Guest Contributor: Audrey A. Wick, Blinn College (Texas).

Writing instructors have a tremendous opportunity—maybe more so than instructors in other disciplines—to weave current, exciting content into the classroom through assigned readings, writing prompts, video instruction, visual examples, and technology tools. Still, we want to be mindful of integrity of our subject matter as we do so.

But who says we can’t stay true to our discipline and have fun in the process?

Here are a few simple ways for a writing instructors to add “pop” to their curriculum using pop culture.

  1. Have students explore websites, Twitter feeds, Facebook postings, and other electronic outlets to help them brainstorm. Formally, students can create a list or use general topics they have found as springboards for generating research questions or even writing thesis statements.
  2. Have students consult “What’s Hot?” lists to narrow research topics. Whether its Yahoo’s “What’s Trending?” list of top ten searches, YouTube’s “Popular Right Now” recommendations,  or even the “Top 100” list of leading issues on a library database like SIRS, having students explore through available lists can help take the nervous edge off their invention process.
  3. Use YouTube music videos to help surface timely individual or group research projects. Play Meghan Trainor’s “All About that Bass” and invite students to analyze the meaning of the lyrics. When they do, they’ll discover sharp statements on self-confidence, body consciousness, eating habits, and even media portrayal of females—all possible topics for a researchable paper!
  4. Use shopping website product reviews to teach skills of audience, tone, effective diction, and even argument. Access a review for a specific toy—like a Hot Wheels track—on Amazon. Discuss how the reader knows whether it’s a parent or child writing the review, and use this to discuss audience and tone. Is the review low? Discuss diction choices which suggest this. This can be a fun way to help students remember the importance of these different elements of writing.

These are just suggested ways to start using pop culture into the classroom and marrying them with the concepts you are already teaching. But to learn more tips and tricks, come join me in Las Vegas at the Feb. 19-20 TeamUP Wired & Inspired Cengage Technology Conference. I’ll be one of a host of instructors presenting break-out sessions that will help you add more pop to your classroom.

Audrey A. Wick is a full-time English professor and kinesiology instructor at Blinn College, a two-year college with four campuses in central Texas. She serves as a TeamUP Faculty Advisor and Technology Power User for Cengage Learning.

Ask questions for Audrey Wick—or share your own ideas for using pop culture in the classroom—in the comments.