Dirty Dancing Around Global Trade Routes

Oh no she didn't.

Oh yes she did!

Last night, I taught a student how to structure a paper on the impact of global trade routes using the structure of the movie Dirty Dancing as a guide for the paper. Some may say this was definitely an alternative teaching method, but it got the student excited and she understood the structure of the paper and what she needed to do.

The assignment for the paper was to set up what global trade looked like around 1450, how global trade started happening and what were the results of global trade. I could tell this student was not super excited this paper, but I realized that this paper could be structured just like one of her favorite movies. Once we found a few movies we both love (Forrest Gump, Clueless (please don't judge) and Dirty Dancing), we decided which one had a similar structure to the assignment of the paper and went from there.

Here's how the paper should be structured and the parallels to the movie:
Set up -- what does global trade look like at this point -- set the scene, the characters, the technology, the goods (Pocono Mountains, 1970s, Baby, Jerry Orbach, Patrick Swayze, no cell phones, rich white people)
What happens to spur things -- the action -- who goes where in global trade (Baby meets dance crowd, Lisa dates Robbie, Penny needs abortion)
What are the results -- what are the impacts of the actions -- cultures exchange lifestyles, new foods introduced, new livestock to raise (Baby becomes great dancer, Dad gives Penny a safe abortion, Lisa learns a lesson about dating Mr. Perfect, Dad learns he needs to let go of his little girl)

My advice to other tutors: Do not be afraid to go out on a limb. Once we created the parallels between the movie and the assignment, the student actually looked forward to writing the paper! She understood what she needed to do and I could see her motivation increase immediately. What was awesome was that the confidence she found in the world history assignment spilled over into the math assignment we worked on afterwards.

I will continue to use alternative teaching methods in my sessions. Who knew that Dirty Dancing could make me excited about writing this paper as well? I can't wait to read her draft!


Nobody puts Baby in a corner! What an excellent session. I wish I could have been there.


Lisa Anna Weiss S.

Hands on, shoes off learning -- learning YOUR way

20+ hours
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