Are songs considered poetry? Lesson plan extensions

I know poetry is tough and that a lot of teachers, in an attempt to make poetry more accessible and fun for students, will often ask them to analyze song lyrics as they are a poem.  Listen, I’m not trying to argue the music can’t be poetic.  What can I say?  I’m a Belieber and fully admit that some of his songs (okay, 95% of them) have strong poetic elements in them.  However, just having poetic elements and rhythm doesn’t mean studying a song should replace a poem.Rhythm definition in a dictionary Stock Photo - 10842641

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I remember very clearly observing my cooperating teacher as a young, naïve, idealistic student teacher.  The day was comprised of students bringing in songs they thought were poems and they had to argue their poetic appeal.  At the time I remember wondering why they just didn’t study actual poetry instead.  Now that I’m “wiser” I can see the benefit of recognizing that poetry exists in our daily lives.  I also understand that sometimes to get students to see the meaning, purpose, and, gasp, beauty of poetry they need to be able to see, hear, and touch the poetry of their daily lives.  However, I don’t think the lesson should stop with songs.  If anything, that is a great way to jump into a poetry unit, giving students grounding and purpose in their unit.  The below lessons aren’t meant to diminish the use of songs as a form of poetry in class.  If anything, these are just suggestions to intensify or extend the learning that begins with music.

If music is being used as a way to help students understand poetic devices, why not ask students to bring in multiple songs from the same artist.  Ask them to evaluate what devices are used most commonly with the “poet.”  Being able to identify devices from one set of lyrics helps them recognize devices but asking them to evaluate a strand of songs encourages them to think more fully about the way in which the musician writes and the ways in which the use of the device changes because of tone, mood, or subject.  This gets them much more critically engaged in their identification.

Instead of opening a unit with a song, try having the students end the unit with a song.  After studying a variety of poems and poets, ask them to find a song that mimics the subject matter, style, or shifts of one of the poets.  This is still helping them find poetry in their daily lives but is encouraging them to critically think about and root the inquiry in scholarly, challenging poems.why not ask students to bring in multiple songs from the same artist.  Ask them to evaluate what devices are used most commonly with the “poet.”  Being able to identify devices from one set of lyrics helps them recognize devices but asking them to evaluate a strand of songs encourages them to think more fully about the way in which the musician writes and the ways in which the use of the device changes because of tone, mood, or subject.  This gets them much more critically engaged in their identification.

If you are looking for an alternative and trying to find a resource that helps students understand how “poetry is everywhere,” have them watch some videos from the PBS program Poetry Everywhere.  Yes, I’m creative in my turning of phrases.  This website has amazing videos of well known poems that either contain content that encompasses the common day or is illustrated in a manner that encompasses the common day.  Some of the videos are of poets reading their works, others are illustrated movies of the works (my personal favorite is the movie of Emily Dickinson’s poem “I Started Early”).

I certainly don’t want to get into a back alley fist  fight with a musician about whether or not their music is considered poetry…especially because I think it can be.  I also don’t want to get into a back alley fist fight with a teacher who has students analyze the poetry of music.  I absolutely think it is a valid activity.  However, today’s post is just to make you think about how you can extend on that lesson and push your kids to really think outside their comfort zone.

 

2 comments

  1. Debra says:

    I visited multiple websites but the audio quality for audio songs present at this site is in fact fabulous.

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