Popular culture in high school language arts.Abstract
This article argues that popular culture such as music, movies, and television should be used as additional "text" in the language arts language arts
The subjects, including reading, spelling, and composition, aimed at developing reading and writing skills, usually taught in elementary and secondary school. classroom to build stronger connections with traditional literature and aid in teaching other important skills and concepts within the curriculum. The author offers advice for implementing popular culture and provides specific examples of its application in the classroom.
One challenge facing many high school language arts teachers is poor student motivation and performance when it comes to the literature and composition requirements of a traditional curriculum. Although many literary anthologies employed in secondary schools have added more women and minority writers along with a writing curriculum that includes more creativity and variety in forms of written expression, the average teacher still views these new resources and ideas as ancillary to formal composition and the established literary canon (Lane, 2001).
The societal pressure that drives many high school language arts teachers is that they must produce capable students with proficient skills in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and thinking (Buckingham, 1992). They have traditionally sought to accomplish this goal by utilizing a curriculum that focuses exclusively upon literature that the typical high school student dismisses as dull and almost foreign (Hobbs, 2001). Students today live in a culture saturated by music, movies, television, video games See video game console. , cartoons, teen magazines This is a list of teen magazines.
the action of a horse when it refuses to obey a command to which it usually responds. See also jibbing. at the very notion of composing a five-paragraph literary analysis that must then be edited for run-on sentences. Academic activities of this kind do not stimulate today's typical high school students because these printed texts and writing tasks are so far removed from their language, experience, and culture (Hobbs, 2001). Even the most competent and creative efforts on the part of the language arts teacher to implement student-centered activities, stimulate prior knowledge, and promote active reading may tall short of sparking a student's genuine interest in the material.
Meeting the needs of today's students will require adjusting the traditional high school language arts curriculum and broadening perceptions of what is considered "text" as a teaching tool (Stevens, 2001). Instead of viewing popular culture as a distracting rival of the literary canon, language arts teachers can learn to embrace it as an invaluable resource. Popular culture can be used as a teaching tool in the same way as a novel, poem, or textbook to teach essential language arts skills and concepts (Lane, 2001). James Berlin (1996) argues, "Our historicist perspective on current English Studies English studies is an academic discipline that includes the study of literatures written in the English language (including literatures from the U.K., U.S., Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, the Philippines, India, South Africa, and the Middle East, among other hierarchies enables us to regard all manners of discourse as worthy of investigation, including film, television, video, and popular music" (p. xvi). This shift in the paradigm of what constitutes "text" worthy of literary locus does not suggest the demise of traditional literature and composition (Lane, 2001), but instead aims to construct and sustain a more comprehensive and meaningful connection between the texts that high school students experience and the world in which they live.
Language arts education at the high school level is only just beginning to adapt to the vast multicultural and technological changes that are taking place in American society. As a result of the call for "back to basics" education during the 1980s, language arts curricula have remained true to "obscure books and the culture of print" despite the changing face of American student populations and the multitude of available texts that surpass the printed page (Lane, 2001, p. 2). Teachers have continued to employ the time-honored great works of the literary canon as the only text worthy of investigation and discovery in the process of analyzing literature (Lane, 2001). Secondary language arts teachers have traditionally viewed popular culture as the enemy (Hobbs, 2001). Language arts curricula of the past have clung to printed text as the only means of educating students, but "modem literacy involves diverse combinations of reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, moving, thinking, and representing strategies and skills" (Pailliotet et al., 2000, p. 210). In this age of I-pods, portable DVD players A handheld device with a built-in DVD drive and flip-over lid that contains a screen, typically 6" to 10" in size. It may support rear seat passenger viewing, in which case the unit is hung upside down from the back of the front seat head rest, and a switch flips screen content 180 , and every cable channel imaginable, the common assumption amongst most language arts teachers is that they must compete against hours of popular culture consumption on a daily basis. They feel that the value of the sound byte and notions of instant gratification dispelled by the popular culture of today create barriers to the patience and critical thinking involved in the comprehension and analysis of literature (Hobbs, 2001).
Language arts teachers have enjoyed the use of various instructional methods as a means of building a bridge for students to better relate to reading and writing tasks. Freewriting and brainstorming have been commonly utilized in the classroom as ways of generating ideas for writing (Skinner and Policoff, 1994). Likewise, teachers have employed activities such as advance organizers to aid students in thinking and connecting with issues related to literature (Snapp and Glover, 1990). Methods such as these remain effective to an extent in helping students better relate to the curriculum.
Implementing popular culture in the classroom derives from the idea that teachers must build connections between the printed texts of the literary canon and the background knowledge of students (Flood, Heath, and Lapp, 2005). Language arts teachers must contend with the realization that their students cannot relate to the literary canon and lack the internal motivation or interest in reading and analyzing such literature (Hobbs, 2001). Popular culture offers a way for language arts teachers to bridge that gap. When utilized appropriately and consistently, popular culture becomes a powerful tool to "activate student schema, scaffold scaffold
Temporary platform used to elevate and support workers and materials during work on a structure or machine. It consists of one or more wooden planks and is supported by either a timber or a tubular steel or aluminum frame; bamboo is used in parts of Asia. learning, engage students, and connect learning environments" (Pailliotet et al., 2000, p. 214). Implementing popular culture will enable students to better understand the historical and underlying concepts of the literature they are reading, which will foster the motivation and ability to analyze a wide variety of literary elements.
The same framework applies when students are faced with developing an essay. Often times they have no idea what to write about; they lack the necessary spark to get started. Popular culture offers a valuable source of inspiration for ideas that relate to important issues of American society (Lane, 2001). When provided with a "text" that is relevant to their lives in language that is familiar, necessary writing skills like topic development and support for ideas have an open space to flourish (Hobbs, 2001).
Popular Culture and the Curriculum
Hobbs (2001) recommends showing specific movie scenes in the language arts classroom to compel students to make close observation of details. This activity serves a dual purpose: first, it provides a model for the importance of including interesting detail in the writing process; second, it teaches students to look closely at the amount of detail that goes into character development, which improves their analytical skills in reading (Hobbs). The process of noting details in short movie clips could also be applied to other areas of literary analysis such as setting, point of view, and tone. "From there, students can employ the same comprehension strategies using literary forms" (Hobbs, 2001, p. 46).
Lane (2001) asserts that various forms of popular culture may be utilized to establish the important relevance of the historical context of a literary work. In a language arts curriculum that includes great works of American literature American literature, literature in English produced in what is now the United States of America. Colonial Literature
American writing began with the work of English adventurers and colonists in the New World chiefly for the benefit of readers in , teachers could illustrate the characteristics of different literary periods with movie clips that depict traits from that time period, instilling in·still also in·stil
tr.v. in·stilled, in·still·ing, in·stills also in·stils
1. To introduce by gradual, persistent efforts; implant: "Morality . . . a stronger connection with the literary work and creating meaning that goes beyond the surface.
McParland (2000) advocates the close examination of music and song lyrics to parallel the skills required to analyze poetry. Because "poetry and song share qualities of meter and rhythm, use of metaphors, and imagery," language arts teachers can use popular music in the classroom to tap into students' interests and experiences and practice the same analytical skills required when searching for a deeper understanding of poetry (McParland, 2000, p. 30). Once students have mastered the art of analysis with popular music and developed an appreciation for it, translating the same skills in the study of poetry becomes a much easier task. Music can also establish important links to other literature. McParland (2000) writes that "musical genres can offer greater depth, meaning, and relevance to literature ... often concerning human relationships" (p. 28). If used as a hook, popular music can guide students to evaluate the emotions conveyed by a variety of familiar songs and later draw parallels with literature that might otherwise be difficult to connect with an emotional level (McParland). Aiex (1988) suggests organizing brainstorming sessions for the development of writing topics around themes associated with popular movies. This kind of activity offers students the chance "to synthesize To create a whole or complete unit from parts or components. See synthesis. , analyze, evaluate, and argue--to engage ideas actively and write substantively about them" (Pailliotet, 2000, p. 216). Aiex (1988) also recommends television news programs as a model for persuasive writing Persuasive writing is used to convince the reader of the writer’s argument. This may involve persuading the reader to perform an action, or simply consist of an argument convincing the reader of the writer’s point of view. and the need to provide adequate support and detail when developing an argument.
Popular culture can be used to engage students in critical thinking and writing about other media and the culture we live in. "By learning to 'read' media and popular texts, students learn about the construction of writing and how writing, consciously or unconsciously, reflects and produces specific values and points of view" (Lane, 2001). This kind of visual literacy Visual literacy is the ability to interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented in the form of an image. Visual literacy is based on the idea that pictures can be “read” and that meaning can be communicated through a process of reading. forces students to choose their own perspective on an issue, examine relevant texts, and then produce writing that supports, scrutinizes, or expands upon those ideas (Lane). Movie clips, news programs, magazine advertisements and even music videos can be used to elicit the same kind of critical thinking that students must employ when writing a research paper or engaging in a debate. Though many students may struggle with the mechanics of writing, Jeremiah (1992) argues that rap lyrics can be used to teach various technical aspects of composition such as sentence structure and variety, verb tenses, subject-verb agreement, usage, and negation NEGATION. Denial. Two negations are construed to mean one affirmation. Dig. 50, 16, 137. . In addition to grammar mini-lessons, language arts teachers have the opportunity to utilize rap music rap music or hip-hop, genre originating in the mid-1970s among black and Hispanic performers in New York City, at first associated with an athletic style of dancing, known as breakdancing. during the editing stage of the writing process to make grammar instruction more interesting. Before peer editing begins, teachers can invite their students to bring in non-explicit versions of their favorite rap songs or other music to practice making corrections.
It is important to realize that developing this library of resources does require a great deal of time and effort on the part of the teacher, but the amazing a·maze
v. a·mazed, a·maz·ing, a·maz·es
1. To affect with great wonder; astonish. See Synonyms at surprise.
2. Obsolete To bewilder; perplex.
v.intr. results are well worth the effort. In accordance with copyright law, teachers may use materials such as DVDs, videotapes, recorded television programming, and music in the classroom for educational purposes (Davidson, 2006). Due to time constraints within the curriculum, showing only two or three scenes at most from a movie or television show will suffice, but the ultimate decision about which sections to show will depend on the instructional purpose.
1. Activity: Theme of "The American Dream American dream also American Dream
An American ideal of a happy and successful life to which all may aspire: " in overall preparation for reading American Literature and essay brainstorming Music: "America" by Neil Diamond
2. Activity: Puritan historical context Movie: The Scarlet Letter scarlet letter
“A” for “adultery” sewn on Hester Prynne’s dress. [Am. Lit.: The Scarlet Letter]
See : Adultery
3. Activity: Personal connection with "'Upon the Burning of Our House" by Anne Bradstreet Noun 1. Anne Bradstreet - poet in colonial America (born in England) (1612-1672)
Anne Dudley Bradstreet, Bradstreet Movie: Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
4. Activity: Compare and contrast sermon styles with Jonathan Edwards in "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" was one of the most famous sermons preached by Jonathan Edwards, a prominent Calvinist Congregational minister, in Enfield, Connecticut, in 1741. " Movies/Television: Footloose foot·loose
Having no attachments or ties; free to do as one pleases.
free to go or do as one wishes
Adj. 1. , Lakewood Church Lakewood Church is a diverse, non-denominational megachurch located in Houston, Texas. As of 2007, it is the largest and fastest growing church in the United States with more than 52,000 attendees during its English and Spanish language services. with Joel Osteen Joel Scott Hayley Osteen (born March 5, 1963,, in Houston, Texas) is the senior pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, North America’s largest and fastest growing church averaging more than 42,000 attendees at weekly services.. , The Apostle
5. Activity: Historical context of McCarthyism as it relates to The Crucible crucible, vessel in which a substance is heated to a high temperature, as for fusing or calcining. The necessary properties of a crucible are that it maintain its mechanical strength and rigidity at high temperatures and that it not react in an undesirable way with by Arthur Miller Noun 1. Arthur Miller - United States playwright (1915-2005)
Miller Movie: The Majestic
6. Activity: Character analysis practice for The Crucible essay Movie: The Nutty Professor
7. Activity: Write an essay comparing and contrasting any character from The Crucible with any fictional character of your choice Movie/Television: Student choice
8. Activity: American Revolution American Revolution, 1775–83, struggle by which the Thirteen Colonies on the Atlantic seaboard of North America won independence from Great Britain and became the United States. It is also called the American War of Independence. historical context for Patrick Henry's "Speech to the Virginia Convention" Movie: The Patriot
9. Activity: Demonstrate logical and emotional appeals in Patrick Henry's "Speech to the Virginia Convention" Movies: Philadelphia, A Time to Kill
10. Activity: Illustrate target audience and modes of persuasion The modes of persuasion are devices in rhetoric that classify the speaker's appeal to the audience. They are: ethos, pathos and logos.
Aristotle's On Rhetoric describes the modes of persuasion thus:
11. Activity: Illustrate characteristics of Romanticism romanticism, term loosely applied to literary and artistic movements of the late 18th and 19th cent. Characteristics of Romanticism
Resulting in part from the libertarian and egalitarian ideals of the French Revolution, the romantic movements had in preparation for reading "Rip Van Winkle" by Washington Irving Movies: The Last of the Mohicans, Sleepy Hollow Sleepy Hollow
out-of-the-way, old-world village on Hudson. [Am. Lit.: “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” in Benét, 575]
See : Isolation
12. Activity: Illustrate characteristics of Gothic Romanticism in preparation for reading "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe Movie: Sleepy Hollow
13. Activity: Demonstrate parody and introduce "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe Television: "The Simpsons"
14. Activity: Practice analyzing literary elements in poetry such as diction, tone, theme, point of view, symbolism, and irony Music: "'Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)" by Pink Floyd This article includes inline links to audio files. If you have trouble playing the files, see Wikipedia Media help.
15. Activity: Illustrate non-conformity as a transcendentalist ideal in "Serf-Reliance" by Ralph Waldo Emerson Movie: Dead Poet's Society
16. Activity: Illustrate civil disobedience civil disobedience, refusal to obey a law or follow a policy believed to be unjust. Practitioners of civil disobediance basing their actions on moral right and usually employ the nonviolent technique of passive resistance in order to bring wider attention to the for personal connection with "Civil Resistance to Government" by Henry David Thoreau Movies: Ali, The Rosa Parks Noun 1. Rosa Parks - United States civil rights leader who refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man in Montgomery (Alabama) and so triggered the national Civil Rights movement (born in 1913)
17. Activity: Demonstrate examples of satire Television: "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy"
18. Activity: Freewriting to generate writing topics Music: Instrumental mix
19. Activity: Peer editing where students bring in their own copy of school-appropriate lyrics and practice editing for grammar, usage, and punctuation before editing each other's writing Music: Student choice
20. Activity: Model for providing adequate support in persuasive writing and drawing firm conclusions Television: "Hardball hard·ball
2. Informal The use of any means, however ruthless, to attain an objective.
US & Canad
21. Activity: Model for using vivid detail in writing Movie: The Princess Bride
22. Activity: Brainstorming and discussion for critical essay related to cultural issues Movies: Divorce Kramer vs. Kramer, Racism--Do the Right Thing, Gangs/Crime--Boyz in the Good, Goals/Dreams--Billy Elliot, Sexuality--American Pie, Politics--Bulworth, Terrorism--The Siege, Sports--Hoosiers, Relationships--When Harry Met Sally, Teen Romance--Sixteen Candles, Peer Pressure--Heathers
Language arts education today requires more ingenuity on the part of the teacher to get students interested and to build connections with the curriculum. When implemented appropriately, popular culture becomes a vital resource to reach students on a familiar level and draw them further into our academic world. A review of the literature provides some specific strategies to achieve these educational goals, offering a microcosmic mi·cro·cosm
A small, representative system having analogies to a larger system in constitution, configuration, or development: "He sees the auto industry as a microcosm of the U.S. glimpse at the vast possibilities that exist for all language arts teachers to reach their students in a unique way while remaining faithful to the skills and concepts required by their curricula.
Popular culture becomes a potent ally when language arts teachers are faced with the reality that many students have no interest in reading and analyzing traditional literature or producing salient and evocative writing. It also offers teachers a distinctive method to create a classroom environment with engaged students experiencing multiple modes of learning and discovering the intrinsic enjoyment of literature and composition. Current research has shown great success in employing popular culture to teach students to become critical analysts of various media (Alvermann, Moon, and Hagood, 1999; Williams, 2003; Martin, 2003; Paul, 2000; Fisherkeller, 2000). To demonstrate that it can be applied with equal success as an innovative way to teach traditional reading and writing skills, an experimental study is the next logical step to examine the effects of implementing a modified language arts curriculum that utilizes popular culture as a fundamental literary text.
Aiex, N. (1988). Using film, video, and TV in the classroom (Report No. CS506459). Bloomington, IN: ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading and Communication Skills. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED300848)
Alvermann, D. E., Moon, J. S., & Hagood, M. C. (1999). Popular culture in the classroom: Teaching and researching critical media literacy Media literacy is the process of accessing, analyzing, evaluating and creating messages in a wide variety of media modes, genres and forms. It uses an inquiry-based instructional model that encourages people to ask questions about what they watch, see and read. . Chicago and Newark, DE: National Reading Conference and International Reading Association.
Berlin, J. (1996). Rhetorics, Poetics po·et·ics
n. (used with a sing. or pl. verb)
1. Literary criticism that deals with the nature, forms, and laws of poetry.
2. A treatise on or study of poetry or aesthetics.
3. , and Cultures: Refiguring College English Studies. Albany: SUNY SUNY - State University of New York Press.
Buckingham, D. (1992). English and media studies: making the difference. English Quarterly, 25, 8-13.
Davidson, H. Copyright and fair use guidelines for teachers. Retrieved May 28, 2006, from http://www.nccei.org/blackboard/copyright.html
Fisherkeller, J. (2000). "The writers are getting kind of desperate": young adolescents, television, and literacy. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 43,596-606.
Flood, J., Heath, S. B., & Lapp, D. (2005). Handbook of Research on Teaching Literacy Through the Communicative and Visual Arts visual arts npl → artes fpl plásticas
visual arts npl → arts mpl plastiques
visual arts npl → . Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Hobbs, R. (2001). Improving reading comprehension Reading comprehension can be defined as the level of understanding of a passage or text. For normal reading rates (around 200-220 words per minute) an acceptable level of comprehension is above 75%. by using media literacy activities. Voices from the Middle, 8, 44-50.
Jeremiah, M. (1992). Rap lyrics: instruments for language arts instruction. The Western Journal of Black Studies, 16, 98-102.
Lane, R. (2001). Mary Tyler Moore This article is about the actress. For her 1970s television series, also known as "Mary Tyler Moore", see The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Mary Tyler Moore to Tori Amos Tori Amos (born Myra Ellen Amos on August 22, 1963) is an American pianist and singer-songwriter. She is married to English sound engineer Mark Hawley. Together they have one daughter, Natashya "Tash" Lórien Hawley, born on September 5, 2000. : teaching pre-service teachers the uses of popular/media culture in secondary language arts curricula. The Writing Instructor. Retrieved January 27, 2003, from http://www.writinginstructor.com/areas/englished/lane.html
Martin, S. R. (2003). Close the book. It's time It's Time was a successful political campaign run by the Australian Labor Party (ALP) under Gough Whitlam at the 1972 election in Australia. Campaigning on the perceived need for change after 23 years of conservative (Liberal Party of Australia) government, Labor put forward a to read. The Clearing House, July/August, 289-291.
McParland, R. (2000). Music to their ears: that's what music can become to youngsters when we integrate music into our lessons. Scholastic Instructor, April, 27-30.
Pailliotet, A. W., Semali, L., Rodenberg, R. K., Giles, J. K., & Macaul, S. L. (2000). Intermediality: bridge to critical media literacy. The Reading Teacher, 54(2), 208-220.
Paul, D. G. (2000). Rap and orality orality /oral·i·ty/ (or-al´it-e) the psychic organization of all the sensations, impulses, and personality traits derived from the oral stage of psychosexual development.
n. : critical media literacy, pedagogy, and cultural synchronization (1) See synchronous and synchronous transmission.
(2) Ensuring that two sets of data are always the same. See data synchronization.
(3) Keeping time-of-day clocks in two devices set to the same time. See NTP. . Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 44(3), 246-252.
Skinner, J., and Policoff, S. P. (1994). Writer's block--and what to do about it. Writer, 107(11), 21-24.
Snapp, J. C., and Glover, J. A. (1990). Advance organizers and study questions. Journal of Educational Research, 83(5), 266-271.
Stevens, L. (2001). South Park and society: instructional and curricular implications of popular culture in the classroom. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 44, 548-555.
Williams, B. T. (2003). What they see is what we get: television and middle school writers. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 46, 546-554.
John Day, University of Houston, TX
John Day is a doctoral candidate at the University of Houston and currently teaches eleventh grade This article or section deals primarily with the United States and Canada and does not represent a worldwide view of the subject.
Please [ improve this article] or discuss the issue on the talk page. English at Dulles High School in Sugar Land, TX.