Use this fun activity to get students excited about thesis and persuasive writing.
Photo by Raphael Lovaski on Unsplash

It Started On My FYP

I’m not ashamed to admit that I freaking love TikTok.

My feed is mostly DIY house projects, cooking, witchcraft (more on this another time), astrology, and #Swifttok.

For those of you who aren’t on TikTok, the thing that makes TikTok amazing is the “For You Page.” The algorithm knows what users like and what they are interested in. Before you know it, it’s like you’re in a casino. You have no idea what time it is, but you’ve bookmarked 12 recipes you’re never going to try and 5 house projects that you will do, even if it means challenging the limits of your marriage.

While my FYP has included a lot of Taylor Swift content, ever since the announcement of her new upcoming album release of Midnights on October 21, I’ve been seeing a lot, and I mean a lot of TikToks.

At the start, the content of the videos focused mostly on when she’d release a single. This was a shift from the literary analysis that many of the videos included where creators were deep diving into her work to support theories that Taylor may have actually been dating her friend Karlie Kloss.

At first, I thought these videos were fun, though maybe a little unhinged, but at some point, I found myself hooked. I wanted all the Taylor Swift TikTok content.

Then the English teacher in me realized why I wanted more of these videos.

Y’all, these Swifties, are doing some pretty incredible explications on Swift’s body of work. Not only were they including the lyrics from her songs, but they were pulling evidence from music videos, social media posts, red carpet fashion choices, interview appearances, and so much more. It was incredible to see them justify their theories and make connections.

Here’s an example by @calla_theswiftie. She does a great job of opening with her theory and then references different media to support her theory.

The first time I saw this, I couldn’t help, but think, isn’t this what all English teachers dream about when they assign a text?


And, well, because I’m always in teacher mode, this assignment was born.


#Swifttok,  Textual Analysis, and Persuasion

This activity is quite versatile. Students present theories about their favorite singer and examine a wide variety of media to come up with a theory about the artist. Adapt this activity to analyze different types of art and media from a specific historical era to establish a thesis and/or theory about it or a historical figure. This would also work to establish a theory about a poet, fiction writer, or artist.

For instance, students might look at artwork, poems, novel excerpts, and historical events that take place during the Romantic era and create a theory or thesis about the deeper philosophical ideals of the time period.

For a social studies course, students theorize about a historical ficture or perdiod. They analyze the way he/she/they are portrayed in art, and poetry and look at speeches, and historical writings to present a theory/thesis about the historical figure.

Students can complete a character analysis using film clips, quotes from a short story or novel, poems relating to the primary text, literary analysis of the text, artwork portraying a character, biographical information about the writer, interviews of the writer, and so on to establish a theory about the character in a text.

The goal of the activity is to have them look at different types of media and make connections. Context plays a critical role in this activity—which, as I’m sure you know, is critical when being persuasive.

At the end of this activity, students can either create a TikTok video or present using PowerPoint, Google Slides, or whatever other presentation software. Students upload the videos or slides to your LMS for grading. For many students, using the editing tools the TikTok app provides is second nature. This activity allows them to tap into the skills they already have to connect with your content area.

Activity Details

If you’re looking for the materials for this activity. I’ve got you covered.  Print or upload this product into whatever LMS you use.

To keep students accountable, students will create a hyperdoc of their resources. The hyperdoc includes a place for students to justify the connections of their evidence.


Preview of Lit Up Hyperdoc for Taylor Swift TikTok Theories Activity


Students are also provided with assignment guidelines, a checklist, and a peer review activity. Teachers are provided with a grading rubric and a customizable assignment guideline.


Assignment guidelines can be customized for any content area.


The download includes:

  • Teacher instructions
  • Assignment Guidelines
  • Research Hyperdoc
  • Assignment Checklist
  • Peer Review Activity
  • Customizable Assignment Guidelines
  • Links to TikToks to use as an example
  • Presentation Grading Rubric


Final Thoughts

 Whenever I find myself on #Swifttok listening to Swifties analyze not just the lyrics of Taylor Swift’s work but identify the visual connections between the Easter Eggs Swift includes in her music videos, fashion choices, and social media posts, the English teacher in me just lights up.


Let’s meet our students where they are. This is a fantastic activity to make whatever text or topic you’re teaching relatable to students, and it reinforces the importance of context and vetting sources.

Want to try this activity in your classroom? Here is everything you need to make that happen without any prep!


Try it out and let me know what you think.

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