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Explore Songs to Build Writing Skills
Romance is always in the air in a school setting -- and not just on Valentine’s Day. Love is already in the minds of many for whom romance rules the year. Grade 12 students are often in love; they enjoy analyzing the lyrics and imagery in love songs and talking about the themes found in love songs and love poems.
Teenagers have many extremes of emotion. For them, love is a potent topic. They spend a lot of time listening to songs about love and talking with their friends about love and relationships. So enjoy a fun class of analyzing love poems and helping students learn more about the use of similes, imagery, hyperbole, and descriptive writing.
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Listen to Some Examples
Start the lesson by bringing in lyrics from some recent and some classic love songs. I like to use the songs:
- Crazy in Love by Beyonce
- If I Was Your Woman by Alicia Keys
- Maybe I’m Amazed by Paul McCartney
- Thankful by KellyClarkson
- First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack
- The Fever by Southside Johnny and the Jukes
- Blessed by Christina Aguilera
A few days before the lesson I offer students extra credit for finding, printing out, and bringing into class lyrics to an interesting love song.Do always remind students that lyrics must be appropriate for use in school! Some of the language used in today’s songs is definitely not appropriate for school!.
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On the day of the lesson put basic instructions up on the board. I generally include the due date, information that the song topic is love, and that students may use any song format they desire and that the lines do not have to rhyme.
Then on the day of the lesson start by having students sit in groups and passing out copies to the lyrics of 5 love songs. Have students discuss the songs among themselves and underline examples of similes, imagery, hyperbole, and other interesting phrases.
Ask volunteers to stand up and tell the class what similes they found and if they are effective or not. Try to let at least 10 students give answers. It is helpful to the class to hear as many examples of similes as possible. This helps them think about adding similes to their own writing. Similes are powerful; once students start using similes more frequently in writing their writing tends to become much more memorable and forceful.
Then review the definition of hyperbole and ask students discuss examples from the songs. Ask the class if feelings of love lead to hyperbolic writing or is it possible to factual and logical when writing about love?
Next pick one song the students haven’t seen yet and ask them to listen to the song as teacher or student reads it aloud. Ask students the theme of the song. Also ask them what phrases they found important to the overall meaning of the song. Ask the class to listen to the song again and write down any examples they hear of similes or imagery. Then discuss as a class the examples. Remind students again that it is very important to use similes in writing, especially creative writing.
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Write Your Own Love Song!
Then tell the class that the assignment for the day is to start a draft of an original love song. Tell students that if they haven’t had romantic love yet that they can write about the love they have for family members, friends, or indeed even a pet.
Ask the class to write down 1-2 sentences to summarize the theme of 3 of the love songs they have read. Discuss a few examples together and tell the class that the theme of a song is a personal opinion. If the entire class were to write the theme of one song there might be a different theme presented by each person.
Students will create a song of at least 20 lines long that contains at least 2 similes. They will create a song with as much imagery as possible and with strong, vivid words.
Discuss examples of different genres of love songs. Give printouts of lyrics from love songs in the song genres of country, rock, soft rock, alternative, funk, and jazz. Compare and contrast how the theme of love is presented in the songs.
Ask students to think about who the audience for the song will be. What will the age range of the audience be? Will the song be for those in love, or those mourning lost love?
List on the board that students must use at least three literary techniques in their poem such as: imagery, repetition, hyperbole, personification, or rhythm. Remind students that each word in a song should create a strong impact in the listener.
Have students sit in groups for this lesson so they may brainstorm song ideas together. Then play some songs to get creativity flowing. Discuss the lyrics and use of imagery and repetition. Write some examples of interesting phrases used in songs up on the board.
I ask volunteers to present their songs to the class. If students want to make a performance video of the song I typically give extra credit if they show it to the class.
This lesson is usually a lot of fun. It is also an example of helping students understand the different genres of writing. Including a wide range of genres of writing in lessons will help students build writing confidence.
Assess this project by grading the poems for adherence to the instructions, and writing skill. Give extra credit to students who contributed lyrics to use in the class lesson