3 Ways to Incorporate Pop Culture into the Art Room

Pop culture rules our classrooms. From bottle flipping to absurd dance moves, these viral sensations can become annoying and sometimes even distracting. Whether we like it or not, there will always be another video, meme, or toy ready to take over our classrooms. And you know what? It’s okay. These are opportunities for teachers to tap into our students’ pop culture and make learning applicable and meaningful to them!

Check out these 3 ways you can use pop culture to your advantage in your classroom!

1. Incorporate Pop Culture into Your Curriculum

Creating ways for students to incorporate current events and trends into the curriculum can enhance the art room experience. Some students will naturally do this on their own, but for those students who don’t, try incorporating creative outlets and choice so they can. An easy way to do this is by giving your students themes which will allow them to create work that is meaningful to them.

Some students might need an extra push, and it’s okay to create projects directly related to their pop culture. Do your students like Snapchat or Instagram? Build your curriculum to incorporate these ideas.

In addition, incorporating pop culture doesn’t have to be solely focused on projects. Simple one-day exploratory activities are a great option, too. For example, if your students are going to insist on flipping water bottles, try creating a color theory activity where two colors of liquid mix together when a bottle is flipped. Truly, if you can’t beat them, join them!

color mixing waterbottles

2. Classroom Announcements & Reminders

It’s amazing – no matter how often our students are reminded about deadlines and important announcements, they rarely remember! Teachers can repeat themselves until they are blue in the face, but there will always be a few students who just don’t seem to listen. A way to make sure your students don’t miss another important announcement is by creating a visual reminder directly related to pop culture. Take your students’ favorite meme or saying and use it to your advantage. It will become more memorable and will save you from repeating yourself.

spongebob reminder

3. Classroom Procedures

Do you have a classroom procedure in your room students always seem to forget? If so, try creating memes and visual aids to hang directly by the problem areas. For example, my students always have a hard time remembering to use the drying rack from the bottom up. Now, I have a reminder that uses a popular Drake song attached to the drying rack so students won’t forget.

Drake sign

Think about the areas in your classroom your students need to be reminded about. Maybe it’s how to put away brushes, where to put the paints, or how to wash their hands. Use a relevant meme or song lyric to help your students with these tricky procedures.

Incorporating pop culture into your classroom doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, most of us do it naturally. By doing so we are connecting more with our students, creating more meaningful experiences, and ultimately making the art room a more exciting, manageable place!

How do you use pop culture in the classroom?

How have you embraced the “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality?

Abby Schukei

Abby is a middle school art teacher in Omaha, NE. She focuses on creating meaningful experiences for her students through technology integration, innovation, and creativity.

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  • Mr. Post
  • Hilary Paine

    I have incorporated memes and other pop culture for a few years now. It definitely makes it memorable and it helps keep me up to date with what students are watching/reading/etc.

  • Kelli Sexton Myers

    Keeping the attention of teenage students can be tough! I love the ideas this blog shares for connecting pop culture to quality art education to engage learners. Designing lessons and projects with students’ interests in mind is a key part of differentiating instruction. Art class, of all places, should be a space to explore pop culture and encourage students to get creative with what they are passionate about. During my first years teaching I was disheartened when I’d pick up my class from art each week, realizing that all they were doing was coloring- not their own work- coloring pages. What a missed opportunity! I thought. The kids were capable of so much creativity, but the teacher blamed it on lack of resources. In recent years our school has partnered with a community art agency to provide high quality art instruction for our students. Now I see a lot more of what this article describes- creative planning and projects that reflect students interests and develop their creative and artistic skills.
    Does your school offer quality art education programs? OpenNetReview (www.opennetreview.com) is a site that I like to use that is available to advance our education system to better help each different school district. You can record your experience as multiple choice questions, indicate what matters more to you, participate in a discussion forum specific to your school or district. Answer questions on art education to record what is happening in your school and start the discussion on what is working and what needs to improve. Example review questions from the platform:
    What type of Art education program is available to students? No art education, part-time art education, year-round art education
    Rate the quality of Art education instruction: Poor, Satisfactory, Excellent
    What opportunities are there for showcasing student artwork? None, Annual art show only, Multiple opportunities including display in the community

  • CHIZ

    What does “Turn in you Artwork Boi!” mean?