Popular Culture Resources

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Keep students entertained and engaged with these websites and online resources that connect learning to popular culture. From memes to movies we’ve got you covered.

From dance crazes like the ‘Floss’ to films, songs and toys, there are a wide range of cultural experiences and interests students have that often seem disconnected from their classroom learning. Simple tweaks to subject content can make a significant difference in how students relate to a subject and get them emotionally invested in pushing forward to develop new skills.

Making Curriculum Pop

Making Curriculum Pop describes itself as “a resource sharing community for educators interested in better practices and teaching with pop culture”. It is a sharing hub with more than 7,000 members and groups that cover a wide range of interests and teaching ranges. The owner of the page, Ryan Goble, states that the site was set up because “it is hard for individual teachers to catch every cool website, video clip, song, study guide or comic but collectively MC POP is a forum where we can all share resources to reinvent our core curriculum and the larger dialogue on public education. So if you use popular and common cultures to reflect, refract, refocus and reinvent your core curriculum MC POP is the place for you.” Users can set up their own page and from there can connect to other teachers and any of the 87 listed groups. Group categories include subjects or levels as well as special interest topics like ‘Identity: Gender, Race, Sex, SES and Power’, ‘Graphic Novels and Comics’, ‘Adolescent Films’, ‘Making Music Pop’, etc. Members post all sorts of resources, including lesson plans, videos and articles, along with discussion threads and suggestions for primary sources. There is a ‘Week in Review’ section where top articles, links and threads are compiled, highlighting the main interests of the week. Members can post links to articles, videos and other web content and they can contribute to discussion threads and curate their own 'playlists’ or write messages/content that would be of use for other teachers. For teachers interested in further pursuing the pop culture angle, the owners of the site have also published a book engaging with related teaching theory called Making Curriculum Pop: Developing Literacies that was published in 2015 by Free Spirit Pub.

It’s OK to be Smart

PBS Digital Studios has more than 50 original web series on offer that explore science, arts, culture and more. ‘It’s OK to be Smart’ is a YouTube channel that looks at science from unconventional perspectives, including through the lens of popular culture. The channel’s host, Joe Hanson, is a PhD biologist and science writer who encourages students to be curious and ask questions as he guides them through the ways that science connects directly to their own lives and interests. The videos are released weekly and run for between about 5 and 15 minutes. There is a wide range of topics that cover physics, biology, chemistry, engineering and all other aspects of science. The overall approach is light-hearted and fun – Joe Hanson is a bit goofy and keeps humour at the centre of the videos. This is clear in titles such as ‘How poop shaped the world’, ‘Should you eat every day?’ and ‘Why don’t ants get stuck in traffic?’. Although the medium itself fits within popular culture, he also includes pop culture references in some of the videos, such as, ‘Why do Disney princesses all look like babies?’, ‘This rainforest caterpillar looks like Donald Trump’, ‘Attack of the Zombie parasites’, and ‘The science of the Game of Thrones’. This is a very creative approach to scientific inquiry and his ability to connect disparate elements such as art to atomic fission, neurology to toothpaste and biological instincts to Disney animation is engaging and thought-provoking, demonstrating in practice the type of thinking that is necessary for engagement with scientific principles.

Flocabulary

Flocabulary is a research-based approach to help students “master skills, build vocabulary and develop 21st century skills”. Each lesson consists of a short video on a particular theme that is then followed up by a class discussion and a quiz (either online or that can be printed) that helps assess how much the students have learned. The 10-question quiz covers content, skills and vocabulary from the lesson and with the online version, it is automatically scored and teachers receive a breakdown of the marks, showing where there are weaknesses in students’ understanding. The videos are divided into subjects, including all the core subjects as well as life skills, vocabulary and current events. The popular culture aspect is best represented in their weekly series ‘The week in rap’ in which the previous week’s current events are distilled into a summary video accompanied by a ‘Flocabulary’ rap. There is a version of this for KS 3 & 4 and one for the juniors, aimed at KS 2. The one drawback of this video series, however, is that it is written for an American audience so some of the terminology and current events items are less relevant to UK educators. Many of the videos are in the form of songs, raps or stories and they incorporate pop culture references, including James Bond, various sport themes, super heroes, fairy tales, and other topics that would be of interest to students. There are also accompanying detailed lesson plans, vocabulary cards, games, ‘read and respond’ prompts and a feature called ‘Lyric Lab’, which allows students to write their own rap lyrics based on the vocabulary from that week’s lesson. Flocabulary is a subscription-based service with individual teacher or institutional rates available.

For more Popular Culture websites and resources read the full article here.

Creative Teaching & Learning
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