Thursday, April 21, 2016

Using Lyrics As Poetry for Close Reading

Hi everyone! Stephanie from The Marvelous Middle here.

Since April is Poetry Month, it's the perfect time to bring music into your classroom. Middles love music and they LOVE talking about music. As Kelly Gallagher says, "You have to know stuff to be able to read stuff." Middles know music and you can use that to your advantage. Using lyrics as poetry is something that I do throughout the entire school year. By the time April rolls around, they are pretty good at analyzing lyrics. I use the three read process for close read. The first read focuses on Key Ideas and Details. The second read focuses on Craft and Structure. The third read focuses on Integrating Knowledge and Ideas. This is the same process we practice all year long.

This year I decided to change things up a bit. Instead of using popular songs the entire year, I used them to model the close reading process and students used them to practice on. These were songs they were familiar with and had some background knowledge already.

Jump forward to February...the perfect time for love songs! I pulled songs from multiple decades, making sure to include songs my middles weren't familiar with. I put together a set of love songs (that you can find in my TpT store) to use during class to increase their close reading skills. I wasn't sure how middles of 2016 would react to the "oldies" but the songs were a hit (pardon the pun)!! Not only did they use the process that we had practiced since school started, but I saw growth! They took text they were not familiar with previously and pushed themselves to analyze deeper than they had all year.  And they asked throughout March if I was going to bring more of the "oldies" in to class.

Being a HUGE baseball fan and knowing that April is also the month baseball starts, I searched for songs that were baseball related. Some of them I did not even know. This just made the process more interesting. My middles got to experience me modelling a close read on a song I was not familiar with. It was eye-opening for them. To see me struggle at points in the lyrics was shocking for them. "You mean a teacher struggles with some pieces of text, too?!!" "You mean you don't just have all the answers in a book somewhere and you have to figure it out like we do??!!" So once again, it was a great teachable moment for my middles and for me.

The moral of this story is meet your middles where they are comfortable, even if it's a place you may not be as comfortable. Pop songs of today are NOT my comfort zone. If we are asking them to step out of their comfort zone, shouldn't we? Using lyrics as poetry for close reading meets them exactly where they are comfy. Music is music in their opinion. It's not stuffy like poetry (even though as a teacher I don't believe this). It's normal for them to figure out what the song is saying, just don't remind them that it's really just poetry put to music. And better yet, enjoy the moment!

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