Students are inundated with pop culture and social media. Honestly, we all are to a degree. At times it seems that being TikTok famous is all they care about. So, how do we engage our students or even just get their attention in class? One way is to use pop culture.
The first step is to remember we were students once, and we had fads that we followed. I’ll share a little story and picture from my middle school days.
In eighth grade we had a breakdancing class. Yes, I was (kind of still am) a good dancer. My middle school would take a student survey over areas that we were interested in. Each quarter teachers would volunteer to teach a class connected to our interest. I took a writing class, an art class, but my favorite was the breakdancing class.
Our final project was a routine. In the newspaper photo above, we are doing a dance routine based on puppets breaking free from the puppet master. Breakdancing was big, even in Wyoming.
Every generation will have a pop culture fad, something that teenagers will care about.
The second step is to be aware of those fads. By no means do you need to be an expert. As a current example, I don’t use TikTok. I do let my students use it, and I have been in a few TikTok videos. It is a bridge between me and the student. I would rather have a student walk into class excited to share with me a TikTok video then to think they have to hide their interest from me.
By being aware of pop culture, it allows us to expand our tool box. This is step three. I have shared before a number of different ways students are allowed to complete assignments. This post won’t be that specific, and I know that other educational experts will create resources on how to use the latest trend in the classroom, even with the activities aligned to the standards. My stance has always been to use whatever tool works best for you and your classroom. If you don’t want them using TikTok to make a video, students can use FlipGrid, or just record on their phone.
But it is not just the tools. Pop culture is music, movies, and social concerns. These are “tools” also. This morning I used Tim McGraw’s song, “Where The Green Grass Grows,” as a connection to William Wordsworth’s poem “The World is Too Much With Us.” (Share in the comments if you get the connection.) It was a good class period.
In another class we are watching the movie, Megamind, as a part of the classification and definition essay unit. The students see how the superhero and villain are defined. Not just in text form, but also in visual terms. A side theme we discuss is the idea of Fate, which is an important part of the movie.
Using pop culture adds to our tool box. That is helpful. But I already hinted at why using pop culture is important. It builds a bridge between us and the students. That bridge is one of the ways to help students get to deeper levels of learning and appreciation for the content of our lessons.
Next time you listen to a song and think; That connects to my lesson next week. Cue that song on YouTube to start class. Then let me know how it went…