Give Your Students an Andrew Huang Challenge
I drift in and out of my obsession with Youtube. I’m split between the middle-aged father of two reality that I grow more comfortable with each day, and the younger millennial-esque yearnings to lose countless hours within the digital chasm that is the Internet. So it was with mixed delight and frustration that my children discovered Andrew Huang’s Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing on Rainbows. You can watch it below, but be warned; its ear-worm like qualities will leave you languishing for many days if not weeks…please don’t send me your therapy bills when you finally succumb to its maddening rhythm.
If you’ve watched the video…and still reading this blog post, my sincere apologies. It’s this type of silly, light-hearted performance art that stirs my mind, and besides irritating everyone around the breakfast table, gets me thinking about how to leverage the social media world to not only engage students, but challenge them. So I concocted a writing/music/performance challenge that would be a blast to do with students in just about any English, Writing, Music, or Theater/Performance class. I wish I still had students, perhaps in a digital media course, to work on projects like this alongside them.
Andrew Huang Challenge
Andrew likes his subscribers and viewers to submit music challenges. He’s created music with sounds from lightsabers, wheels, and apples, among other more common objects. He also creates amazingly creative lyrical challenges.
Challenge students to create a one-vowel poem, story, or rap in the vein of Andrew’s One-Vowel Rap. It doesn’t need to be lengthy or earth-shatteringly awesome. You could issue the challenge as a way to get students going at the start of a unit (jump right in and get their hands dirty…so to speak), or create smaller challenges each week. You could even use it as an assessment piece; it wouldn’t have to be anything terribly formal for actual performance or presentation; it could just as easily be a video challenge that lives within the classroom, or a daily station rotation for elementary students.
So your students can write short poems and stories with just one vowel? How about challenging them to create poetry, prose, or song with using any vowels except the one they used in the first challenge! Andrew not only did it, but it actually sounds pretty incredible too!
Not challenging enough? Show them Andrew’s 26-genre video and see if students can craft alphabet-driven creative writing that covers 26 literary genres! Make it a group project, or a class project!
I’d like to think that these challenges are do-able in most classrooms, provided the teacher is willing to let go of traditional classroom thought (projects begin, are conducted, and concluded within a rigid framework) and just start creating with students. Language Arts, music, and performance-based classes scream for this type of hands-on learning, where students have agency over how they express not just their learning, but themselves as well. At the very least, I’d love to see projects like this happening more than just at the end of the year.
Sure, it would be messy, but it would be a fun kind of messy, and something that could help rally students after extended periods of vocabulary review, test prep, or lecture. It falls in line with the DS106 ethos of learning by doing, and providing opportunities within the classroom derived from the world in which students live, not just simulations of the adult world, or the world we keep telling them we’re preparing them for.