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Lesson Plan

You're the Top! Pop Culture Then and Now

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You're the Top! Pop Culture Then and Now

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Minilesson
Estimated Time One 50-minute session
Lesson Author

Susan Spangler

Susan Spangler

Fredonia, New York


National Council of Teachers of English



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



Students write about present-day pop culture as well as learning about pop culture of the past by using Cole Porter's song “You're the Top!” (1934) to touch on many issues relevant to a language arts classroom, especially the literary technique of cataloguing. After an introduction and context information about Porter's song, students listen to the song and examine the lyrics. They look at the list of the pop culture items referenced in the song to see what they feel is still valid today, brainstorm replacements for other items, and create revised lyrics for the song. They then present their updated lyrics to the class.

The lesson also provides opportunities for student research on particular time periods. Students can include pop culture items from those particular time periods (relevant to the literature they are studying, for example) in expressing the “tops” in pop culture.

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Group Participation Assessment Sheet: Use this rubric to assess student participation in any group project.

Self-Reflection: Taking Part in a Group: Students can use this online tool to assess their own participation in any group project.

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This lesson employs the teaching strategy of "text-tapping," which Lynn Langer Meeks and Carol Jewkes Austin describe as "a combination of guided reading and writing strategies that use a text as a source for ideas and instruction." The idea is to use one text in order to produce another, student-created text. In this way, students use their primary discourses (those acquired mostly subconsciously through daily interaction) in order to learn and demonstrate secondary discourses (those learned through formal schooling). In doing so, the students understand that their primary discourses are valued, and thus they will be more inclined to participate in secondary discourses. Common strategies of text-tapping include having students write newspaper articles based on literature, update Shakespeare's language into modern language, and write alternative endings to literature. These activities build on the connection between reading and writing that Glasser describes: ""Reading influences writing as assuredly as diet influences health. The effect of writing on reading, a less treated theme, is also potent."

Further Reading

Gee, J.P. "First Language Acquisition as a Guide for Theories of Learning and Pedagogy." Linguistics and Education 6 (1994): 331-354.


Meeks, Lynn Langer and Carol Jewkes Austin. 2003. Literacy in the Secondary English Classroom: Strategies for Teaching the Way Kids Learn. Pearson.


Glasser, Jane Ellen. "The Reading-Writing-Reading Connection: An Approach to Poetry." English Journal 79.7 (November 1990): 22-26.

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