“Now Here is a Story…”

All about how I use The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song to teach plot to my students.

Throw it back to the 90’s when family shows were popular such as Family Matters, Full House, Saved by the Bell, Hanging with Mr. Cooper, and Step-by-Step were all the rave along with neon colors, girl bands, boy bands, stonewash jeans, and cartoon graphic tees. Now, you may think that all of this has nothing to do with now, but just like children of the 80’s and 90’s thought clothes from the 70’s were cool and fashionable, Gen Z is now falling in love and bringing back the popular styles from the 90’s. As a result, many of the television shows and moves are starting to create remakes of shows such as “Saved by the Bell”, “Karate Kid,” “Punky Brewster” (80’s), “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” and most of the popular Disney shows from that era are also making a comeback as live action movies. Included in this line-up is no other than, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Although it is in the preproduction stage, many of our students know who Will Smith is because he is still popular, and at least half of your class has seen at least one episode of the original show. What do the plot diagram and Will Smith have in common? His entire theme song follows the plot diagram to the T, and it is a great way to introduce, or even review, the plot elements with your students. So, how do you get started?

Get Students Excited

Before Will Smith Day comes, I inform my students that we are going to travel back to the 90’s. I treat it like a School Spirit Day; students can dress up in their favorite 90’s gear, or wear a t-shirt from that time. I tell them that they don’t need to go out and buy outfits, but they can ask their parents if they have anything from that era that they could wear or use to participate. It isn’t mandatory, but the students love it! I wear a shirt that I purchased off of Amazon with the entire cast on it from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The 90’s outfits cause everyone to start wondering about the lesson for that day and draws the interest of other teachers and administrators.

Will Smith Day Playlist

Before the students arrive, I create a playlist with some of Will Smith’s popular songs on YouTube. One song I make sure to add is “Will” by Joyner Lucas & Will Smith (Remix). The students really enjoy hearing the music as they enter the room. The start to get really curious about the lesson. Although I have a hook included in my lesson, the music grabs their attention right away.

Name that Character

When I am ready to start the lesson, I open up with “Name that Character.” I ask students if they can name all the main characters of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air without looking up their names online, and I also tell them I want the character names and not the real names of the casts. The students love this activity; many of them know most of the character names. It even creates some great discussions such as what is Will Smith’s last name on the show?

The Plot Diagram and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

After they do this activity, I play “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme song video from YouTube twice. The first time the students watch it for fun; the second time they watch it to identify the plot elements: the exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Once they finish watching the theme song video, I go through this PowerPoint that I created with the plot elements of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” I ask the class what is the exposition then they tell me. I reveal the answer to see if they are right then we discuss why it is that part of the plot. At the end of class, I have students label the parts of the plot diagram as an exit slip. Afterwards, I give students a chance to show me their rap skills by asking if anyone knows all the words to the theme song by heart. After all, knowing the words to popular television shows was a huge part of growing up in the 90’s. “In West Philadephia…”

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