As an English teacher, I’m always trying to figure out ways to tie the curriculum to pop culture examples that students connect with. Using song lyrics can provide an accessible jumping off point to practice literacy skills and analyze literary elements before applying these skills to larger pieces of literature. Here are 10 engaging ways to incorporate song lyrics into your English classroom.
Divide your class into teams and provide each team with a song lyric to correct for grammatical issues. Then as a group, debate whether the edited and revised lyric is as effective as the original. Teams then present their points to the class. This is a good exercise to prompt discussion of voice and word choice in writing as well.
You may have heard of a “Poetry Bracket,” where poems go head to head for students to discuss the merits of each and determine a winner each round. Well, a variation on this idea would be to use song lyrics in a bracket system and have students decide which one conveys a poetic device the best. For example, two lyrics containing a metaphor would be presented and students would discuss which one they find most interesting/engaging/meaningful according to class created criteria.
Ask students to look at their playlists and randomly select a song. They will use the first line of that song as the first line in a poem they will write. Then they can randomly choose a second song, and the last lyric of that song becomes the last line of their poem. They must connect the two lyrics by writing the lines of poetry in the middle.
Create a graffiti wall or inspiration board in your classroom where students can post (teacher-approved) song lyrics that they feel inspire them as writers. You can assign each student a day to contribute to the board and explain their choice to the class, or leave it open for contributions whenever the mood strikes. You could also have a theme each week and ask students to find examples of song lyrics that demonstrate each theme or literary device.
When teaching theme, ask students to choose a song from their playlist and think about what the theme might be. Ask them to write down one lyric from the song that conveys this theme. Students can then add their lyric to a class graffiti paper and list the theme underneath.
Use song lyrics to teach inferencing by having students discuss what is inferred about the singer/subject through the lyrics. Investigate how word choice and tone reveal deeper contextual understanding. Ask questions such as, “How does the singer feel about their situation?” followed with, “How do we know this? What words or imagery infer this about them?”
When students are first learning how to make the three types of connections to literature: text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world, it can be an easier access point to use song lyrics they are familiar with before asking them to consider the connections they are able to make with a novel for instance. Letting students analyze song lyrics they love will usually guarantee they have already spent time in their rooms, staring out windows pondering how they can personally relate to the words, and how they relate to other texts and the world around us.
Use song lyrics with political or social commentary as discussion prompts for opinion writing. Ask students to identify the message and state whether they agree or disagree. You can also discuss whether a song lyric can convey a message to the public better than other forms of media.
Provide students with a song lyric containing a lot of imagery as a creative writing prompt. Ask students to tell the story behind it. The interesting part is to see how each story ends up because of all the different directions each student takes their writing in.
Display motivational song lyrics in your classroom! Invite students to add to a “motivational mantra” board containing different song lyrics to read when you need some words of encouragement.