Making Curriculum Pop

As an early childhood educator, I was so excited for the PBS Sprout and Electric Company presentation! I watch these shows all the time with my nieces who are 5 and 3 years of age and constantly wonder, who picks the content for these shows? What attracts my nieces to these television shows? How can I incorporate these shows into my early childhood classroom curriculum?

The PBS Sprout presenters discussed how their channel follows the life of a preschooler in thirty-minute blocks. Their whole idea is having young children in their programming actively participating. They partner with Hit Entertainment, Sesame Workshop and PBS kids. Their curriculum revolves around the themes of “imagination, sharing, inclusion, and interaction.” There is no “lip-flap”. Their shows are easily adaptable and multi-lingual. I went on their website later and looked around. After meeting Chicka at the conference, I was so excited to see him on the website! The Sunny Side Up and The Good Night Show have to be my favorite shows. Having two nieces, I could see how much they would enjoy the consistency of watching these shows every morning and night. As discussed at the conference, PBS Sprout has daily and weekly themes. Monday’s theme was music and next week’s overall theme is Earth in honor of Earth Day. At the conference we were shown all the birthday cards sent into to the show. While on the website I noticed a section where kids can send things into PBS Sprout. Because this week’s theme is music, they made drums and guitars on The Sunny Side Up. Viewers are welcome to send in any artwork or pictures related to this week’s theme. Check out on their site what kids sent in!

Electric Company was a blast from the past! I remember the Electric Company from when I was little and was so happy to hear it is back. The Electric Company targets kids who have graduated out of Sesame Street and need another type of programming. It also aims at helping kids who are struggling readers. As a teacher getting her masters in literacy, I was so thrilled to hear this! This is something interactive, engaging and creative that could help so many students who struggle with reading on a daily basis. The Electric Company’s addresses “decoding, vocabulary, comprehension of connected text and motivation.” The quick clips of recent episodes shown were amazing! The way they embedded different literacy standards into their programming in a fun and imaginative way got my attention. I also went to the Electric Company’s website. Their graphics and games are very appealing for older children. All of their games support the literacy concepts discussed at the conference. The Word Transformer game helps students learn about the silent e. They had many other games and new ones one that were coming to the website soon.

During Alan Teasley’s presentation on “Why Film Matters” I began to think how I could bring media literacy into my kindergarten classroom. I know my students love watching television and movies but how could I incorporate that into my early childhood class? When Alan gave us the statistics that children ages 2-7 have their T.V. on 35% of the time and 32% have it in their bedroom, I was shocked. Media surrounds my students at all times. Would their parents want it at school also? Are T.V. and movies just a home activity?

During Pam Goble’s presentation I began to think this was a possibility. While viewing clips from the movie “Kit Kitredge” and looking at the graphic organizers designed for students in younger grades, I had an idea. Could I maybe show a clip from the Electric Company about a new vocabulary word and have the students discuss what the word means, words similar to it and how it was used it in the show? For even younger kids, I could show a clip from The Sunny Side Up and print out an activity worksheet for the theme of the day. We could then discuss words associated with the activity sheet and theme and then read books that go along with the theme as well. These are just some thoughts i have. Any ideas or thoughts about this would be much appreciated. I think all early childhood classrooms deserve a media component!

Check out these great sites!
PBS Sprout
The Electric Company
Early Childhood Teachers: More Planet Movies
PBS Teachers

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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Blair - great post -- you made me think about the question whether or not media should be incorporated in schools, especially when it is already a dominant part of children's lives.
So as I was reflecting on our whole conference I realized there is a difference between the way kids watch television at home and the way they watch it in the classroom. From the first day of our conference we are taught film vocabulary and how films are made so that we learn to actively look at films and deconstruct how they are made. When looking at a film clip from ET we did not merely just look at the film but broke it down by viewpoints, sounds, music, and speed so that we became aware of how all these elements came together to create a specific mood or scene. We became "active," critical lookers. We saw through the conference that when using film in the classroom students are not just merely watching but are reflecting and discussing what they see. Teachers should be asking questions that help students analyze what they are viewing. Pam Goble’s presentation is a great example of how film can be used to prompt critical thinking and learning. When watching the movie Kit Kitredge we reflected on several topics such as history, social roles, gender issues, economics and technology. We were intensely looking and analyzing the film which is very different from the passive way of looking that we are so used to when watching movies.

I argue that it is important to use media in the classroom in order to teach students to be more “active,” critical lookers. There is a growing problem in today’s society where people are falling in to this passivity in which they go through the world “sleeping,” unaffected by what they see. With advertisements and commercial images flooding people's vision, society has been taught "to look" without care or second thoughts. These repetitive, empty messages manipulate the mind to be passive thinkers and viewers. At an early age we are taught to passively look as we become glued to the television and mindlessly watch what is being shown. According to the statistic it is clear that media has become a dominant part of children's lives thus it is essential that we pull students out of this passivity and teach them to become active lookers and thinkers.
Just my thoughts. Didn't mean to ramble on.
Hi Elizabeth,
Happy you enjoyed the post :) I completely agree with you that students need media in the classroom to think more critically. I know my students view T.V. as a favorite pass time activity to do when they get home . They just want to relax in front of the T.V. and not think. But i want them to think! I am just still unsure how parents and administrators might view this idea.

Thanks again!
Children's television really has changed significantly since we were in school. I distinctively remember flipping back and forth between Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers!

I like your ideas Blair of using the he Electric Company to work with your students on vocabulary. Vocabulary instruction is not always the most stimulating, but I think this would really get the kids excited. When I teach vocabulary in my second grade classroom as a class we create actions for the definitions of different words. The students really enjoy making up nonverbal gestures. Electric company would definitely would help to lift the level of my instruction by including multiple literacies. I think by incorporating the Electric company in the classroom, the lesson would be a hit. Electric Company sure does add some energy to less exciting topics in the classroom. I could even see my class getting excited about vowel sounds if I used the rap that the show had created!

I think it was suggested in class but you can also use Teacher Tube (, which is another great website that has video clips that you can use in your classroom.

Let me know how it goes!
When we were watching "Kit Kitredge" with our individual focus (fashion, music, language..), I was surprised how much there was to talk about after only watching one scene. There were parts/aspects of the movie that I would've ignored or not paid attention If I were just watching this movie at home. I think any show/ movie clips are shown to kids with a purpose of teaching something or for an activity it is a fun tool to use with our younger students. Yea, so a clip from The Sunny Side Up show that relates to a theme will probably get the message across to the little ones better than just a sheet of paper~
Hi Blair!

Great post! I like that you reflected on the statistics Alan Teasley brought up. They were pretty shocking and it made me wonder if children need more TV in the classroom. You also bring up a good point about how parents would respond to it. I think you have thought of great ways to incorporate The Electric Company and The Sunny Side Up Show into the classroom. I especially like the idea of using The Electric Company to support vocabulary instruction. Thanks for all the resources and way to bring what you learned from the presentations and apply it to a classroom environment!
Blair, Wow amazing post, I like how you linked several presentations together. You gave me a good idea for using Pams lecture in a classroom, never thought of using it for a childrens show. I also like the information on the themeing of sprout because it ccan be tied into a lesson that allows students to analyze what they are viewing
Hi Blair,
Amazing post! Since I teach Nursery school, I definitely relate to the issue of how to incorporate media into my classroom. Lack of resources and funds also presents a dilemma because my school does not own a television or computer. I really enjoyed the presentation, "Kids, Curriculum, and Talking Chickens: Behind The Scenes In Children's Television," because it gave me so many ideas of how to integrate media into an early childhood classroom. After meeting Chicka, I asked my students' parents if their kids have seen The Sunny Side Up and Good Night Show. I was very surprised when I found out that almost all of my students had never seen these two shows. To test Alan Teasley's statistic that children between the ages of 2-7 have their T.V. on 35% of the time and 32% have it in their bedroom, I asked my students' parents how much time does their children watch TV on a daily and weekly basis. Many of the parents said that their children only watch a half an hour of television a day, either in the morning before school or in the evening before bed. The parents commented on how their children are only allowed to watch educational programs such as Sesame Street. I explained to the parents that I met the director of production at PBS Kids Sprout and how their children would not only benefit from watching Sprout but would love the Sunny Side Up and Good Night Show because the target audience is preschoolers. All of the PBS children programs are enjoyable for children to watch however, they also reinforce the main ideas and concepts that kids learn in school!
Hey Blair,

I loved this presentation too! The minute I saw The Goodnight Show, I thought that this would be a great way to help kids get into a routine at night. I think you posed great questions regarding the amount of time that kids are engaged in media related activities. I think there are many benefits of integrating the moving image into the classroom but I can also see how students are bombarded with media/technology throughout the day. I’m not sure what the answer is but its definitely a thought I will continue to ponder. Great post!
Thanks for the post Blair. I think you brought up some wonderful points about how educational these shows actually are. I too was really excited to see the new Electric Company. While watching the clips from various episodes I thought about how great it was that there is a learning program for older kids. The had really creative ways to show different reading strategies and skills. I like your idea of using this in the classroom. I think that it would be an exciting way for students to learn a new strategy for reading.
Hi Blair,
Who knew that there was so much already out there to enrich our teaching further? As I sat there watching the "new" Electric Company, I realized that they made my life as a literacy teacher all the more cooler. I will definitely be using clips from this show to illustrate points within literacy. I feel that with their catchy tunes, it's a great tool to use with our students. I also enjoyed knowing about tools that were able to be accessed at home on the internet from their website. This might be exactly what a few of my kids need when following up or extending their literacy skills.
Talking about a blast from the past hearing "The Electric Company" was making a comeback. I was a little struck by how `uncool' it was in relation to the show I remember from my youth. Maybe I am romanticizing the show from then, but it seemed that when many of these shows began they heralded new ways of bringing inner-city perspectives into kids' television. In a sense they set the norm for shows that would come later. Now it feels like some shows are just trying to recycle other elements of popular culture, thinking that this will appeal to young people. I don't know if kids are down with these kinds of appeals to the so-called familiar. When we watched the Electric Company excerpts, I was a little sad at how they were teaching vocabulary...the hip-hop based raps were a little illegitmate and acultural, kind of an insult to any real-life rapper out there. I feel like real hip-hop artists reaching out to do education sometimes provide more creative experiences for youth.

Check two of my favorite sources that 'bring the street to education':

Both sources have videos and music related to vocabulary development and history/social studies issues.

A friend of mine who teaches middle school used these models and then had kids develop their own cool systems for vocab and history. Maybe a segment of Electric Company can be used as a model for students to follow in creating their own rhymes, cue cards, video segments?



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