Pop Culture Connection and Dialogue in the Classroom

Pop Culture Connection and Dialogue uses what students know to make connections between the teacher's and students' culture and interests
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Pop Culture Connection and Dialogue in the Classroom
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About This Strategy

Pop culture connection and dialogue in the classroom is a process that allows the teacher to give students time and attention discuss the students’ cultural interests based on predetermined categories by the teacher. Pop Culture Connection and Dialogue in the classroom allows the teacher to make their classroom more inclusive by including students' voices.  A part of culturally responsive teaching is learning the culture of the students being taught; this strategy provides dedicated time to engage students by allowing them to tell teachers how their culture or age group invests their time outside of the classroom.

This strategy is beneficial for teachers to learn about students’ interests and culture and then integrate that information into lessons. The goal of this strategy is to increase student engagement and give students ownership, input, and voice during class. The strategy can be used at the teacher's discretion, yet it should be consistently maintained throughout the school year. Pop Culture Connection and Dialogue in the classroom allows students to see that they are cared about and that their voice and perspectives matter.

Implementation Steps

  1. Determine the categories from popular culture you want students to discuss, or involve students in the creation of the categories.

    • Some examples would be music, tv shows, books, etc.

    • Look for categories that relate to your content area if possible, such as using a vocabulary word in an English class, or a movie that focuses on a particular time period in a History class. 

    • Create one or two of the pop culture categories to allow the teacher to share academic and/or cultural information. See the video below for more on the importance of modeling.

  2. Set a schedule to consistently discuss pop culture in class as a whole group. 

    • Establish the frequency, day and time frame of the meeting.

  3. Set the expectations for class discussion; this can be done as a class or predetermined by the teacher and shared with the class.

    • Some expectations could be: one person talks at a time, and we will vote on the final item that goes on our list.  

  4. Create a method or system to display or keep a record of the information shared. 

    • Figure out how to keep track of what is discussed so that it can be incorporated in class instruction and discussions. This could be as simple as keeping an informal list of topics discussed in each class. 

  5. Incorporate the information students share into your class instruction. See the video below on making learning relevant.

    • For example, if you saw students refer to sports during discussion, you could then use ESPN articles to do statistics problems or create word problems in math. 

  6. Allow the students to do the majority of the talking during the pop culture dialogue. 

    • I recommend spending no more than 10 minutes on this activity.

Pop Culture Connections in Distance or Blended Learning

The physical classroom space provides many opportunities for students to share their interests with their teacher and their peers. When students are not sharing a physical classroom, it can seem like a challenge to provide these spaces for students. Incorporating students’ pop culture interests, even in a distance learning environment, is important in helping students feel valued in the classroom and for connecting interests to the curriculum.

  1. Once you have decided on the categories for your pop culture board, create a Google Form to allow students to add any categories that you did not think of.

  2. Dedicate a time during your week to have a 10-minute discussion with students about what they are reading, watching on TV, listening to, etc.

    • If there are no synchronous lessons with your students, or if some students are not able to join during that 10 minute discussion, consider using Flipgrid or another app that allows students to capture their voices about the categories on the pop culture board. Flipgrid will help you to ensure equity of voice because all students can post to the link you create. Ask students to not only post but to listen to the contributions of their classmates.

    • Padlet also works for capturing students’ ideas.  They can post their interests and also leave a short voice recording explaining their contribution. 

  3. After each 10 minute discussion or asynchronous share-out, be sure to capture popular interests.  Consider creating a Google Doc or use the Padlet so that students always know what is on their board.

  4. As often as possible, choose items from the board and use them in your lessons and discussions with students. For instance, students may be asked to identify the conflict in a song that they like. 

  5. Continue this process with students as often as possible.  When you incorporate their interests into instruction, be sure to show them how you are using them.

Questions to Consider

  • What do I want to know about my students?

  • What topics will seamlessly integrate into instruction? 

  • What topics can be applicable to the content being taught?

  • What are 1-2 topics/things my students might be interested in learning about my culture?

Teacher Tips

  • Use one of the bulletin boards in your room to create a display for the pop culture dialogue.  

  • If music is one of the pop culture categories chosen, creating a YouTube or Spotify playlist for the class is a great integration tool.

    • The playlist can be played during independent whole class work time.  

  • Implementation is a must! Be sure to find ways to use students’ interests so that they will always be excited to share.

    • For example, in an ELA class, a teacher can use movies, music, or books shared during the pop discussion as mentor texts.

  • Letting individual students volunteer, take turns leading the discussion, and do the writing on the board helps to foster ownership of the process. 

Consulted Resources

In developing this strategy, resources from For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education by Christopher Emdin were consulted.