This year, I have tried to utilize lyrics at least once during each of our reading units. The kiddos LOVE it when we have a workshop that focuses on connecting to the lyrics, analyzing them, and discussing our ideas with each other. I LOVE LOVE LOVE it because no matter what connections I have in mind as I share the song with students, our discussions together always deepen my connections to the text and understanding of the lyrics. I also LOVE LOVE LOVE utilizing song lyrics because it immediately pushes students to DEEPER THINKING.
Rather than trying to remember all of the songs I have ever incorporated or hoping that I will think of them next time I need them, I decided to dedicate a pinterest board to "Songs for Literary Analysis". I also thought this board might benefit other teachers. I always pull the songs up on youtube and play through the smartboard, so I pinned the youtube lyric videos to be most helpful. Follow this board if you would like to see the songs I pin--I think most of them will be relevant for 5th grade-high school, but lower grades may find some relevant songs too!
In the descriptions, I have included some of the lines that made me choose the song, some of the themes I think the songs address, and some of the texts that connect.
Why song lyrics?* Shake it up for students--songs are so engaging and add some variety to the readers' workshop
* Text-text connections can be made much QUICKER than when trying to connect novel to novel (songs are fast, immediate, and students can make global connections or smaller connections to one or two lines of the song)
* Writing about thoughts (responding in writing) usually improves during these lessons and is one of the main purposes of my use of lyrics in the classroom
What are my goals and objectives?-connecting themes
-connecting figurative language in the song to events in a story
-quoting accurately and explaining thinking with support
-pushing students to respond more deeply
-allowing students to see MORE in the read aloud or book club novel because of the connections they made with the lyrics
General Steps of a Lyric-Based Reader's Workshop Lesson:-Explain to students that you are going to play a song that you feel connects with the current unit of study/read aloud/book club books
-Play song and ask students to simply listen
-Hand out copy of lyrics to students, ask students to think about how the song connects to texts in your reading unit, play song again (students may underline parts that they are making connections with)
-Depending on the difficulty of the song lyrics and vocabulary, I may go over a few of the poetic devices, vocabulary words, etc. Sometimes I choose to save this discussion for later, but with some songs, students will get more out of the thinking/writing part if they have a little more information
-Ask students to write about their connections for a set amount of time (usually 10 to start and students often want me to add more time). Since some students will have a hard time generating ideas for that long, I will play the song again to encourage them to develop more thoughts. I often scaffold for some students by focusing them on a specific line and how it connects to their book.
-Discussion/Share- this can take many forms--1) small group discussions if everyone wrote about the same book, 2) if you are using the song to connect to book club books, have book club members find another member's written response, read it, and respond with sticky notes, rotate until they have read all members' responses or until time is up, 3) whole group discussion-can go stanza by stanza discussing connections
-Wrap Up-direct all students to find a line that really stood out to them, go around the room having them say their line--no discussion, no explanation--this is like "found-poetry" and creates a poetic atmosphere in the room; OR have students choose a sentence from their written response that they think is a good idea and share around the room in the same way
During our Historical Fiction book club focused on the Holocaust, I used "Your Guardian Angel" by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. I was able to connect the lyrics of this song to every book club book my students were reading (Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Yellow Star, Milkweed, and Number the Stars). The song talks about being there for someone forever and has the line "even if saving you sends me to heaven." In each of our books, someone played the role of the hero or father figure and might have been saying this to another character. With Boy in the Striped Pajamas, we decided that Bruno should have been singing this song to Shmuel, but he was too weak and naive to sacrifice everything for someone else. Or, he might sing the chorus, but not have the strength to follow through once faced with needing to stand up for Shmuel.
I hope I have inspired you to start using song lyrics with your students. Do you have any favorite songs that you already incorporate in this way? I LOVE using lyrics as a form of text and the days we use a song as a text always feel special!
Here are some of the common core connections I see with using song lyrics in this way:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.3 Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.9 Compare and contrast stories in the same genre (e.g., mysteries and adventure stories) on their approaches to similar themes and topics.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 5 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.2 Summarize a written text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.5.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.