Merging Entertainment and Education
Rachel Schneider teaches Women’s Popular Genres, and has used pop culture to introduce students to reading practices in the course. In the first week of her course, Schneider’s students examined Destiny’s Child Independent Women Part I in close reading, taking notes on the lyrics, costumes, dancing, and more. Students were able to read the material deeply, and also put it into musical and political context, considering the video in terms of feminism and cultural relevance. Schneider believes that this video provided good material for rhetorical and literary analysis, and at the end of the course, the students identified this particular text as a favorite.
Three teachers at Centennial High School in Gresham, Ore., have found success in bringing pop culture to the classroom. Rana Houshmand, Eli Nolde, and Nicole Johnston use pop culture lessons to teach state standard material in a more creative way. They use pop culture as a tool for improving students’ literary critical thinking skills. Houshmand first asks students to analyze the lyrics in a Lady Gaga song, then moves on to a Robert Frost poem, where they can use their interpretation skills they’ve learned through material they’re already familiar with. Houshmand’s colleague Nicole Johnston explains that bringing pop culture into the classroom makes students excited and engaged in learning:
“They’re making very interesting points about the texts. They’re posting other YouTube videos. It’s sparking a lot of conversation beyond the initial classroom discussion.”
Morgan uses pop culture to help students better understand difficult topics. In one lesson, Morgan explained that the Zombieland rule of “double tap,” or, shooting twice to make sure a zombie is actually incapacitated, is much like the post-WWII Morgenthau Plan that was designed to keep Germany from getting back up and going on the offensive. “My students will never forget the stakes of the post-war world with such a powerful visualization, ” Morgan says.
Love them or hate them, it’s difficult to escape the parodies of Carly Rae Jepsen’s hit song, “Call Me Maybe.” Two middle school science teachers, Diane McDonough and Tara Tetreault, brought their version to class with “Call it Density,” a parody designed to introduce the concept of density to students. The teachers report that students enjoy their video and find it fun. Some students even asked to have the video shared online. But the real value isn’t in entertainment; it’s the way they’ve captured student interest and provided them with a good introduction. After viewing the video, McDonough and Tetreault bring the concept of density to life in their classrooms, showing students how to capture and graph data.