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Tip of the Week: Reality TV Show Pitch


The last regular season session of our Century of Progress Teaching American History grant was just over a year ago. I had the privilege to spend time with 40 middle school teachers over a period of three years sharing ideas about what a quality US history classroom should look like.

And just so you know . . . awesome.

We worked with scholars and other teachers. Software companies. Primary source documents. Technology. We all walked away smarter.

And one of the most practical things we always tried to work on when we were together was to develop possible lesson plan ideas. A year ago, one of the last ideas of the year was the Reality TV Show Pitch.

A reality show pitch is pretty simple. The task is to create a quick presentation which convinces a roomful of television producers to air your idea for a reality show. We adapted the concept to design a possible lesson focusing on Kansas history using the GRASP method as our design framework:

Your task is to create a “pitch” for a reality television show called “Love it or List It” depicting life during 19th century Leavenworth, Kansas.

You and your staff are television writers who have been asked to develop a reality show for the Leavenworth, Kansas Chamber of Commerce. The show will recreate the social, political, and economic life of 19th century Leavenworth as historically as possible while also entertaining the viewing public.

The Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce and the cable television producers they have hired. The panel will judge your pitch and hire the group that best meets the standards listed below.

After news of the Leavenworth Underground spread across the country, the Chamber of Commerce realized that they could cash in on the publicity by creating an entertaining cable television show depicting life in Leavenworth during the 1800s. They believe that the reality TV show genre is a great way to get people excited about visiting Leavenworth. Your task is sell the panel on your reality show idea.

Your product is the pitch. Complete the written pitch and present it to the panel. Your oral presentation may contain a video sample of your show.

The panel of producers will be looking for the following during your pitch:

  • The show must be historically accurate. (Your pitch document should include at least three attached supporting primary source documents.)
  • The show must be entertaining.
  • Your oral pitch should not last more than three minutes.
  • A completed pitch document. 
Possible additional items:
  • A show logo
  • A 30 second video sample

We also created a Pitch Template that kids could use as scaffold to help as they created there own pitches. This year a good number of the group used the Reality Show Pitch idea in their own classrooms.

cameramenAnd today I got to be one of the producers who listened to student pitches. Jill took our work from last spring and adapted it for her 7th grade Kansas history students. Groups of students had already turned in their written pitches and today was the required oral presentation. Each group was also required to create an iMovie trailer highlighting their show and use it as part of their presentation.

The winners?

Extreme Speakeasies
by Ryann, Taryn, Morgan, and Abby
Famous gangsters from the 1920s compete to create Kansas speakeasies in existing business. (My money is on Al Capone.)

Life Swap
by Cameron, Dylan, and Andrew
A wealthy family from New York City and a farming family from southwest Kansas swap places during the 1930s.

appliance swapThe Amazing Suffrage Race
by Emma, Mariah, and Natalie
Three famous suffragettes fight for the right to get the vote out during the 1920s.

Some other favorites?

Cowboys vs Cowboys. Actual cowboys competing against movie star cowboys during the 1800s.

Bleeding Kansas. Bushwhackers and Jayhawkers vie for the right to decide the fate of Kansas.

Good stuff!

This is a great way to encourage student research, writing, and communication skills. All part of the Common Core literacy standards and the state social studies standards. It’s also a sweet example of the Create and Communicate elements of our C4 Framework.

Curious? Interested?

Download Jill’s student instructions / rubric and try it yourself next fall. Realize that it’s a work in progress and feel free to adapt it to fit your own grade and content.

Have fun!

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