Brent Vasicek has a blog post on the Scholastic website that talks about how music can be used in the classroom to explore figurative language. I agree. I believe it is important to use music in this way, not only in aiding students to interpreting figurative language, but also opening up an avenue of exploration in their poetry writing as well. Where I might differ is the actual classroom time I spend on this topic. After the first few lessons my class migrated from an in-class exploration to an independent online examination.
The point of this post isn't to rehash what Brent has already written, but to (briefly) write how I used different tech mediums to explore the songs that have strong figurative language, and perhaps more importantly, expand on his original list of songs that can be used in this manner.
Here are the songs I gathered this year that have strong figurative language. When choosing songs, I try to use the following criteria:
- They use metaphors, similes, or personification
- They could be read as poems, and appreciated as music.
- None of them focus on boy-girl relationships.
I also tried to group them into three levels of difficulty, starting with the easiest:
Simple Figurative Language:
"Send It On" by a bunch of Disney singers
"It's A Jungle Out There" by Randy Newman
"Alice (Underground)" by Avril Lavigne
Medium Level Figurative Language (after the jump):
"Firework" by Katy Perry (There's a lot to examine in this song)
"Everyday is a Winding Road" by Sheryl Crow (Some tricky lyrics in this song: "Every day is a faded sign" and "I've been swimming in a sea of anarchy.")
"The Long Way Around" by Dixie Chicks (If this is used in class, it will need to be edited for language)
"I Can See Clearly Now" by Johnny Nash (simple lyrics but it may be difficult for children to express fully and completely what they mean).
"Bridge Over Troubled Water" and "I'm A Rock" by Simon and Garfunkel
More Difficult Figurative Language:
"Solsbury Hill" by Peter Gabriel
"Fireflies", by Owl City
"Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac
"Blackbird" by The Beatles
"The Way" by Fastball
"The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers
"Clocks" by Coldplay
To introduce interpretation I choose the lyrics of a song, print them off, and then give them as pocket poems to be glued into each student's poetry notebook. I then read it like a poem, and we start talking about:
- Where the figurative language is,
- Interpretations of the language, and
- Other ways to communicate the same message.
We then listen to the song, and if the music video aids interpretation, we watch that as well. We don't spend a lot of class time on this; after looking at the language of music and decomposing and interpreting it in two or three poetry classes, songs and their lyrics can constantly be revisited throughout the year without taking too much class time. There are three ways I use technology to help aid with this:
- At the beginning of the year, when the children are getting used to their email accounts, I email the children a song and its lyrics to examine. In the email I'll ask them to listen, think, and then respond to the email.
- When I introduce their e-portfolios, I'll have the children email a response to their blog page.
- Throughout the year, I use our online class forum to examine songs and their lyrics as well.
What songs am I missing? Please let me know!