This blog post is the second in a series of posts on a song writing unit I delivered for Grade 9 English Language Arts. It is also very appropriate for a music class of any type. Please check out Part 1.
As mentioned, Quizizz is an online platform with educational trivia games designed specifically for the classroom and works great in an online or in-person environment. It is similar in many ways to Kahoot! but learners seem more engaged with it. What Quizizz does well is that it gives real time feedback to the teacher and the learners, and creates a healthy competitive environment. It reminds me a lot of the pre-movie games at movie theatres. Pretty early on in the unit (included in the suggested pacing guide) I had learners complete 3 separate Quizizzes on two different days. Each of these introduced or reinforced different ways figurative language is used in song. It was a fun way to see what they already knew and where I needed to take the learning journey.
5. Looking at Songs
There are two songs specifically that learners will look into other than the song “Ironic” by Alanis Morrisette with a more global approach to figurative language:
This song is a story about a war veteran (the songwriter’s relative) who is writing home from the front. The song is based on an actual letter written by Private John Thomas Love. The link above is a resources page put together by Andrew Waite, who is also a music educator. You can feel free to use any song you like, this one was most relevant because Andrew Waite is a local artist and we ended up having him in to speak to our class. Feel free to find music from your own locale instead of using this one. If you choose to use this one, here is how I introduced this song:
- Ask students to read the letter that inspired the song. I always introduce this song as a story, or a narrative. They had already been familiar with narrative writing, so this was something that made sense to them.
- Invite learners to listen to the song together and listen specifically for figurative language. This was delivered online, so I asked students to put into the chat window anything they noticed that was figurative language. They may share the figurative language or a phrase where they heard figurative language.
- Debrief: ask learners what type of figurative language they heard or noticed and what the lyric was.
This particular activity sheet was completed after learners did the Parts of a Song Google Slide Activity (discussed later), so the first part is to label each section of the song, which they would have done in that activity. The link to the song “Sandbox” is included in the Doc. Learners will have to listen to it to be able to answer the questions. Your version does not have to include Question 8. This is my own band, it was to get a laugh. You do not have to use this song either. If you are in a band or you would prefer to use another song, please feel free to do so!
6. Song Poster Assignment
This assignment is a fun way to explore figurative language in song. I did this early in the unit, but it can work really well in the later part of the unit as sort of a culminating activity. Here is the link to it with requirements and a rubric. Basically, it has learners designing their own poster exploring a song of their choice looking for the figurative language it has. They can use Canva for Education (more on this later) for this if they wish.
7. Finding a Local Artist
Find a songwriter or poet that might be interested in coming to your class. If you are a musician or a poet yourself, you might have access to songwriters or poets already. I ended up getting Andrew Waite, a local multi-award-winning singer-songwriter who wrote the song “Cash it In” that was mentioned previously. In Canada, we have poet-laureates in each province that might be interested in coming into your class to chat about their poetry-writing process. In my case, I am first and foremost a music educator and most of my contacts are musicians. If you don’t have direct access to a singer-songwriter, checking with your local music industry association or a friend who might know somebody could be a good starting point.
The main point of finding a local artist is to show learners that this is something someone can do for a living and to share their process about how to get started with writing a poem or song lyrics. At the end of the talk, we wrote a song with Andrew so learners could see the process and not be as intimidated by writing a song for their final project in this unit, which is to write their own song or poem.
Andrew was able to give us some useful tips for getting ideas for a song or what to do during the process. The artist you choose will likely have some amazing (and likely different) tips, too.
If you can, please consider paying your guest speaker. In many cases, this is their livelihood and paying them for their expertise is only reasonable. Please do not expect them to donate their time.
What do you think? Would you like to see more? This particular blog post is only a small part of this unit. New sections of this unit will be published regularly. Keep on the lookout for part 3 and for a TpT or eBook resource, too!
Until next time, Happy Musicking.