Pop Culture in The Classroom: (Harlem) Shaking Things Up in Room 202
This is a repost of a blog entry I wrote back in November. I've been eagerly awaiting the return of everybody's video releases so I could update the post with a 30 second video that we made in class on Wacky Wednesday during Read Across America Week.
This post is all about bringing pop culture into the classroom and right now, you can't get more mainstream pop culture than the Harlem Shake sensation that has swept across YouTube. The short video clips have made their way onto Good Morning America AND the Today Show. Even the Miami Heat has gotten in on the action.
The Harlem Shake is a dance that starts out with one masked dancer busting a move while the people around him are seemingly oblivious to the commotion, until the video cuts away and returns with a wild rumpus of costumed dancers joining in. Our Room 202 version of the Harlem Shake may not be as impressive as the underwater version by the University of Georgia swimming and diving teams, but we did have a lot of fun making the video using the free Harlem Shake app I downloaded on my iPhone.
The kids could not wait to show our clip to their family and friends. Taking five minutes at the end of the day when we were already suited up in goofy garb for Wacky Wednesday was the perfect opportunity to once again bridge the gap between what happens in the kids' lives outside of school and what is going on in the classroom. As you'll read in the rest of this post, I think it's really important that the kids know that what matters to them, matters to me.
People who come in my classroom often comment on the "good feeling" in Room 202. I don't take this compliment lightly. I put a lot of thought and effort into creating a positive climate in my classroom. I want it to be a place where kids "want to be". I know how vital it is that they feel safe and welcome, if they are going to take the risks necessary to be successful learners. I'm not going to bore you today with all the instructional strategies and psychological principles I rely on to achieve the right balance of expectation and support that underlies the positive climate in Room 202.
Today, I am going to tell you about a few fun ways I have brought pop culture into my classroom so my fifth graders understand that I care about them as more than just students. By taking the time to find out what songs they are listening to and what video games they like to play, I try to let my students know that what matters to them, matters to me.
That's why I borrowed this awesome idea for a book talk bulletin board from Scholastic when I saw it posted in my newsfeed on FaceBook. I made my own version of the catchy phrasing and had it blown up to poster-size at Staples. It was so much fun watching the kids eventually figure out that the saying was a spin-off of the "Call Me Maybe" pop song by Carly Rae Jepsen that they had been listening to all summer.
More recently, I generated a similar buzz when the children noticed their math study guide on my desk. If you teach, you must be asking yourself, "How do you get kids excited about a study guide?" Here's the secret. Turn it into a video game. That's right, a video game! In deference to MineCraft, a popular video game my students play that's focused on creativity and building, I changed the heading of a math review sheet to read "MATHCRAFT". Then I added phrasing and graphics at the end of each section of the study guide to indicate that students had "defeated that level" once they got all the problems in the section correct. The difference in my students' focus and concentration was amazing. Children who typically threw in the towel without even trying, were actually asking clarifying questions and applying problem-solving strategies. It was a big payout for a small amount of effort on my part. This is what our math study guides look like now.
These previous successes, combined with the need for a place to "park" the unanswerable questions my students come up with during lessons, led to this latest pop culture addition to my classroom. I'm actually working on this one right now, so the kids haven't even seen it yet. If you've been browsing online lately or window shopping at the mall, you may have noticed a lot of "mustaches". Thanks to hipsters and their ironic 'staches, the mustache has become one of the latest pop culture fads. I know the trend annoys some people, but I crack up every time I hear, "Excuse me, I mustache you a question. Do you want me to shave it for later?" Knowing that, you'll understand why I can't wait to blow this image up and have it laminated so I can use it to park the kids questions in class until we find the answers.
Hopefully, there's something here that will inspire you to bring some pop culture into your own classroom. Your students will definitely appreciate it and you'll reap the benefits of their increased motivation and enthusiasm.