Ways to Use Music and Songs in an English Classroom
Activity 1: Performing a Poem
Demonstrate for students how songs can be read like poetry. Choose a contemporary song most students will recognize, but don’t tell them it’s a song. Make sure the song has a strong rhyming pattern for students to easily observe, and rhythm to demonstrate a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. Supply students with copies of the song lyrics and perform as poetry. Discuss how the song is similar to poetry and poetic elements.
Assign students the task of finding a song, marking the stressed and unstressed syllables and performing for the class. Remind students the lyrics must be school appropriate.
Activity 2: Interpreting a Song
Model for students how to interpret a song. Try using “Cat’s In the Cradle” by Guns N’ Roses or “Better Way” by Ben Harper for this activity. Both of these have clear interpretations. Provide students with a copy of the song lyrics and discuss various lines from the song and their meaning. Have students look for literary devices such as similes, metaphors or personification.
Give students the assignment of finding and bringing in a copy of the lyrics to a song representing them. Remind them the song must be “clean” since this is a school assignment. With the lyrics, students will provide an interpretation of the song, how it applies to their life and provide examples of any literary devices in the song.
Activity 3: Enriching an English lesson
Create a CD of classical music to play while students are brainstorming for an English writing assignment. For some students, the music will be a distraction. For others, the music encourages the creative juices. Another way to enrich an English lesson is to play a piece of striking instrumental music and have students respond to the music through a journal entry. Answer questions like, “What did you visualize while the music played?” or “Describe this music. How does it make you feel? What is the mood or tone of the music?” Find period pieces of music for various stories read in English class. Introduce a story with a piece of music or use the music for an activity after the story is read.
Activity 4: Matching Music to a Story
After reading a story in English, ask students to select three songs that could be played on the movie soundtrack. Why are these songs appropriate and how do they represent the story? Provide students with an example from a story previously read in the year.