Origins of Media

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Students will be introduced to the concept of the origins of media and the importance and relevance of it.


This will be a project based final that will utilize all formats of storytelling previously learned in order to produce a new product Interactive Story.

Expected Lesson Duration:

2-3 days

Interdisciplinary Connection(s) to Common Core

Lesson Procedure:

Introduction/Gain Attention

  • The class will begin with an image, video, or sound and the student and have them write a story about what is just off the boundary of the medium.

  • Prior to the lesson beginning, students will submit their choice of a film, book (fiction), or game (story-based) to the instructor via google classroom.


  • After the daily meme the students will be introduced to the concept of origins of media.

  • In many cases, stories are simply derivatives of other stories.

  • This means that from one story, another was inspired and possibly maintains similarities to the original story, even if these similarities are in the skeleton of the story.

    - When stories have the same "skeleton" (if you were to describe the basic plot of the story or formulate a general outline of the story) as others, the stories share a *trope*.
  • A trope is a common or even overused theme or device. Tropes are present in literature, film, music, etc.

  • Tropes are personally easiest to understand using examples from horror movies.

  • Horror movies are notoriously known for using repetitive cliches (another term for tropes), such as the Final Girl.

  • The Final Girl is a trope present in a vast number of horror movies in which the last victim is the vulnerable, meek girl who overcomes her innocent image set up in the beginning of the film and defeats the killer.

  • Tropes can be found in practically all mediums, and like media adaptation, the use and formation of tropes have ancient roots. Tracing the history of these tropes allows us to identify the origins of media.

  • Tropes are not only present in horror. In fact, tropes have an even greater presence in fairy tales, the opposite of the horror genre.

  • When was the first time you heard the story of Cinderella?

  • The Cinderella trope falls under multiple names, including the Rags to Riches trope, and the Cinderella Circumstance.

  • If when you think of Cinderella, you imagine a fairy god mother and glass slippers, you are likely reflecting on Disney’s Cinderella.

  • For Westerners, Disney’s Cinderella is the most widely known version of Cinderella. Disney has produced multiple Cinderella films and books, creating an entire Cinderella franchise.

  • Disney did not come up with the story of Cinderella, however. In fact, neither did the man whose work Disney adapted into the 1950’s Cinderella movie, Charles Perrault.

  • Charles Perrault wrote his story of Cinderella, featuring glass slippers and fairy godmothers, in the 17th century.

  • Perrault’s work of Cinderella is entirely his, but the trope of Cinderella and Rags to Riches was preexisting to Perrault’s version of Cinderella.

  • Thus, the origin of Cinderella does not stop at Charles Perrault.

  • Tracing the origin back further, you will arrive at Yeh-Shen.

  • Yeh-Shen, a Chinese variant of the story of Cinderella, is believed to be one of the oldest works of the Cinderella trope, originating in the 9th century by Duan Chengshi.

  • It is likely that students will be very familiar with Disney’s Cinderella (and therefore Charles Perrault’s Cinderella), but it is unlikely students will know the story of Yeh-Shen.

  • Students can read an overview of the story of Yeh-Shen here, or the complete story here). The link to the complete story offers critical thinking and interpretation questions that may be helpful to the lesson).

  • Exercise: Have students compare and contrast the two variants of the Cinderella trope they have now seen Yeh-Shen) and Perrault’s via a venn-diagram or written response. Students should pay attention to cultural differences, differences present because of the difference in time periods, and similarities amongst characters, relationships, events, and the plot in general.

  • Though Yeh-Shen is one of the oldest variants of the story of Cinderella, the Cinderella trope can be traced back even earlier than the 9th century.

  • The Cinderella or Rags to Riches trope can be traced all the way back the ancient Greek tale of Rhodopis.

  • The ancient greek tale of Rhodopis was recorded (written down) by the Greek historian Strabo in the first century BC, and is considered to be the first variant of the Cinderella trope.

  • In the tale of Rhodopis), Rhodopis is a courtesan (in other words, a prostitute), who marries the Pharaoh of Egypt.

  • Because there are not any recorded variants of the Cinderella/Rags to Riches trope prior to the tale of Rhodopis, the tracing of the origin of the trope ends here, in Ancient Greece, first century BC.

  • To recap, we have just traced the trope present in Disney’s modern and insanely popular variant of Cinderella across thousands of years, back to ancient Grecian times, beginning with the story of Rhodopis the courtesan.

  • It may come as a surprise that one of the most popular Western fairytales can be traced back to an ancient story about a prostitute, but this simply shows that tropes can be applied and adapted to stories of all types and for all audiences.

  • The Cinderella/Rags to Riches trope has been featured in legends and tales in almost every culture:

        -  Ancient Greek: *[Rhodopis* ](
        - Chinese: *[Yeh-She*n](
        - French: Perrault's *[DonkeySkin* ]( 
        - Western : Perrault's *[Cinderell*a](
        - German: The Brothers Grimm's *[Aschenputte*l](
        - Vietnam: *[Tam and Ca*m](
        - Native American: *[The Rough Face Gir*l](
        - Scottish: *[The King Who Wished to Marry His Daughte*r](
  • This same approach at identifying tropes in media and tracing the origin of the trope back in history can be done with many stories, especially fairy tales, legends, etc.

  • If the instructor wishes, students may be assigned an in-class exercise in which they identify the trope(s) within Disney’s* A Lion King,* and trace the origin of the trope(s). Students can identify the furthest trace (the earliest variant) and afterwards, can compare what they declared to be the earliest variant of the story with what their classmates deemed to be the earliest variant.

  • As we discussed in the previous lesson, Media Adaptation, stories are often unintentionally changed and altered as they are passed down orally from generation to generation.

  • Like the lost works of many ancient Greek playwrights also discussed in the last lesson, it is possible there were works preceding the tale of Rhodopis that we will never know of because it was impossible to record them, or they have not been discovered yet.

  • Because of this, it is not always possible to identify the absolute original source of a story or trope, but we can trace the origin back as far as possible, to gain an understanding of the history and meaning of the trope.

  • This lesson’s project consists of identifying tropes present within the media the individual student submitted prior to the lesson, and tracing the origins of these tropes as far back as possible, developing a timeline that begins with the oldest found variant, ending with the submitted film/book/game, and including an assortment of variants between the two.

  • Students should attempt to identify as many tropes as possible within their media before tracing the origins.

  • Some tropes overlap or bleed into other tropes, as we saw with the Cinderella trope and the Rags to Riches trope. In this case, students can choose one to trace throughout history, but should mention the relationship between the tropes.

  • The instructor can specify the format for submission, whether it is written text, a presentation, a combination of mediums, etc.

  • The following resources are useful for identifying and understanding tropes:


  • Understand the importance of the origin of a story

  • Ability to perform research effectively and efficiently

  • Ability to present results of research in

  • Ability to identify a story’s plot

  • Ability to identify similarities and commonalities amongst multiple different stories and plots

Content of Lesson

  • Acquiring Key Concepts: incorporating and utilizing all skills acquired during the imagery unit to produce an imagery heavy story.

  • Engaging in Experiential Learning: peer reviewing comic strips created by classmates, providing constructive criticism, and identifying concepts that were emphasized in class discussion within the work being peer reviewed.

  • Building Proficiencies: using skills developed thus far to create a unique imagery heavy story and reviewing classmates’ work while paying special attention to emphasized concepts such as diversity, POV, composition, and responsibility.

  • Connecting with STEM Professionals: view a video of a professional artist, filmer, producer, etc. working with comic strips or comics and discussing their work.

  • Assessing Learning: have students explain how they utilized individual skills gained throughout the unit in the creation of their comic strip. Students can also identify these skills being implemented or the presence of important concepts such as diversity, POV, composition, etc. in their classmates’ work.

Closure and Review

  • Reiterate the importance of storytelling in media, describe the amount of written work that is consumed by media outlets and the amount of recycled material that continues to be recirculated due to the lack of new material.

  • Explain the importance of diversity in the storytellers and writers due to experiences and how it shapes our stories.

Higher Level Thinking Skills Noted

  • Developing a dynamic story

  • Adapting stories due to character developments

  • Perception due to appearance


The art and skill of storytelling that will be practiced in this class will help the students reasoning skills, cognitive constructive capabilities, and develop character. The creation of a narrative requires the student to develop a logical order from a sequence of events. In order for the student to develop a meaningful arrangement of events the student must begin to grow their narrative reasoning skills. These skills can evolve through the consumption and dissection of narrative literature, of a mixed medium. While developing of their narrative reasoning skills the students should/ will become more empathetic to others, wise to deciphering the true purpose of the story, and become comprehensive thinkers of their own circumstances. The students are finally at the age in which they are beginning to construct their own narratives. We, as educators, want them to be exposed to a great diversity of narratives in order mature those narrative reasoning skills. The more developed their narrative reasoning skills are the more they get from a story (deeper perspective). The more advanced their skills, the more likely they are to rationalize why this character chose a particular path, place themselves in the characters shoes, and develop their own character.

Explorations and Extensions:

Does the dynamic aspect of storytelling take anything away from the message that the author may be trying to deliver?

Assessment Criteria for Success:

Content knowledge, student knowledge, and appropriate resources are aligned to instructional outcomes. student learning will be assessed throughout the lesson via question responses and correlation to the project.

Students will have successfully met the outcomes when fundamental questions about the importance of storytelling and its role in imagery can be observed through their writing and reflections of their peers work. Also questions about their current disposition are taken into consideration when they see media should begin to arise. Also a fluid and respectful use of time, along with an essay that is fluid, easy to follow, and retains its essentials as an ELA.


To be completed upon the end of lesson.