Making Curriculum Pop

Hey Everyone,

I’m getting back into the swing of things now that the main conference weekend of Teach, Think, Play is complete. We were treated to some magical speakers, including many of the pros that hang out here on MC POP. Conference participants will be sharing lots of ideas, reflections and resources with the whole MC POP community in the next few weeks. Today, however, is a regular MC POP post….and what is today’s theme?

I was still in junior high when this song came out. I was never big into hair metal but recall this cut being on the radio constantly. As an adult I struggle to wrap my head around the massive quantities of misogyny on display here. Couple these images with moronic lyrics like “I'm such a good boy, I need a new toy” and it makes me wonder if I should have started a hair band to cash in before I lost my flowing locks.

In retrospect, it would have been cool if my 7th grade teachers had used a song like this talk about the complex cultural dialogue that pop songs create with the general public. They didn’t even have to bring the song or the video into class - Imagine one simple question:

How would the song be different if it were titled “Women, Women, Women?”

Move over Lincoln and Douglas because a question like this would be cause for great debate among seventh graders. Additionally, this single sentence could have led to a lesson about the power of word choice and a healthy exploration of gender norms.

Fast forward to 2005 – When it comes to issues of sexuality and gender I’ve had a lot of success using Lauren Greenfield’s unique documentary photography collected in a book called Girl Culture. Greenfield’s website includes a study guide and set of teaching resources that are very useful for those interested in using these images to deal with body image and gender.

While the mass media pays more attention to girl culture (check this article about Dora’s makeover) it is essential to realize that there are many classroom friendly explorations of masculinity and male body image to be found out there on the internet. The BBC has an entire series of Body Image Documentaries including I’m a Boy Anorexic. Clips from this documentary upend student expectations and create a nice counterpoint to a film like Lauren Greenfield’s HBO documentary Thin. It is always essential to look at both sides of the coin.

If you find these materials to be too hot for your classrooms you might want to check out The Media Show. A colleague, Gus, who works at the EdLab at Teachers College has developed a series of puppet based educational shorts that explore issues around media. I'm not totally sure what grade they are targeting, but my personal favorite is this short titled “Real American Girls.”

This, methinks, would be a wonderful short to develop a lesson plan around – especially if the lesson opened the discussion up to representations of men and masculinity.

Issues of gender and sexuality are hard to teach at every grade level – especially when all the girls in a class have cooties. Exploring these themes in the classroom requires lots of brainstorming, planning and discussion. During the early days of the Ning (way back in February) two discussions - Erika’s post “Illustrating Sexualization in Pop Culture” and my sister’s post “Seeking Interdisciplinary Help” - generated some interesting resources, responses and ideas about how to create curriculum around gender, bodies and sexuality.

For that reason it seemed logical to start a group where people can talk about how you teach gender, bodies and sexuality using popular culture. So girls, boys, men, women and transsexuals – CLICK HERE to join this intellectual orgy!

PROGRAMMING NOTE: You may have noticed that Donny Osmond gave way to 80s Madonna. After Nicole read my account of her Oscar pool victory she proceeded to trash talk (at home and on the Ning) and requested our new pop icon in a 1980s photo. Some of you might this is a “ray of light” for, others might finally have the incentive to change your avatar – the decision is in your hands MC Poppers!

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The ReadWriteThink site has a new podcast highlighting YA Lit on these topics. Check it out:!
Hi Lisa --Thanks for pointing this out! I enjoyed this podcast & I'm now experimenting with creating a "banner" to link to it from a web page, just to share it around even further.
I'd totally lost track of my Ning account so I didn't notice the shout-out til today -- thanks Ryan!

The Media Show is mostly aiming at high-schoolers (out of school) and college students (whenever), though each episode is different. Some of them, like our "netiquette" episode, were actually created with the idea that you could forward them to Grandma without being disowned:
Meanwhile, our latest episode features a sex ed demonstration, crossdressing, and implied sacrilege, and would therefore be unwelcome at many schools -- but has been entertaining any number of young folks outside of class:

If you are looking for more vids on body image and gender, check out this one we did on photo manipulation:
Gus - thanks so much for sharing more cool vids!!!




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