Tag Archive for songs

Songs of Summer: Essential Questions

I’ll admit it.  I listened to Janet Jackson’s “That’s the Way Love Goes” on an infinite loop during the summer of 1993.  Keep in mind, infinite loop meant hitting the back button on a CD Walkman.  This statement dates me.  Right now my students are listening to Carly Rae Jepsen or One Direction. Last summer they were listening to LMFAO’s “Party Rock” and Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks”.  But Janet Jackson?  I’m not even sure they remember her wardrobe malfunction.


There’s something about a good catchy pop song, especially during the summer.  I can pinpoint exactly what I was doing while listening to the great ones (i.e. Whitney’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”) and the horrible ones (i.e. Los Del Rios’ “Macarena”).

Whether you find the “it” song of summer better every time it’s played or so annoying that you change the station, you know them and so do your students. It can be hard to find a topic, any topic that so vividly inspires debate in students as defending or defiling the summer song.

So make use of it.  With very little prep work you can listen to a little music, engage in a bit of critical thinking and ask students to create their own “essential” questions about how these summer music trends reflect upon our culture.

Below is a list of articles that highlight songs from past summers and predict this summer’s biggest hits.  Have students read or listen to several.  Then ask that they construct levels of questions for the best one.  The goal: identify big picture issues at stake when it comes to culture and the song of summer.

I’ve attached an easily modified Levels of Questions Model that uses the novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as an example.  It’s an easy assignment to translate for any passage analysis, documentary film study, editorial, etc.  They simply need to have a model before they prepare their own level 1, 2, and 3 questions.

Articles: Songs of Summer

Articles fromNPR, The Washington Post, Vulture and Yahoo Music. 

Music in the Classroom: Songs of Summer


Memorial Day weekend is such a tease.  It feels like summer with its late nights, blockbuster movies, backyard cookouts and silent alarm clocks. But for those of us whose schools are in session until the middle of June, this holiday weekend is simply that—a long weekend.

Three and a half weeks of school still await me, and those three and a half weeks can be dreadful.  Even the best students, when finished with AP and state tests, can become belligerent.  And me?  I become belligerent, too.    Learn because I say so.  Read because I say so.  Enjoy – because I say so.

I’m not at my best as a teacher in June.  Exhausted and out of steam I feel locked in an unwinnable battle with a room full of 17-year-olds: people who up until this point had laughed at some of my jokes and at least attempted to do some of my assignments.

Testing in May makes teaching in June difficult.  That’s why this week we’ll talk about high interest end of the year lessons by revisiting music in the classroom.  But this time we’ll do it with a focus on popular culture, music and the ever innocuous “songs of summer.”

If your students are swooning over One Direction and humming “Call Me Maybe” this week’s lessons will help meet them halfway.  You won’t have to compromise all of the reading, writing and critical thinking skills you’ve tasked them with all year.  They’ll be able to talk about their favorite bands and popular music.  It might not be summer vacation, but we’ll get you as close as possible to the beach with summer music.

As a refresher take a peak at Emily’s posts from October 2011 about song use in the classroom.  They’re a good place to start.


Day One:  Overview of Songs in the Classroom

Day Two:  Creating a Literary Mash-Up

Day Three:  Ideas to Use Songs That Connect to Text

Day Four:  Tonal Shifts in Song Covers

Review of Songs in the Classroom


Song Use: Week in Review

                 Friday Dialogue from  

                                        Your Two Favorite Educators 

As Emily and Aubrey look back over the week they use their razor sharp wit to assess their innermost feelings about song use in the classroom. 


1.)    I know you are a big music buff and probably hated my guilty confession of having Bieber fever.  I think it is only fair that you describe one guilty pleasure you have with music.

Aubrey: You’re right I’m a music snob.  I like  the cowbell in Peter Bjorn and John’s “Gimme Some” as much as the next guy but guilty pleasure number one is Ke$ha.  I want to be her.   Who can resist: “Wake up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy?”   I never wake up in the morning feeling like anybody cool.  Sometimes when I’m at the grocery store I sing Tik Tok and shake it in the cereal aisle.  And by shake it I mean my finger as I point to other shoppers. Read more