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Lesson Plan

On a Musical Note: Exploring Reading Strategies by Creating a Soundtrack

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On a Musical Note: Exploring Reading Strategies by Creating a Soundtrack

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lisa Storm Fink

Lisa Storm Fink

Urbana, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three

Session Four


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • read a selected text.

  • take notes as they read.

  • brainstorm songs to complement passages from text.

  • compile a soundtrack for a book they have read.

  • create a CD cover for their soundtrack.

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Session One

  1. Ask students to brainstorm a list of movies that they have seen recently. They can include movies they watched for pleasure as well as those that they watched in class or for an assignment.

  2. Invite students to share details that they remember about the movies on the list. Guide the discussion by asking students to talk about:

    • the characters and the actors who portrayed them

    • setting and scenes

    • special effects

    • sound effects, music, and songs
  3. When the students have wrapped up their conversation, ask them to elaborate more on the sounds and songs of a movie. Guide the discussion by asking questions such as the following:

    • What is their purpose?

    • How do they make you feel?

    • Do they attract or detract from the story line of the movie?
  4. Explain the soundtrack assignment, telling students that they will compile a soundtrack for a text that they have read. The text may have already been turned in to a movie or may be in the process of being developed as a movie. However, it may be just a great text that students enjoyed.

  5. Using a text that has just been read in class as an example, choose three to four songs as examples. If the example text is The Beast by Walter Dean Myers, you can share the following songs:

    • "Força" by Nelly Furtado

    • "The Number of the Beast by Iron Maiden

    • "The Lord's Prayer" by Aretha Franklin

    • "Harlem" by Duke Ellington
  6. Play each song individually for the class.

  7. Pass out copies of the Film Terminology and Cinematic Effects handout if students need help with terms and concepts.

  8. As you play each song, ask questions such as the following to guide students' listening and related analysis:

    • Where would this song best fit into a movie of this story? What action would be happening on screen while this song was playing? Why does this song fit this place in the story?

    • What would the scene look like while this song was playing? Shot type? Angle? Lighting?

    • Why does the technique fit?

    • If you could select only on of these songs, which one would you choose? Why?
  9. Point out that not all of the music used in a soundtrack has lyrics. Instrumental music is also acceptable and is sometimes more desirable. Encourage students to talk about when instrumental music might be preferred for a scene.

  10. After playing your examples for the class, ask them to share songs they know of that they think could fit into a movie-version of the same novel.

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Session Two

  1. Review the process of matching songs to a text from the previous session.

  2. Explain the assignment that students will complete-creating a soundtrack for the movie version of a novel they have read. Ask students to choose any six songs they feel match the texts or to find songs for specific events in the story.

  3. Pass out and discuss the rubric so that students understand the expectations for the project.

  4. Use the sample bookmark to demonstrate how to record thoughts and passages as they read the text the first time or to record notes during a rereading.

  5. Pass out copies of the blank bookmark for students to use.

  6. Allow time between Session Two and Session Three for students to complete their reading and record notes on their bookmarks.

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Session Three

  1. Once students have completed their reading and recorded notes on their bookmarks, demonstrate how to record information on the Soundtrack Song Chart, either using the print or online version, both of which ask students the same kinds of questions as they answered in the class discussion of soundtracks during the first session.

  2. Pass out or display the Soundtrack Chart Example, and discuss the responses included so that students understand the goals for the activity.

  3. If students need help thinking of songs, or if they want to conduct research, share music Websites with them such as iTunes.

  4. At the end of this session, students should have selected up to six songs for their soundtrack, and justified their choices using the print or online chart.

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Session Four

  1. Once students have chosen their soundtracks, allow time for the students to share their projects.

  2. Ask students to tell the class what book they used as inspiration, the songs they chose to accompany the movie of their text, and where they envision the songs in the movie. If resources and time allow, students might share some of the songs that they have chosen.

  3. Ask students to provide justification and examples for all of their choices.

  4. As the students share their projects, assess their work using the rubric.

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  • If students create a soundtrack for a text that has already been made in to a movie, ask them to compare the two soundtracks. What is similar? What is different? What affects do each of the soundtracks have? Complete a Venn Diagram documenting the comparisons.

  • Examine the lyrics of the selected songs. How do the words of the songs complement the words in the text?

  • Invite students to write their own original song that represents the text they are reading.

  • Complete a genre study of CD jewel cases and labels as a class, looking at a range of CDs from the library or personal collections. Ask students to design their own CD covers for the front and back of the jewel case. Extend the exploration further by studying and designing labels for the CDs as well. Students can use the CD/DVD Cover Creator to design and print their work.

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  • Focus on observation and anecdotal note taking as students work on their projects to provide ongoing assessment of their progress. In particular, listen to discussions of the text as students complete their bookmarks and search for music.

  • Use the Rubric to assess the soundtrack and students’ comprehension of the themes from the book.


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