I am a true believer in using music and song lyrics in the classroom. Students are naturally captivated by music, so why not go there? It’s difficult to find music students will enjoy that have clean lyrics and send a great messages, so here are four songs I used this week in classrooms to help students analyze poetry but also discuss a powerful message of confidence and self-worth.
1. Us by Brother Ali – Admittedly I was not very familiar with Brother Ali, but after a student shared this song with me, I knew I had to use it in my next lesson. This rap song shares a beautiful message about self worth and unity. The message is clear and easy enough for elementary students, but the message is powerful enough for the oldest of students. I love the idea of focusing students on the idea that they are valuable and have a lot to share. Students should take the words from the song and think about how powerful and worthy they are, just the way they are. At the end of the song, Brother Ali raps, “I started rhymin’ just to be somebody I found out that I already was”. This powerful last line could lead students into writing a narrative poem.
Song lyrics: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/brotherali/us.html
2. Hall of Fame by The Script – Another confession – I LOVE will.i.am! So when I saw him with The Script I had to take a second listen. This song, Hall of Fame, is straightforward and it is easy to see the underlying message of “work hard and never give up, you can be a champion”. I love it! I am always arguing with my son that it’s okay to have to work at something. I love that he has a passion to be a great guitar player, but he doesn’t realize that it won’t just happen. After analyzing this song, it would be great to have students write about what their passion is and how they will pursue this dream to be a champion. Then they should write a plan for how to achieve their goal.
Song lyrics: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/script/halloffame.html
YouTube Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mk48xRzuNvA&feature=kp
3. Hero by Mariah Carey – This one will wind up dating me! Yes, Mariah Carey. This beautiful song expresses the power of really believing in yourself. I love the idea of not having to wait for someone else to help us out. You have to believe in yourself and there is a power that we all have that will make us strong and capable of living out our dreams. So many times, especially working with middle school students, they are waiting for and expecting others to help them succeed. It’s important for them to know that they are in control of their destiny. My favorite quote from this song:
“So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you”
Song Lyrics: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/mariahcarey/hero.html
YouTube Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IA3ZvCkRkQ
4. Firework by Katy Perry – Overused? Possible. But, seriously powerful message. This list would be incomplete without this empowering song. Students have heard the song, but have they listened to the song? Students can make inferences and visualize the meaning before searching for the overall message. With the students I was working with, we spent almost the whole mini-lesson time discussing the first stanza:
“Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?”
Once students have analyzed the lyrics, let them decide as a class what the overall message is and how that applies to them. It would be fun to do notebook passes at this point. Have the students write a letter to a classmate about how they are a firework and specific things that they do that glow. This would be a great community builder while teaching reading and writing!
Song lyrics: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/katyperry/firework.html
YouTube Video: http://youtu.be/QGJuMBdaqIw
What songs would you add?