I'm trying something new with my journal writing this year to encourage students to look at pop culture differently. Instead of the standard, here's some ideas to write about, I've started handing out song lyrics and playing music videos for my students and giving them some time to think about the message of the song or music video before responding. We then talk about the song/video as a piece of literature.
Our first Friday journal examined Elvis's "In the Ghetto." Even my comprehensive 10th graders (those who are "on" grade level) were getting into the song and the subsequent discussion, pulling key elements of the song that furthered the plot and characterized the protagonist son and his hapless mother. They did not have the vocabulary correct, but they understood the concepts. Our second song "Wings" by Little Mix, a much more contemporary selection, had students eagerly discussing how symbols have gender biases and how diction can indicate audience. These are students who stare blankly at me as we trying to discuss simple passages from their textbooks, but add some music and they show that they can process this information with ease. I cannot wait for our next selection which is looking like it will be a selection from Broadway's Ave Q or the spoken word poem "To This Day" (not quite a song, but still a selection with music in the background and a compelling video).