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Popular Culture in the Classroom

Reading and Teaching Popular Culture: Issues and Ideas for P-12 Teachers

Julie Garlen

on 26 April 2011

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Transcript of Popular Culture in the Classroom

Popular Culture in the Classroom
Issues and Ideas for P-5 Teachers
What is popular culture?
popular culture. (n.d.). Dictionary.com's 21st Century Lexicon. Retrieved April 25, 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/popular culture
Main Entry: popular culture
Part of Speech: n
Definition: contemporary lifestyle and items that are well known and generally accepted, cultural patterns that are widespread within a population; also called pop culture
shared Customs, artifacts, Myths, language that reflect our values, convictions, thoughts and feelings
It's youth-driven.
It's eclectic.
It's everywhere!

Why Popular Culture?
Consider this . . .
Technological developments have led to significant changes in the ways
in which we communicate and engage in the reading, writing, and creation of texts.
Students today have unprecedented access to popular media and unmatched opportunities to construct meaning from those texts.
Advertisements, popular fiction, graphic novels, television, film, popular music, magazines, videogames, and websites are "texts" - ideas organized to transmit a message - that we "read" and gain meaning from.
Marsh et. al (2005) acknowledge "the vital role that popular culture plays in the self-identities and self-esteem of young children."
They develop a sense of
They perform different
These texts are embedded in
their social and
cultural worlds
Why NOT Popular Culture?
In the cultural hierarchy,
it is considered of "low" value.
Popular culture can be
ideologically unsettling for
adults if the messages aren't
consistent with our values
(physical aggression, gender
The use of children’s popular culture in educational institutions can offer recognition of their identities and the things they value, thus enhancing their self-esteem and motivating them to engage in learning (Dyson, 1997, 2002; Marsh, 2000; Marsh and Millard, 2000).
SO. . .
How do we Bring
into the
We have to consider
the ways that popular
culture shapes our
thinking as teachers.
It's not just about
"tricks" to show
our students that we're cool!
Falling Flat = No impact
But if we adopt a
critical approach, we
can meaningfully engage
our students and encourage them to think about the ways they are being shaped by popular culture.
Let's Look at some
Strong-willed heroine
Helpless Waif
Waiting for rescue
Mixed Messages
about femininity?
Popular culture also
shaped my ideas about what
it meant to teach and learn.
What are some popular
culture texts that have
informed your identity?
Exploring your own pop culture
experiences allows you to be
more aware of how identity is shaped by these texts so that you can help students actively construct meaning!
You should become
aware of the ways that
students may be reading
popular culture texts.
How might students
be "reading" ?
Does this mean
that we should
teach Harry Potter?
Not Necessarily
The point is that
we should get to know
the ways that the students
in our classroom are
"investing" in popular
SO . . .
What are some popular
culture texts that might
be informing your students'
Once we have Examined
How popular culture texts inform
We can begin to think about
how to incorporate popular
culture into teaching and learning.
There's a difference
between "engaging
And "engaging
the texts."
"Critical media pedagogy provides students and citizens with the tools to analyze critically how texts are constructed and in turn construct and position viewers and readers. It provides tools so that individuals can dissect the instruments of cultural domination, transform themselves from objects to subjects, from passive to active. Thus critical media literacy is empowering, enabling students to become critical producers of meanings and texts, able to resist manipulation and domination."

(from Douglas Kellner, "Multiple Literacies and Critical Pedagogies" in Revolutionary Pedagogies - Cultural Politics, Instituting Education, and the Discourse of Theory, Peter Pericles Trifonas, Editor, Routledge, 2000).
Take, for example, one 1998 episode in which Homer contemplates buying a 5-pound lobster at $8 per pound. "How many pounds in a gallon?" he wonders.

The show has been criticized for its preoccupation with innumeracy -- the mathematical equivalent of illiteracy.
Author's theater
Analyzing and Interpreting
Genre Studies
Literary Elements
Problem Solving
Mathematical reasoning
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, but action heroes like Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry (1971) and Sylvester Stallone's Rambo (First Blood, 1982) barely flinch when they fire bullets that seconds later knock a villain off his feet.
There is no air in space to carry sound waves, yet spaceships routinely blow up with a thunderous roar or make a 'whoosh' sound like an express train when they pass.
Historical references
are everywhere!
Wrap It Up!
As Williams (2008) explains, to allow learners to make their own critical choices, whether they choose “to
conform to or resist cultural expectations,” we should desire that they “be able to understand those expectations more clearly, rather than bump into them by accident” (p. 83). As we have illustrated here, this is difficult work that requires ongoing and perhaps uneasy scrutiny of our own
normative beliefs as educators, citizens, and consumers. Yet, knowing that popular culture itself has material—sometimes empowering, sometimes dire, but always powerful—consequences for the ways we understand, experience, and act within the world, it seems that, as educators, enacting
pop culture pedagogies is the least we can do.
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