Incorporating pop culture into the language learning classroom is a great idea on several different accounts. It naturally grabs students’ attention, allows the language to be experienced in real and authentic ways, teaches slang and colloquial English, and, of course, is tons of fun!
It can be pretty difficult for teachers to find resources surrounding pop culture to bring into their classroom, or even know what to discuss. No fear! We at GIFLE have compiled some of our favorite pop culture resources for classroom use.
General and Miscellaneous Resources
The general resources listed here can be used for all different sorts of pop culture, from pop culture in fashion to celebrity news.
Pop Culture Happy Hour is an NPR podcast that covers a variety of different topics. It’s a great way to get students listening – or even to curate some ideas of your own about what to bring into the classroom!
There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to what’s included in the New Yorker culture section. It includes everything from trending pop culture to television shows to modern news. At the top of the page, the sections are divided into things like “books” and “food” though, so if you’re looking for something a bit more specific it’s easy enough to sort through.
The OG source of all things pop culture! Buzzfeed became famous in the early – mid 2000s for its listicles and quizzes surrounding pop culture, and while many would say it’s been dethroned as the absolute queen, her rule still stands. Students will love the easy-to-read articles and fun pop culture quizzes they can find on this site.
- Vice (this website also has a Korean version!)
Vice is primarily known for being a news site, but it also has plenty of pop culture content to use in the language classroom! Simply go to the menu and you can select from “games,” “entertainment” and more. They also have a ton of videos that you can consider using in the classroom.
This one is perhaps the odd one out in the “general resources” list. Modern Gurlz is a YouTube channel that centers largely around fashion and fashion in pop culture, and how the two influence each other. The presenter speaks slowly and uses simple language, so it’s great for language learners.
Honestly, when it comes to using music in the classroom, your students are probably the best resource that you have. It’s likely that they already listen to at least some music in English, even if it is just the most recent tracks by BTS. When asking your students for music, make sure to vet it properly for both language and whatever’s in the music video. It will save you – and your students – a lot of embarrassment in the long run!
Popheads is a subreddit that discusses all things pop – new music, artists, and even some celebrity gossip. It’s a great tool to get your students reading, and possibly even discussing music with others. Be warned though, this is Reddit so the discussions can get a little crazy!
AJayII is a Youtuber who does in-depth analyses on songs and albums, and gives her thoughts and immediate reactions. She’s one of the most popular music reviewers on YouTube, and it’s not hard to see why! She has a friendly, easy-to-understand persona that will engage students and get them listening – and reading the comments in the videos to see what other people thought.
PopCrush doesn’t feature music and music reviews so much as it spotlights trending artists. It offers interviews with popular singers and bands, gives short form news stories on topics such as how Corona is affecting the entertainment industry, and even has some more listicle-y videos about celebrities who can’t swim. The majority of PopCrush videos are under ten minutes, with a lot of them even being under five minutes, making them the perfect length of time for classroom use.
It’s pretty easy to find out what television shows are trending now. You can simply open up Netflix and see what’s on the first page, or even ask your students! Here are some resources for looking at more in-depth analyses of television and movies.
Pop Culture Detective describes itself on Youtube as “Video essays exploring the intersections of politics, masculinity, and entertainment,” and we think that’s a pretty good summary! These videos can get quite in depth but they’re excellent for having students think critically about television and film. Bonus: some of the videos have Korean subtitles!
The Take looks at popular movies and TV shows and analyzes tropes, stereotypes, and offers guides for how to think about entertainment and even Hollywood in general. They have videos on almost everything you can think of, from tall girls dating shorter boys (and why that’s a newsworthy story in Hollywood) to discussing the different ways Corona was displayed on screen.
Lindsey Ellis retired from YouTube last year, but her legacy as a super-smart film critic remains. She discusses movies and other pop culture phenomena in hilarious, insightful ways.
Pop Culture Cooking Channels
To those of you who don’t think that food is a part of pop culture, think again! Restaurants and different foods can trend on Instagram just as quickly as anything else. (Remember when rainbow bagels went viral back in 2016 and then promply disappeared off the face of the earth? We do.) Cooking channels are some of the most popular content on both YouTube and Netflix, so in our opinion it’s worth looking into!
Binging with Babish is great for pop culture in a couple ways. First, of course, it’s one of the most popular cooking channels on Youtube. Secondly, Babish focuses on making food from movies and TV shows. Most of his episodes open with a short videoclip of where the food from today is coming from, ranging from Harry Potter to the Avengers.
Maangchi has been described as the Julia Child of Korean cooking, and it isn’t hard to see why. She has one of the most popular cooking channels on YouTube where she teaches people how to make Korean food. Originally from Yeosu, Maangchi’s food often has a distinctive Jeollanam flair. If you’re teaching students like I am, a simple conversation starter might be asking the class how her version of a dish differs from what they’re used to.
The You Suck at Cooking YouTube channel is a pop culture phenomenon all on its own. Part cooking, part comedy, and part music video, this channel really defines being categorized. The anonymous chef makes simple recipes and often uses his own way of speaking to explain them (for example, referring to the “oven” as “un-doe”) and puns (such as putting a corn husk on his pet dog’s head for “corndog”). This is a great resource for higher-level students to get used to more casual English. His videos are generally pretty short – around five minutes – and very creative, which can help inspire your students when speaking.
Goodreads is similar to a social media site, but for books! Users can rate books, write reviews, follow their friends, and, of course, discuss books and authors. It’s also a great source for students to keep track of what they’ve read, and to decide what they’re interested in reading next.
Reddit, of course, has a lot of robust threads on different books to check out! Be warned, the in-site search function doesn’t work all that well, so it’s generally best to search for individual books using a search engine.
This is a fun YouTube channel! The host, Dom, discusses different books, their movie adaptations, how they differ, and his opinion on the book versus the movie. Since, let’s face it, a lot of students will probably just try to watch the movie rather than fully reading the book (who wasn’t guilty of this in high school?) this is a great resource to use to help them see the differences and what they missed out on.
Video Game Resources
I’ll be honest, I don’t play videogames myself. Nobody in the office, I think, could call themselves a true gamer. GIFLE is a research institute though, so we don’t let the lack of firsthand knowledge get to us; instead, we call in the experts! So, to write this section I contacted the true professionals over at at Player Unknown Battlegrounds (also known as PUBG) in Seoul to get the latest intel on where to find information and the hottest games.
Skill Up’s YouTube “About” description simply reads “how bout them video games?” which does surprisingly well to sum up the channel. The presenter reviews and talks about tons of different games and shares his thoughts about them. He uses a lot of clips from actual gameplay, which is sure to engage students.
This is the last Reddit recommendation, I promise! Reddit is a great way to, you guessed it, read up on the latest games and get people’s [unfiltered] thoughts and opinions about them, as well as to catch their hype surrounding the games.
E3 Recap is a resource that collects announcements for all sorts of new and upcoming games and consolidates them into one convenient page. On the homepage, it shows the information about when the game is coming out, along with a game trailer from YouTube. At the top, there’s a filter so students can look up different games even according to what platform the game will be released on (from Nintendo to VR). Students who are interested in gaming will love getting to know what new releases are in store.
IGN is an entertainment and game website that dates all the way back to 1996. It has just about all the information about video games you’d want on it, and chances are, your students are already probably at least passingly familiar with it.
There you have it, our best resources for finding and using pop culture in the EFL classroom. Did we miss anything big? If you have any other resources to use, please share them in the comments below.