Pop Culture References Make Minilesson Connections Come Alive
Maggie Beattie Roberts, my section leader for “Tap the Power of Technology and Media to Teach Higher Level Comprehension,” suggested using pop culture references as one way to engage students in minilessons. (Pop culture references can come from TV, movies, music, video games, fashion, celebrity culture, etc.) Our “homework,” as part of the Reading Institute, was to write a connection for a minilesson (that we would deliver at the beginning of the school year) using a pop culture reference.
My mind immediately went to the Olympics. I initially thought of Gabby Douglas and her incredible gymnastics performances. She’s become so popular with kids and adults alike. Personally, I have been amazed by her skill (despite the fact that watching her makes me feel old and creaky)! One thing I know about Gabby Douglas, from listening to the commentators and from watching her interviews, is that she had to maintain her focus in order to win the gold. In fact, the commentators often expressed concern about whether or not she would be able to focus enough to bring home the gold.
As we know, she did. Therefore, I thought that using Gabby Douglas and the idea of focus could relate to focus on one’s reading and by staying focused as a writer. Since I’m at the Reading, not the Writing, Institute, the connection that follows below was written for an upper grade reading workshop classroom. I anticipate a minilesson on rereading to regain one’s focus would be taught during the first two weeks of the school year. Here’s the connection I wrote, with that purpose in mind, for Maggie’s class:
CONNECTION: I eagerly anticipate the summer Olympics every four years. When I was about your age I wanted to be a gymnast. I did gymnastics and was decent, but I wasn’t Olympic material. Even though I never competed in gymnastics, I’ve always watched the gymnasts in the Olympics. I admire their ability to fly through the air on the uneven bars or flip upside down and land on their feet on the floor.
Give me a thumbs-up if you watched Gabby Douglas win the all-around gold medal at the Olympics? (Provide wait time to receive a thumbs-up/thumbs-down.) Wow, I can see many of you did. I’m sure you were also amazed as she performed her routines. Well, Gabby Douglas spent years training to compete in the Olympics. She even moved away from home at the age of 14 to train with a new coach. She went into the Olympics as the #1 gymnast in the United States, but the television announcers kept saying that she needed to stay focused if she was going to win the gold medal for the United States. I kept hearing the words “Gabby Douglas,” “gold,” and “focus” in the same sentence over and over again. This made me think that staying focused was just as important as knowing how to do multiple back flips. In order to keep her position right in the air and to stick her landings, Gabby would have to maintain her focus throughout each and every routine. If she felt herself losing her focus – whether it be focusing on another gymnast’s routine or score – then she’d have to work hard to get it back – and fast.
Watch this short video of Gabby Douglas on the balance beam, which is only four inches wide! Listen for the times the announcers talk about how she has to keep her mind focused while she’s performing her routine on the beam.
VIDEO CAN BE FOUND BY GOING TO http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/2012/top-nbc-moment-gabby-wins-all-around-gold.html. HAVE THE VIDEO CUED-UP TO THE SEGMENT OF HER ON THE BALANCE BEAM OTHERWISE YOU’LL BE PLAYING A 4+ MINUTE VIDEO, WHICH MEANS THE CONNECTION WILL BE WAY TOO LONG.
Just as Gabby Douglas maintained laser-like focus in order to win the gold medal in gymnastics, we have to maintain a sharp focus as readers. It’s easy to get distracted when we read, so we have to have strategies to regain our focus when we feel like we’re not following what’s happening in our books. Therefore, today I want to teach you that readers regain their focus by rereading.
Now that you’ve read the connection I wrote, how could you use a pop culture reference, such as the Olympics, to hook your students during the connection part of a writing minilesson?