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As an educator, your students won’t patiently raise their hands to state that your classroom lacks ‘innovative pedagogical practices.’ Instead, students will blurt out, mid seventeenth-century-factoid, that they are bored.

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Why do we need to know this?” they will whine.

Innovative education begins with two principals: to address systemic shortcomings on behalf of the student; and, to develop a personal interest and curiosity in each student. It is upon these principals that the popular aspects of student culture can be incorporated into the context of innovative teaching.

There are plenty of educational resources out there (i.e. http://www.enotes.com, www.edutopia.org) to help teachers fight the “bored” response. From poster-board graffiti, to fishbowl Socratic seminar, to structured academic controversy, these resources provide student-centric lesson plans and strategies. And as educators already know, strategy is as important as content within the classroom.

So, how does an educator relate literary devices relate to twelfth-grade students­ who are at risk for not graduating?

Picture the following scenario:

Students walk in the door, boxes of milk and Corn Flakes in hand, puffy-eyed and half-asleep; it’s 8:30 A.M and you’re about to ask them to care about the simile as a literary device.

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By the time the announcements finish, you have dimmed the lights, and queued the correct YouTube url. You know the moments of the song to call special attention to, and you hit play.

Within the first few notes of the eerie avant-garde rap song, Gas Pedal by Sage the Gemini (ft. Iamsu,) students are already miming the “Gas Pedal” dance move, and have forgotten about their Corn Flakes. YouTube is the hook– the contextual attention-getter– and a quick way to create interest when introducing new content; it is a medium they pay great attention to.

The next point is crucial, as this exercise could become a distraction if mismanaged: choose the specific instances of literary device usage in Gas Pedal, and begin dissecting:

She a trick for a dollar bill (Metaphor)

And her boyfriend a b****, call him Tyler Perry (Metaphor and allusion)

Eugh, I’m in a black bat lookin’ scary (allusion)

Finding contextually relevant educational pathways can help students give meaning to otherwise painful learning. When this kind of process is possible (within otherwise traditional curriculum,) an exciting methodology for encouraging students to be interested in content emerges. This interest in content is connective with a students’ motivation and willingness to learn– and with time and trust-gained– can serve as a classroom management tool, as well.

Innovation begins with curiosity, and grows through a willingness to change. Be curious about the students’ collective environment, and be willing to change “best” practices for those that are contextually meaningful.


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Madeline Maloney