Welcome to the eighth week of the Heinemann Summer Sessions! Each week throughout the summer, we will feature an article, video clip, or new professional book chapter from the Heinemann Digital Library on the topic of student engagement. Today, we look at at a chapter from Colleen Cruz's The Unstoppable Writing Teacher.
This week’s post is reminiscent of the chapter shared in week one from Patty Vitale Reilly.
“I want kids to write about what they care about, but so much of what they care about feels brainless and superficial to me.”
Colleen Cruz speaks honestly about her feelings in the opening of chapter twelve. “Pop Culture doesn’t always reflect our strongest hopes for our students,” she writes. Yet, she proceeds by sharing her realizations about how it became a point of connection and engagement for her students.
“[S]tudents can easily hide behind these topics when they could be writing about something more important. They can turn the spotlight away from themselves and instead turn it toward someone else’s story, game, or song. Since we are in the business of helping students to find their authentic voices and to use writing to help broadcast those voices, there is something particularly irksome when students choose to use that time to instead write about someone else’s work. Especially work that so often feels shallow and inconsequential at best, degrading and violent at worst” (p. 118).
Colleen lists not only the research that makes pop culture sound negative, but also reveals the unexpected positive findings that can accompany it. Her advice? Open lessons with a pop culture reference or analogy, or use pop culture texts for practice texts to teach tricky concepts like structure, craft, or meaning.
Consider your own resistance to welcoming pop culture into your classroom. Which pieces might serve as a springboard for learning?
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
In addition to being the author of The Unstoppable Writing Teacher, M. Colleen Cruz is the author of several other titles for teachers, including Independent Writing and A Quick Guide to Helping Struggling Writers, as well as the author of the young adult novel Border Crossing, a Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award Finalist. Colleen was a classroom teacher in general education and inclusive settings before joining the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project where she is Senior Lead Staff Developer. Colleen presently supports schools, teachers and their students nationally and internationally as a literacy consultant.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
All Summer Sessions PLC content is also available within the Heinemann Digital Library. For year-round access to dozens of additional professional books, articles and classroom video examples, we encourage you to subscribe to our Digital Library.