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Lesson Plan

The History Behind Song Lyrics

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The History Behind Song Lyrics

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time Seven 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lisa Storm Fink

Lisa Storm Fink

Urbana, Illinois

Publisher

National Council of Teachers of English

 

Overview

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

 

OVERVIEW

The events described in Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” span about forty years of U.S. history. The lyrics include references to people, places and events from four decades of world occurrences. In this lesson, students research and categorize items from the song as well as illustrate their historical relevance. Students use an online chart to display their research. In addition, students make personal connections by working on a self- or teacher-selected lyrical project.

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FEATURED RESOURCES

  • Self-Reflection: Students use this sheet to evaluate how well they interact in a group activity, including what they did, what they enjoyed, what they found difficult, what worked well, and what they would do differently the next time.

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FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE

Does nonprint media-television shows, films, and songs-belong in the classroom? Absolutely! Nonprint media reach students and make connections in different ways from print media. Further, nonprint media often focus on contemporary topics that are not yet included in classroom textbooks. Jerome Evans states, "Artifacts of pop culture serve as advanced organizers for students, who can then connect new material (prominent and persistent themes in American literature) to their own experiences with literature (song lyrics). Once they see that songwriters and performers develop themes in the music they enjoy, discovering those themes (and, of course, others) in literature new to them is simply not so difficult." As Evans discusses, the use of nonprint media aids students when they do need to read and respond to print media.

Further Reading

Evans, Jerome. "From Sheryl Crow to Homer Simpson: Literature and Composition through Pop Culture." English Journal 93.3 (January 2004): 34-38.

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