Integrating Children’s Popular Culture in the Early Childhood Classroom


Terry Husband is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood and Elementary Literacy at Illinois State University. His latest book entitled,  “Read and Succeed: Practices to Support Reading Reading Skills in African American Boys” will be released in November 2013.

Today’s 21st century learners spend roughly 40 hours or more engaging in various forms of media outside of school. Traditionally, early childhood teachers have cringed at the idea of children spending so much time in front of a screen. Even more so, many more early childhood teachers have struggled to find useful ways of integrating this content into the official school curriculum. Given the rapidly changing digital media landscape in society, I believe that teachers can and should use popular culture in the curriculum with young children in the follow ways:

  • To Motivate–There is nothing like using a video clip or image from “The Suite Life of Zach and Cody” to teach a social studies unit on “Transportation”.

  • To Illustrate–Popular culture can be used to help illustrate examples within the school curriculum. For example, “Phineas and Ferb” can help kindergarten students better understand the concepts associated with friendship.

  • To Associate–We talk a lot about the importance of children “activating prior knowledge” and or “building schema” for new information. Popular culture is an excellent tools for teachers to use to assist students in achieving these goals during lessons.

  • To Communicate–Popular culture can serve as an excellent source of critical dialogue and communication in the early childhood classroom. For example, an early childhood teacher might encourage students to discuss their reactions to an excerpt from a popular cartoon.

  • To Demonstrate–Popular culture provides an alternative way for students to demonstrate what they have learned in the classroom. For example, teachers might consider having children represent the elements in a story via a song, movie, or cartoon that can be shared with others.

For clarification purposes, popular culture can best be defined as but is not limited to the following aspects of contemporary society: mass media, music, film, television, radio, video games, books and the internet.


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