Reading & Literacy

Pop Culture’s Place in the Classroom

By Liana Loewus — November 22, 2011 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

This will be my last writeup on NCTE. Overall, I have to say it was an impressive conference, especially content-wise (the logistics were a bit hectic for me, but perhaps that’s to be expected with about 7,000 attendees and 50 concurrent sessions during each time slot).

On Friday, three high school teachers from Gresham, Ore., presented on ways to use pop culture in addressing state literacy standards. In their session, “Can Lady Gaga and Hamlet Coexist?,” the young teachers began from the premise that the answer to their title was yes. They devoted no time to debating the value or appropriateness of particular material—instead, the presenters stuck to explaining how and to what ends they infuse lessons with pop culture.

Rana Houshmand said she uses pop culture mainly for scaffolding difficult literacy skills. She finds that students do well when they ease into a skill using content they are comfortable with. When teaching students to answer literal, influential, and evaluative questions, she begins by asking those questions about popular visual images, then about song lyrics. Eventually students dive into more difficult academic texts.

Eli Nolde, the next presenter, offered some creative ideas on incorporating pop culture to boost engagement. He explained that he had attempted to use a Nathaniel Hawthorne excerpt for a Read Aloud-Think Aloud (in which the teacher reads something to the class and stops intermittently to explain what he or she is thinking at that moment), and was dismayed to see students rolling their eyes and putting their heads down on desks. He decided to try again, this time with a text that was familiar to his students but not to him: the Call of Duty game manual. The exercise exposed his own “illiteracies,” he said, and gave the students a chance to be experts. Watching him authentically struggle with comprehension gave them a model for being metacognitive in their own difficult reading, he said.

In teaching students to compare works and analyze themes, Nolde introduces a soundtrack project. Students create a mix CD soundtrack for a play, book, poem, or character, justifying each of their song choices in writing.

The presentation became a brainstorming session of sorts when the high school teachers threw it out to the audience to describe how they use pop culture to teach literacy. Here are few interesting ideas and online tools that came up:

Toondoo—Create comic strips based on a text.

Pinterest—Make an online bulletin board for a character or text.

Facebook—Create a Facebook page for a fictional character. (One teacher without much access to technology gave her students the option to make pages by hand.)

Grooveshark—Make online music playlists for the soundtrack project.

Edmodo— Have students use this social networking site to post book quotes on the class wall and discuss the text.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Reading & Literacy Spotlight Spotlight on Literacy in Education
In this Spotlight, evaluate the possible gaps your current curriculum may have and gain insights from the front-lines of teaching.
Reading & Literacy Opinion Teachers, More Than Programs, Make for Great Reading Instruction
Let's focus on specific teaching practices, not confusing labels like "balanced literacy," write Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell.
Irene C. Fountas & Gay Su Pinnell
5 min read
Children reading books in front of books.
iStock/Getty Images
Reading & Literacy Creator of 1619 Project Launching After-School Literacy Program
The 1619 Freedom School, led by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, will make its curriculum a free online resource in 2022.
4 min read
Collage of an American Flag.
Collage: Laura Baker/Education Week (Images: iStock/Getty)
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Whitepaper
Scaffolding to Achieve Grade-Level Literacy
In this whitepaper, Curriculum Associates National Director Kandra James explores how scaffolding, the use of instructional techniques an...
Content provided by Curriculum Associates