and write your thoughts about Seinfeld’s use of the word really . Consider the following questions as you go.
- What does the word mean? If you could translate it for someone, what would you say?
- Why is the word itself satirical?
- Is Seinfeld’s use of it more Juvenalian or Horatian?
- How does punctuation affect the satire? What if the word was followed by a period or an exclamation point? How would it change the effect of the word?
Power of a Single Word
- Walk around and listen to students during the small group discussions.
- Once again, you’re sliding students into their satirical video groups.
- The final question will point students in the direction of the voice and tone they’re aiming at in their videos. Even if they’re not sure what they want to say, they probably have an idea of their voice at this point and whether they’re more likely to be Horatian or Juvenalian. These decisions can shape other, equally important choices.
In your video groups, discuss your response about Seinfeld’s use of the word really .
Then talk about the following.
- Is there a single word you can imagine having this kind of effect in your video? What might it be, and how would you say it?
- Students will be at various points of decision making in their project. As you circulate, you’ll need to gauge their progress and plan to spend more time helping struggling groups make progress.
- If the groups are really far apart, ask one or two groups that are doing really well to explain what they’ve decided so other groups can get some solid ideas on how to move forward.
- You can also ask them how they got to this point: what steps did they take?
Now your group will begin to create a basic plotline of what you want your video to do.
- First you all must agree what you’d like to satirize in your video. You’ve come up with some preliminary ideas, but now it’s time to finalize your choice.
- Create storyboards to sketch out the steps in your video.
- As you go, draft preliminary dialogue or commentary.
- Ask for volunteers to show their storyboards and get feedback in an Author’s Chair format.
- Facilitate a Whole Group Discussion about how creating storyboards went.
Take part in an Author’s Chair for your storyboards.
- Listen as some students share their storyboards.
- Consider sharing your own.
Then discuss how creating your storyboards went.
- Prompt students to write and revise their storyboards for homework so they can begin filming in Lesson 25.
Continue to work together on your storyboards from home.
- Your storyboards should be more or less finished when you begin Lesson 25. Share your storyboards with your teacher.
- Set a time now when you’ll all be available by phone or online to talk about what you’ve accomplished and what you’ll get done before the next class.