Using Pop Culture in the Classroom

Beatles Rigby
Everyone remembers their coolest teachers. Cool teachers are always relatable, interested in their students’ passions and (for the most part) totally in control of their classrooms.

One of the coolest classroom experiences in my life came on the first day of a poetry class I took in college. For many people – including me – poetry feels intimidating and foreign. The professor was fully aware this disconnect existed for many of his students, so he eased us into the material via a medium we were comfortable with: pop music. Instead of using that all-important first day to comb through an overwhelming syllabus, or jumping straight into Shakespeare’s sonnets, we listened to music. Specifically, we listened to the Beatles. With the timeless lyrics to Eleanor Rigby in front of us, we listened – sang along at some points – and analyzed. By the end of that first class, we were ready, excited even, to make the small leap from lyric analysis to poetic analysis. I’ve often looked back and appreciated that instructor’s deep understanding of his students and his job as an educator.

Truly cool teachers know what my professor knew: it’s important to weave students’ interests into assignments and class discussions. Presenting material in a context that matters to students is a win-win, and making pop culture a mainstay of your teaching is a great way to start. The links below provide resources and ideas to help you connect with your students in ways that appeal to them.

– For a friendly nudge and helpful hints on incorporating pop culture in your classroom, check out this short read from

EdWeek offers some ideas about specific lesson plans that include social networking and other online resources that students likely already use on their own.

– Read this Edutopia blogger’s perspective on using pop culture to inspire elementary-aged writers.

Making Curriculum Pop is a resource-sharing community for teachers. This is a    great corner of the web that relies on teachers sharing ideas and online clips that really resonate with students.

Are you a cool teacher? Share your ideas and great resources below.


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