In the Spring semester, in addition to my High School work, I will be teaching HIS205: American History through Pop Culture for my local university. It is very exciting to be teaching a class not directly tied a survey course curriculum and, in an effort to bring some game inspired concepts to a University level course, the major project for the class will be an UnEssay.

I cannot take credit for this project concept. I found the project through Professor Christopher Jones who came to the project by way of Professor Emily Suzanne Clark . Here is another site by Ryan Cordell with some great examples of student created UnEssays. The work presented below is a modification of their work. The following writing is a copy of a word document that will be given to the students outlining the project. You can download the file at the end.

The UnEssay Project

For this project students will have the option to complete either 1) an UnEssay or 2) a traditional essay. The following directions are for the UnEssay only. A separate outline will be available for the traditional essay.

The purpose of the UnEssay is to deeply investigate the course content through the lens of one of the Core Themes using pop culture as source material.

Students will select a year (or small range of years) and examine how the Pop Culture of that period relates to 1 of the Core Themes of the course.

Core Themes:

Race and Gender Reform

International Conflicts

Industrialization and American Capitalism

Power and Politics

UnEssay Outline

Since the class is designed around Pop Culture the major project should allow students to demonstrate the Learning Outcomes using the creative nature of the subject! The UnEssay has a few requirements but is very flexible in order to fit the interests and skills of each student. Creativity is highly valued!  The only real requirement is to NOT write an essay. Projects may involve (but are not limited to) art, music, creative writing, physical models, video game design, graphic novels, documentaries, marketing campaigns, music video design, television script writing, film making, or any other creative way to demonstrate the student’s research and understandings.

UnEssay Requirements

  1. Focus on a year or short range of years.
    1. EX. 1964 or 1980-1984
  2. Topic that examines one of the Core Themes.
    1. EX. 1964 might examine the theme of “Race and Gender Reform” by investigating pop culture references to the Civil Rights Act. 1980-1984 might examine the “Power and Politics” theme by investigating punk rock reactions to Ronald Reagan’s election.
  3. Minimum Sources (may vary with professor’s approval)
    1. At least 1 piece of music
    1. At least 1 film
    1. At least 1 piece of visual art (comics, photos, painting/sculpture, etc.)
    1. At least 1 newspaper/magazine article
    1. At least 1 work of fiction (book, short story, poem)
    1. At least 3 Secondary Sources
  4. Bibliography
    1. The UnEssay itself does not need in text citations; however sources that informed the creation of the project should be listed in a Bibliography.
    1. Bibliography should be alphabetized
  5. Brief Explanation
    1. The UnEssay should be accompanied by a brief (less than 500 words) written explanation of the project and its connection to the theme OR a less than 2 minute recorded explanation.

UnEssay “Rubric”

An A paper (95-100%): This UnEssay constitutes a critical and active engagement with the course material that shows insight and creativity and demonstrates time and effort devoted to creating something thoughtful. The chosen medium works persuasively with the design and polish of the UnEssay. The project’s structural and formal elements productively serve the core concept of the UnEssay. The UnEssay includes a clear and insightful connection between the central theme, your three choices, and reflects a convincing and nuanced thesis. An A UnEssay come with a clearly stated explanation. This will include your thesis and an explanation of how your UnEssay responds to the prompt.

A B paper(85-90%): This UnEssay meaningfully engages course material and shows an effort to creatively evaluate the information with some degree of clarity. It reflects some time, effort, and forethought. The chosen medium works with the UnEssay presentation, but some additional design forethought would have helped. The UnEssay’s structural and formal elements serve the core concept of the project. The UnEssay includes a clear connection between your three choices. Accompanied statement provides some clarity to the piece but not complete explanation.

A C paper (75-80%): This UnEssay shows some engagement with the course material but it is unsustained uncreative, and inconsequential. It fails to develop a critical and reflective perspective. The chosen medium doesn’t work with the UnEssay’s presentation. The UnEssay identifies a vague connection between the selected choices and thus fails to offer a clear thesis statement. Both it and the explanation will appear to be thrown together at the last minute.

A D (60-65%) or F (0-50%) paper: This UnEssay lacks any serious effort to accomplish the assigned task. The UnEssay idea and execution are ill-defined, lack focus and clarity, and contains no main argument. Any UnEssay not discussed with me before the deadline will automatically receive no higher than an DCheck your assignment guidelines for that deadline.

Modified from Emily Suzanne Clark –