By Jennifer Unger
Confucius stated, "Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without." Who am I to argue with this great philosopher? As a teacher of English, I have always used music when I teach poetry. I always start the unit by asking, "Who likes poetry?" There are always a few hands in the air (mostly girls who compose their own love poetry to their current crush). I then ask, "Who likes music?" Amazingly, almost all hands are voraciously waving and wanting to share their favorite artists and titles. Then I hit them with the realization that music is indeed poetry, so those who love music, love poetry. I go over the poetry devices and show them a slide show of examples in songs. As a first assignment, I ask them to bring in the lyrics to one of their favorite songs (school appropriate, of course). In pairs they are given a list of poetry terms and definitions. They are then to annotate the song identifying at least five devices in their pieces. We continue to use music as we work through the poetry unit. They will look at a narrative poem and a narrative song (such as Hazard by Richard Marx- I try to use songs from my heyday) in order to find voice and other commonalities. They also find a poem and a song that share the same theme (e.g. Finding strength from within) and create a digital project explaining how both works support the theme using text evidence and images.
Poetry lessons are perfect connections with music, but after spending most of my hall duty saying, "Take your headphones off, please," I recognized that students spend so much time listening to music, and I hate to quash the things they are passionate about, so I have been using it more and more in my other units. Some of the examples in which I have used music are:
These are just some of the ways I have taken their love of one form of art and connected it to another form. I have had such luck and love with these assignments. Students take great care in their work and the other students enjoy listening. It doesn't seem all that amazing that these lessons work. People from the beginning of time have turned to music as a way to celebrate, teach, relax, and praise.
"Where words fail, music speaks."- Hans Christian Anderson.
WVCTE is wondering...
Is music part of your class? What creative ways do you connect students' love of music with literature? Would these activities work with your classes? Leave us a comment, Tweet us your thoughts @WVCTE, or connect with us on Facebook!
Jennifer C. Unger teaches English 10 inclusion, English 10 Honors, Speech and Broadcast Journalism at Spring Mills High School in Berkeley County, WV. This is her 17th year of teaching. She values being able to teach her students new ideas and introduce works of literature for them to dissect. Her favorite part of the job, though, is learning new things from her students. Her favorite parts of life are her daughters, Kylie and Katie. She is treasurer of the newly formed WVCTE.