Saturday, February 4, 2017

Who Defines What is Popular Anyway?

Bringing Wicked Into Language & Literature

Dear Readers,

I have always enjoyed bringing song analysis into the classroom. It is especially powerful when it connects to the social lives of my students.

One song that I have used over the past few years is "Popular" from Wicked. Before listening to the song, I posed this question to my 7th graders.

What does popular mean to YOU?

Some of the responses I received in a Google Classroom feed included:

  • Have a lot of friends.
  • Wear the latest clothes.
  • Have the latest "gadgets".
  • Everyone knows them.
  • People want to be like them.
  • Pretty.
  • Plays sports.

I mentioned the following ideas:

  • Can possibly feel a sense of "entitlement".
  • Make decisions that perhaps do not have the same consequences as someone else.
  • Feels like others should be like "them".

Do you think I was popular? Why or why not?

I then asked them, do you think I was popular? I got a span of responses. A few included:

  • Yes because you are so "chill" that a lot of people probably liked you.
  • No because you seem "different" and people do not like different. (In other words I would want to do my own thing.)
  • Yes because you are kind and caring.
  • No because you seem like you would want to study. (In other words studious.)

I was very honest with them and shared:

  • I did not fit in with the people I went to school with.
  • I could not wait to graduate.
  • I was made fun of because of my curly hair.
  • I did "beat to my own drum".

What I thought was so interesting is what made me an outsider when I was younger has made me well-liked as an adult. 

  • I surround myself with as many positive people as I can. I have always had a few close friends rather than tons of acquaintances. 
  • I try and stay out of drama and gossip as much as possible. 
  • I can get along with MANY different types of people. 
  • I am very in tune with who I am, an outgoing introvert.
  • I am comfortable in my own skin and make decisions based on my best interests.

Who defines popular?

I had one student who said, "People." This question stumped a few of them, I am not sure they ever thought of the process as to how something or someone becomes popular, it just is. 

Do you think Glinda is being a good friend?

While they were listening, I had them reflect on whether Glinda was a good friend or not and why. I stopped at the first few lyrics and we talked about what it meant when she said she was going to give Elphaba a "makeover." I said, when girls want to give each other a makeover like that, you have to think about the context and what the truth is behind their intentions.

The consensus was that Glinda was not being a good friend because she did accept Elphaba the way she was, Glinda wanted her to change. If we truly care about people, we like them for who they are.


We spent last week focusing on many different topics including truth, perspective, manipulation, language and stereotypes. It prompted me to start my I Wish My Students Knew...... chart for the year. My first bullet is:

I wish my students knew I care about them and hope they make good choices.