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Lesson Plan

Playlist for Holden: Character Analysis With Music and Lyrics

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Playlist for Holden: Character Analysis With Music and Lyrics

Grades 7 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Minilesson
Estimated Time Two 45-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lawrence Baines, Ph.D.

Normal, Oklahoma


International Literacy Association


Materials and Technology






  • Computers with Internet access and media player application installed (optional)

  • iPods or other media players (optional)

  • List of suggested popular songs with lyrics (optional)


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  • iTunes website
  • Amazon
  • LitTunes website

    The LitTunes website links classical literature and poetry with popular songs. It is listed here as a source of ideas and inspiration for teachers, rather than as a resource for students. Although the site makes some very nice correlations, “classic rock” is overrepresented in comparison with other musical genres. Also, be forewarned that many of the links to YouTube videos may be dead.

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  1. Choose a fictional character familiar to students to be the focus of the lesson. The lesson will be most effective if the students are studying a novel that is focused on a single primary character. The example used here is Holden Caulfield from J.D. Salinger’s novel Catcher in the Rye, a universally recognized iconic character, but the lesson activities would be equally effective with a major character from any novel.

  2. If students will be choosing their playlists in class, make sure they can access the suggested websites on their computers. Note that for access to iTunes, each computer must have the iTunes software installed.

  3. Make a copy for each student of the Playlist for Holden Assignment.

  4. Decide whether you are going to devote time to the playlist in class or have students complete it as homework. Schedule access to school computers and/or set due dates for assignments accordingly.

  5. Write the following statements on the board (or, if you are adapting the lesson for another literary character, provide similar contrasting statements to describe that character):

    • Statement 1: Holden Caulfield is an insightful, wise adolescent who points out and analyzes many of the flaws of our society.

    • Statement 2: Holden Caulfield is more hypocritical than insightful. He says one thing and then does another, and he relies upon cynicism and sarcasm in addressing the flaws of society.

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