Reprinted with permission from Don Mesibov’s Newsletter for the Institute for Learning Centered Education
Teacher: “OK class, listen to this song and then tell me what is unique about it.
Hint: It has to do with the grammatical construction of the lyrics.”
Teacher then plays “You and I” (you youngsters can probably find it with a Google search. My favourite recording is by Ray Charles and Betty Carter, but it has been performed by many artists.)
Allow the students to guess individually. Then distribute the lyrics and ask students, in pairs or groups of three to punctuate them:
“Darling you and I know the reason why a summer sky is blue and we know why birds in the sky sing melodies too and our love will grow from the first hello until the last goodbye so to sweet romance there is just one answer you and I.”
Here is the correct punctuation:
“Darling you and I know the reason why a summer sky is blue; and we know why birds in the sky sing melodies, too; and our love will grow from the first hello until the last goodbye; so to sweet romance there is just one answer: you and I.”
The song is all one long sentence and that is its uniqueness.
Here’s another: play “Moonlight in Vermont” and ask the students to identify what is different about it from most song lyrics. The answer: there is no rhyme scheme.
This creates a good opportunity to point out to students that song lyrics are poetry. Have them recite lyrics from some of their favorite songs. Many students don’t think of songs as poems. It’s also a good opportunity to discuss whether a poem can be a poem if it doesn’t rhyme. Many students think if it’s a poem it must rhyme.
As Paul Vermette says,
I’ve come to believe that my only task as a teacher is to make my students think.”
These songs will make students think about grammatical structure and poetry. And for social studies, what about Billy Joel’s “We didn’t start the Fire.”
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