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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

I can't believe it's already the end of the year again and time for all the wrap-ups and best-ofs you can stomach. Among my favorites each year are Google's get-the-Kleenex Zeitgeist and YouTube's Rewind -- which is like the most meta-parody-mashup video you can imagine. I had a blast putting together the Best Education Parodies of 2012, so I thought I'd do it again for 2013. I hope this list gives you a few belly laughs, not too many obnoxious ear-worms, and a sprinkling of good ideas for fun student projects in the new year.

Video Playlist: Best Educational Parodies of 2013

Watch the player below to see the whole playlist, or view it on YouTube.

  1. What Does John Locke Say? (03:01)

    Enthusiastic history teacher Mr. Betts manages to work English philosopher John Locke's ideas into a parody of the most popular and ridiculous song of the year. Though I would have wished for more furry costumes, this one wins for its lyrical cartwheels.

  2. "Get Data" - UCSD Neuro Program (05:08)

    Have patience with the slow start -- this one pays off with excellent timing and a great commitment from these grad students at UCSD. Honorable mention to the "Evolution of Get Lucky" interactive player, which covers the song in musical styles from 1920 to the present.

  3. Breaking Bad: The Middle School Musical (05:47)

    YouTube pranksters Rhett and Link produced this hysterical re-interpretation of the so-not-kid-friendly TV show -- acted out by kids, and in song, no less. Look out for the blue rock candy!

  4. Thrift Shop Parody: "Math Shop" -- AP Calculus BC (03:57)

    This song was just too ripe -- there were piles of "Thrift Shop" parodies. But this one won my heart for the sheer attitude and creativity. Math not your thing? Try Figurative Language, Kreb's Cycle, or state testing.

  5. A Capella Science: Bohemian Gravity! (08:15)

    Wow. Not only did grad student Tim Blais write, sing, film, and edit all parts of this incredibly complex performance; he did it while working on his master's thesis in theoretical physics. More on his YouTube channel, A Cappella Science.

  6. The Hungry Games -- Catching Fur (05:15)

    Hard to choose just one Sesame Street parody; they do it so well. This wonderful spoof has Cookie Monster learning patterns and shapes to win the game... "May the cookies be ever in your flavor."

  7. DNA Replication Song ("Royals," by Lorde, Parody) (03:26)

    This video was made by honors biology student Courtney Sherrick -- hope she got extra credit for her lovely voice and soulful delivery. My second choice for "Royals" is the heartfelt "Royal Teachers," with two teachers belting lyrics about why they teach.

  8. Kids React to Harlem Shake (06:58)

    I'm so sorry; but this was an undeniable phenomenon. There were 1.7 million Harlem Shake videos uploaded to YouTube in 2013; this video of kids reacting to the oft-inappropriate meme cracked me up. Just be glad I didn't subject you to the 12-minute compilation of school Harlem Shake videos.

  9. Some Budding Yeast I Used to Grow (Gotye Parody) (04:15)

    I know, I know, Gotye was so 2011 -- but this stop-motion video is just so excellent, and it came out in 2013, so I'm safe. Creator Nathaniel Krefman has more on his YouTube Channel.

  10. Lakewood High School Lip Dub 2013 -- "Roar" (04:43)

    Katy Perry has perfected the art of the empowering teen anthem, and "Roar" seems built especially for Lakewood High School, with their tiger mascot. Watch their epic one-shot lip dub -- which actually caught Katy Perry's attention! Also worth watching: this precious elementary school lip dub.

  11. Miley Cyrus -- "We Can't Stop" Official Music Video Parody (03:55)

    I had to have a Miley song -- her "We Can't Stop" video was like a parody of itself to start with. Here, the adorable college boys behind Danny's Dorm show us how a study party is really done. Bonus points for gratuitous use of suspenders and bow ties.

  12. #GOODGRADES (04:51)

    Tempted as I was to include Jimmy Fallon's tinkly version of "Blurred Lines" on elementary classroom instruments, I went with this one for the enthusiastic teachers singing their hearts out -- and they're mostly in tune!

More Resources for Using Parodies in the Classroom

Parodies and satires can be great teaching tools across any subject. In last year's roundup, I included a valuable list of resources for copyright and fair use; you can find more in my Five-Minute Film Fest devoted to the subject, and there are still more listed below. So long as you're being aware about those legal issues, tapping into what your students are already paying attention to (and bringing in some humor!) is a fantastic way to engage them. So grab a camera and get creative -- maybe your parody will end up in my Best of 2014 list!

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