Connecting Lessons to Real-Life: The Ice-Bucket Challenge [and more!]

As an intro activity to my English 10 class’ first major reading, Tuesdays with Morrie, I wanted to talk about ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease) and the complications of that disease since the main character, Morrie, struggles with ALS.

I wanted to make this connection meaningful, and because I have heard so much about the Ice Bucket Challenge over the past year (and because I knew a good majority of my tenth graders would be familiar with this challenge), I wanted to use it as a way to connect real-life to the text. So….I embarrassed myself a little 🙂

But wait! Before I explain that, let me start from the beginning with the lesson:

Today’s lesson was focused on introducing Tuesdays with Morrie–the message, purpose, themes, and characters. [You can find my hand-written planning sheets here: pg 1, pg 2].

I started with a short Prezi I found online, Tuesdays with Morrie: An Introduction by Janelle Scheckler. This was a very simple Prezi, but great to open discussion about major themes as well as the mood and tone, which I knew I would go over again and again as we moved forward in our reading.

A sample slide from Schlecker’s Prezi.

After the Prezi, which led right into Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture, I had the students watch the short clip and take notes. I created a note guide that grabbed some of the best and most relevant points from the video to connect it to what we would read within the next few days. I gave the students the option to listen and take notes later or to take notes during the video. After watching, I let them work independently for a few minutes to fill the questions in, and then I gave them a few minutes to work with partners to fill out any missing questions before moving to whole-group discussion.

The awesome Last Lecture video is below.

Notes sheet: The Last Lecture Notes

This note sheet was one way I adapted my teaching methods. Instead of just talking about ALS/dealing with death, I used the video and the actual words of Randy Pausch to connect directly to each of my students and give them a more personal story. Using the video was just one of my tools of inquiry used to change my teaching and make it different and meaningful.

After we discussed the notes, I embarrassed myself by showing my Ice Bucket Challenge video: click here to watch.


Then I asked the students about ALS, the Ice Bucket Challenge, and what the Ice Bucket Challenge meant/represented and why it became so popular. Talking about this tied into Morrie and his struggles and helped make a relevant connection–another way of connecting global/real-world concepts to the classroom and creating accessible learning experiences through something relevant (And funny! Who doesn’t like seeing their teacher spill a bucket of water on her head?!)

We also watched another short clip on ALS, this a personal story of Kevin Swan. This was extremely heart-wrenching, especially to see Swan struggle with some of the most simplest tasks, like putting on a shirt. However, this video really helped to give the students a sense of the quick and devastating results of this disease.

Afterwards, I attached all notes, links, video clips, and information to our Google Classroom site for students to reference later, making learning available outside of the classroom. Hopefully it can provide a tool if they need more background information or if they want to reference the character list as they read. [Screenshot of the post is below]

Intro to TWM

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