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Popular Culture in the Classroom
From the wide range of materials teachers can use in the classroom, popular culture is one of the best sources. They appear to public attention as the indication of the rapid growth of the society. Many of the pop culture icons are mostly well-known, regionally and internationally. Students enjoy working with pop culture that they are familiar with. Some of them think that such materials are less intimidating than heavy textbooks. With appropriate use and organized application, the pop icons can be remarkable teaching tools in the classroom. Reading sources and mass produced resources are widely available in all seasons, giving teachers plentiful options.
Despite the 'pop' reputation, the community does not need to worry that these materials would wreck the traditional schooling rules. Modern people are quite erudite to recognize popular culture items more than just as second-class articles. In fact, the culture symbols were excellently created as the output of knowledgeable way of thinking; many of them were even carefully crafted to suffice the grown-up market, and they look just exactly like scholarly products.
Working on the same subject of learning, teachers and students often see the problem from different point-of-views. Within less supportive environment and lack of background information, students do not always grab what the teacher aims, lose their motivation, and finally fail to accomplish the objectives. The tense is even higher for some subjects that are considered complicated, such as literature and mathematics, even if it is only the murky presumption.
As students have different learning styles, it is teacher's job to provide variety of materials that facilitate them to choose which one works best to understand the lesson better and faster. Popular culture offers loads of facts to fulfill this idea.
Popular Culture in Language (Literacy) Class
Popular culture is a great literary resource for young and adult learners. With apposite selection of the pieces, they accommodate the students' learning process. Students can use their knowledge of these pop items, to analyze and expose their outlook of the articles. Finally it would help them to develop their literacy skills, just like the way their seniors did in conservative-classic-schoolbook-reading class. Teachers can make use of the hit list of popular books, music, films, sports and many other current issues that flutter over the students' lunch table.
With the great charm of entertainment of the pop movies and toys, teachers can always invite students to enjoy their learning in a low barrier. Students can experience less threatening atmosphere, and it is possible to create this friendly learning situation anywhere; it doesn't have to be in school for all time. This means, the continual use of pop culture resources would gradually develop student's affection to learning activities, since students would discover a new chance and technique to express their thoughts. They are free to use their imagination and achieved reading, listening, and other literacy skills. Hence, the learning process would be threatening no more.
As an example, a research was done on using Teletubbies and Batman as the teacher's tool to teach literacy in young learners' class (Marsh, 2000). The two popular children movies were useful to motivate six- and seven-year-old student groups. In literature lessons, teacher can introduce reading and writing skills practices, once the popular example does its job to rouse students' attention to the session.
Marsh (2000) placed Batman in her children class for researching the motivational potential of the fiction to the young learners. Along with a reproduction of Batman cave, she placed assortment of reading materials depicting the hero's life, consisting of robes, boards, comics, pictures and computer. In a role-play, the children showed positive attitude toward the given literatures. They went into Batman's world, and recreated what the pictures and stories had shown them into their own buildings of stories and drawings. The qualitative research had successfully shown the effect of pop culture to trigger the eagerness around the student. It even worked for reluctant students that previously withdrew from conventional assessment like reading, in ordinary class.
Children also become a target of the changing cultural trend each time, and it seems that children can adapt well to the situation. Thanks to the evolving fashion, teachers have rich entries from movies, song (may include the young adult category), children fiction and non-fiction books, and popular cartoon items following the hit shows on television (instead, or supplementary to, the classic ones).
Children have a lot of time adapting to the real world by first trying to build their own world with their toys. Some children, especially the kinesthetic learners learn best when they touch, examine, or even knock their toys down. The teacher's part is to assimilate some outside information on how technical things work with the toys (for example, batteries give them power to run, some dolls' microchips record their voice to imitate, or plastic skins do not bath well in hot shower); that young learners can exercise to draw conclusions on simple scientific facts.
Similarly to the Batman research, the Teletubbies research was also conducted to find out how the popular series enhanced the toddlers' motivation to participate in classroom activities, on following instructions. The children's motivation throve after they knew they had to create Tubby custard. Following instruction was no problem, as long as they knew they would get the cake done. The movie provided them the basic environment, a familiar imaginary land, where they could work with their imagination. They might realize that without learning the language their Tubby project wouldn't work.
For international exposure, popular culture also has a sharp end to break the cultural barrier between the learners and the foreign language they are studying. Brooks (1994) showed the use of manga, a current trend of Japanese illustration, which made flourishing comics, computer games or image collection software, to help illuminating culture talk in the class.
One way to use manga is by presenting the translation version into a literature class. For example, Mangajin monthly that was translated into English and Japanese language depicted Japanese culture, which would help studying culture and Japanese language for English-speaking students. The others were in the form of comics that include both versions of language in the book (English and Japanese), for example The Teenage Tokyo comic by Boston Children's Museum (Brooks, 1994).
For foreign learners, a book in double-language presentation is an alternative to an original or translated edition. The stories are fun and it is easier to refer sentences in both languages than to have a dictionary in hand each time. After they build the interest, the learners hopefully will find the supplementary materials by themselves for self-study. As the topic and presentations are interesting, the language would be the other interest, the next one to master, not only for school, but also for curiosity and enjoyment.
Meanwhile, the manga illustration is easy to understand. The figures are brilliant and instantly capture consumers' attention. Not just in its origin, manga also has gained international acknowledgement. Although basically the illustration was used to demonstrate Japanese culture, in its development, the Japanese writers and illustrators draw manga for western stories and aim them for international marketplaces.
As somehow the illustrations are "associated with entertainment, not with textbooks" (Brooks, 1994, par. 5), manga can integrate well in any type of subjects, such as social, politics, economics, science, or literatures. Teacher can use them as intermediary between the subject and the learners, in direct or implicit teaching technique. For example, manga caricature had been used to teach about the heating issue of U.S.-Japan relationship.
If popular culture is commonly seen as degrading materials (comics and mass paperback ghost stories were taken away from kids' reading list), it may be necessary to have a second look at them. The pop readings work to embellish the learners' reading environment, before they have to cope up with advanced passages and various types of readings. In here, teacher can see the benefit of students' "out-of school literacy experiences" contribute to their performance in the classroom (Marsh, 2000).
Popular Culture in Science Class
Apart from formulaic issues students have to deal with, natural science always has interesting facts and figures to add to one's knowledge every day. However, some teachers and students often take up classroom practices from the wrong start.
While crammed with valuable and scientific information, some textbooks do not always present themselves graciously to the readers (Kelsky, 2002, par. 8). Some conventional lectures also introduce them to students as the beneficial handbook, but only as a matter of lists of information, without presenting proper and obvious relations of the facts to the magical use of science in human life. As the result, there were many students complaining about long, sleepy, boring, science classes, while in the other night, they watched meteor rains with jaws fall, ignorant of what the figure was, without even remembering that the phenomenon was explained in full sessions in class a week before.
2002 study from Pew Internet and American Life organization (Pew…[continue]
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