Unit Introduction: What is Popular Culture?

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SWBAT develop a conceptual definition of popular culture through free-writing and sharing ideas.

Big Idea

The term "popular culture" is easy to use in conversation, but difficult to define.


Essential Questions/Free Writing and Sharing

40 minutes

Today, after collecting student drafts of memoir essays for review, I will introduce our new thematic unit on popular culture (given the diminishing attention span as we approach the holidays, this seemed like a good time to do this unit).  As we have done with previous units, we’ll begin by reading the introductory page of The Language of Composition 2e textbook that focuses on this unit, with a particular emphasis on the essential questions.  Besides the major question from the book, “to what extent does popular Culture reflect our society's values?”, I will also add my own, asking the question, “given our current culture of information available all the time, is there anything that isn't part of popular culture?  Is everything now simply entertainment?”  This latter question anticipates an eventual discussion and multimedia writing project based on the novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline that students will read over the holidays.


We have a very short period today due to a snow delay (about 35 minutes after the buses finally arrive), so the lesson today will be rather simple:  after I read the introductory page out loud, students will free-write their own answers to these two questions for about ten minutes, and then they will share some of their thoughts in an open discussion.  The probing questions I ask will be aimed at defining what popular culture even means (I don’t have a set definition; the goal is for students to recognize that while we use the term all the time, there is a lot of ambiguity and complexity in what it actually means), and also to consider what it means today because of the internet and digital universe.


Next steps:  Students will read a piece by James McBride from their textbook titled “Hip-hop Planet” for Thursday (today is Monday).  I had told them a couple weeks ago that they would have some sort of high-stakes assessment of their rhetorical analysis skills before the break—this is it.  They will answer nine questions on author purpose and rhetorical strategies in an open-response format that requires strong evidence.  For this reason (and the fact that tomorrow is another short period due to an assembly, and Wednesday they are on a field trip), they will have until Thursday to complete the assignment.