How Popular Media Improves the Classroom Experience

We often consider television shows and movies as part of our daily entertainment, and there is no doubt that they are. But we sometimes overlook that they can be valuable sources of educational content. Take a popular TV show such as The Simpsons: it’s funny and entertaining. At the same time, the longest-running American sitcom has scenes that discuss topics such as physics, evolution, and energy.

While such scenes are entertaining, they also have valid educational merit and can be an excellent teaching tool. The following are some ways your classroom can benefit from the use of TV and movie clips.

Increased student engagement

Students are more likely to pay attention and respond to television and movie clips since the clips have importance to them on a personal level. Students watch TV shows at home, go out to the movies with their friends, and post links to scenes on social media. When students start to see some aspects of their personal lives in the classroom, their interest piques. As a result, they may not only enjoy class more; their impression of the teacher may improve as well, which are both important factors in improving engagement.

More relevant lessons

Instead of using diagrams to teach Sigmund Freud’s theory of the ego, id, and superego, why not play a clip from Donald’s Better Self? Television and movie scenes help students visualize the concepts they are learning, which brings them to life. Instead of imagining a concept as words on a page, students can better understand the applicability of a topic in the real world through visuals. Also, they will feel more connected to the material, as it is culturally relevant. In the case of the Donald’s Better Self example, students can relate Donald’s experience to a time in their lives when they had trouble waking up in the morning.

Improved content retention

While watching a clip, students can associate a familiar image, such as a movie character, actor, or scene, with the concept that they are learning. A student is more likely to remember Patrick’s negotiation in SpongeBob SquarePants than a simulated negotiation made by an education company. As a result, students will better retain the information from popular media examples.

In addition, because the primary purpose of TV shows and movies is to entertain, the clips will often be funny and straightforward. Using clips is a fun and easy way to incorporate humor into the classroom, which has been shown to boost retention, and the producers must make any educational references easy to understand; otherwise, they will not appeal to their audience.

Teach media literacy

Even if your class isn’t about media literacy, students learn it through popular media. While watching a movie, we sometimes come across educational references but don’t notice them because we’re so focused on the entertainment aspect of the work. By exposing your students to more TV and movie clips, you will train them to analyze clips and pick up on educational moments. They will then start to notice educational content more consciously when watching a TV show or a movie on their leisure, and thus their learning will extend outside of the classroom.


Educational clips from popular TV shows and movies are powerful teaching tools that have the ability to make your classroom more exciting and help your students learn more effectively. For further information regarding how popular media can improve the classroom experience for both teachers and students, I would recommend Carleton College’s article, Why Use Media to Enhance Teaching and Learning.

If you are looking for educational TV and movie clips, be sure to check out ClassHook.

Are you using popular media in your classroom? Please share how it’s going in the comments!