Making Curriculum Pop


Five Ideas for Using Pop Culture to Inspire Elementary Students
By Gaetan Pappalardo


I had a student ask me for a month straight, almost every day, if it was okay to write a story about Transformers. At the beginning of each writing workshop, he would stroll up to me and ask the same question.

"Yes, you can write a story with Transformers in it." I thought I sounded sincere.

"Are you sure?" he would ask.

He just couldn’t believe what I was telling him. He surely didn’t want to carve out a long piece of writing only for me to tell him, "That's not allowed." Or, "Transformers are not for school." Maybe even, "You need to write about important things in your life." It's obvious these exact excuses were once uttered in his direction. More than once, I'm sure. It took a month to break this pattern, to get him to relax and write. A month, people. That’s a tough knot to loosen and untie that doesn’t really need to be in the first place.

The High Costs of the Knot

Vicki Spandel, author of The 9 Rights of Every Writer, makes a great analogy that clarifies what probably happened to my young sc-fi writer up there. I'm not exactly sure of the exact quote, but it goes something like this: Being told what to write year after year can be compared to a wild animal held in captivity for a very long time. When it's released back into the wild (writing freedom), when the iron door lifts, their eyes say, "What the hell do you want me to do now?"

I totally related with this little guy. When I was eight, twenty-some-odd years ago, sword-wielding mice, superheroes and hockey were meant to stay home -- not for school. It's really no different today except for maybe the teachers who haven't forgotten what it’s like to be a kid, the teachers who understand that there's energy in a measly piece of plastic or a silly cartoon.

Exploit the Energy

Brock Dethier, in his book From Dylan to Donne, states that in order to connect with our students we need to exploit the energy that our students invest in traditionally scorned genres -- not only sci-fi and fantasy, but the cheesy, the painfully trite, and repulsively romantic.


Read the full article HERE.

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Replies to This Discussion

I LOVE the idea about using lyrics to teach about voice, word choice, conventions - (and the science geek in me loves the race track to show elapsed time - so many possibilities there!)
Great to hear - there are lots of great science songs out there too!



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