Star Wars and Totalitarianism/WWII


Most of us Star Wars nerds know that it is, in part, based off of real events – including WWII.  The book, Star Wars and History, gives great insight to those unfamiliar with these ideas.  (while on the topic, I would also suggest buying Star Wars Propaganda as an awesome resource that comes with posters.  Also – check out for some absolutely amazing photos incorporating WWII and Star Wars – I bought two sets for my classroom – I have my students compare them to the original photos and we discuss why we need to make sure our sources are credible).  Here are some resources for incorporating Star Wars into the classroom – I am not going to blog this time about my exact lesson plans, but more wanted to share some ideas.  I’d be happy to answer any questions and would be excited if anyone would be willing to share with me what they have used.

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Cult of Personality – what a great intro to being a BLERD (   ) and some great “historical” music I loved growing up.  We need to get past hero worship and see leaders for fallible people who are like you and I.

Speaking of propaganda… Important to point out the racism inherent in this clip as well.

I also have my students use the below Star Wars comic book earlier in the year to teach close reading skills.  As this comic is from the Storm Trooper point of view, they need to go through and pick out the evidence that is given in the comic.  They then write an argumentative based essay on this evidence to answer the prompt – are Storm Troopers good or evil?  -We have had some fascinating discussions in the classroom based on individual student interpretations of the source material.  It is a great lesson to teach skills apart from content – often difficult to do in a content rich course like social studies.  Again, I’d be happy to share more and would be happy to see any suggestions you may have as well. (Issue #21).

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Watchmen, Dylan, Counter Culture, and Close Reading

When reading through the class textbook (McGraw-Hill’s United States History and Geography 2016) and planning ahead on a new section, I came across an aside box on Bob Dylan that got me thinking.

I love playing music throughout the year – we often annotate hip hip to discuss modern social and political issues and Dylan was an obvious tie-in.  I also thought about a beautiful book I had in my classroom – Bob Dylan: Revisited.  13 Graphic Interpretations of Bob Dylan’s Songs from Norton (ISBN 9780393076172). Copyright 2009.  I began to page through and chose the graphic interpretation of Blowin’ In The Wind, illustrated by Thierry Murat to use in our lesson.  Here is how my lesson worked out –

My PowerPoint –

Day 1 Step 1 – Do Now – take out a piece of paper.

  1. While listening to the song – Every Breath You Take – write down what you think the meaning of the song is and how it makes you feel. (annotate – give textual evidence)
  1. Read pp. 728-731 – bullet why people were upset and/or scared about events in the world. Don’t read every word – skim. (We had a class discussion on what it means to skim through a reading.  The students were surprised that I was instructing them to not read everything.  I explained how this is a literacy skill as well – just to get an idea of what we will be reading more in depth.  Students wrote about a lot of reasons why Americans were “nervous” – fear of nuclear war, civil rights protests, unequal distribution of wealth, putting an end to apathy, Vietnam War, free speech protests, Berkeley student protests, etc).
  2. Define the term “counterculture”.  (We also discussed what it meant to be counterculture today – surprisingly tough, as, in a good way, US culture is much more diverse today and difficult to tie down to “mainstream” – perhaps hipsters?)
  1. You will listen to Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind. Think – what is this song about? Write down the meaning of the song. YOUR opinion no wrong answer. Give an example from the song. (evidence)
  2. We will now take a look at a graphic representation of the song. You are to write on each panel – what is going on? We will then discuss – does this representation match your explanation of the song? (I bought 7 copies of the Bob Dylan Revisited book – one for each table of four students.  Students were tasked with writing a one-two sentence summary of each drawn panel.  What does it represent?  Students were NOT allowed to ask me what the graphic meant – it was up to them to make meaning.  When we discussed their interpretations as a class, they needed to supply textual/visual evidence for their answer.  This is an important skill in my room – having students understand that there is not always a “right” answer – but that they need evidence to back up their thinking.) Below is one page from Murat’s awesome interpretation.  We did this page together and eventually decided it was about WWII (looked like planes from WWII), WWI (barbed wire), but could not agree on the third panel – many thought the wind was whispering about the evils of war.

  1. Remember what you wrote about the meaning of Every Breath You Take?
  2. We will watch (Sting Explains) to discuss what songs really mean and how they can be taken out of context – but it is up to the listener to make meaning . Compare it to what you wrote down.  (Many students were surprised that this was actually a “stalker” song and that Sting was ok with listeners interpreting it as they wanted).  I then collected the Do Now sheets.

Day 2 – Step 2

  • Annotate the Times They Are a-Changin’ lyrics sheet
  • There are no wrong answers – what do YOU think it means?
  • Then we will pair/share

  • You will now draw five panels from Dylan’s Times They Are a Changin’ song, using the annotations you completed. Draw a representation of what each stanza means to you. Does it represent you? The World? The Past?  The Present?  (again – a focus was on textual evidence – why did students choose to draw what they did?  What in the song made them think this way?
  • We then went through the Watchmen images in my PowerPoint ( before watching the opening credits to the movie.  I also explained how Watchmen changed comics and how superheroes changed in the 80’s to match society (Frank Miller’s Batman as an example).  This was the counterculture of my childhood.
  • We then discussed my thoughts on the song – see my PowerPoint.
  • To finish, we looked at some songs and images to again discuss the importance of textual/visual evidence and individual interpretation (see PowerPoint)  – this was a fun way to wrap up the two day lesson and to review the needed skills.  Some examples –

A great song to use is Pumped Up Kicks – sounds cheery – until you realize what the song is actually about….

I would GREATLY appreciate any comments and suggestions below — this is the first time I have taught this course and I am always looking to improve.  I will say – my students were completely engaged and had a lot of fun – while also learning history and literacy skills – I was pleased. (I’ll have to upload some of my student drawings when I have them graded)