Music and Me: Visual Representations of Lyrics to Popular Music

9 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Seven 50-minute sessions
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You can get your students to practice critical literacy without resorting to book interpretation. Instead, using texts such as song lyrics can engage students, while related images can be used as interpretive tools. In this lesson, students choose a song that they like. Then, they interpret the meaning of the lyrics by making personal connections, critically analyzing their interpretations, and planning how to represent them with images. After collecting digital images, they use Windows Movie Maker to create a photomontage movie. Then, students share their movies and reflect on both their own and their peers' work.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • Students working with visual "texts" need to understand the technical skills to manipulate text, image, and color-but they also need to understand how these elements work together to create meaning.

  • It is important for teachers to model how to talk about visual texts by looking at them with students and pointing out how these different elements have been used to create meaning. Explicit articulation of these ideas helps students assess their own work more thoughtfully and completely.
  • Being visually literate means that a student can produce and "read" visual texts.

  • To be visually literate, a student should actively engage in asking questions and seeking a variety of answers and interpretations of a visual project.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Computers with Internet access
  • Windows Movie Maker
  • Overhead projector
  • CD player
  • Digital or disposable cameras
  • Scanner (optional)
  • LCD projector (optional)
  • Headphones (optional)




1. If you do not have computers available for your students to use, you will need to reserve four sessions in your school’s computer lab (see Sessions 3 through 6). If possible, arrange to use an LCD projector during Session 4.

2. Familiarize yourself with Windows Movie Maker. If you have a Windows operating system on your school computers, this should be included in the “All Programs” list on your machines; otherwise, you will need to download it. Windows Movie Maker 2 and Create Home Movies Effortlessly With Movie Maker 2 both have basic information about how to use the program; you may want to add these sites to the Favorites list on your classroom or lab computers.

Prior to having students use the program you should know how to import photos into the software, place photos on the storyline, insert transitions, record music on the audio track, insert picture effects, and write words on the pages. These skills are all outlined in the Using Movie Maker to Create Photomontage Movies sheet.

Note: If you are using a Macintosh operating system, you can use iMovie to complete this project. For support and tips about using this software, go to iMovie HD Support.

3. Review Tech-Ease: Images Q & A for Mac and PC for information about creating digital images and photomontages.

4. Students should come to Session 1 with a song selected for this project; they should have the lyrics printed out or written in a notebook. You should ask them to choose a song from any genre that has personal meaning for them, telling them to bear in mind your school’s policy about profane, sexual, and violent language. They should also choose a song that they have access to because they will need a written version of the lyrics and a recorded copy to listen to. If you have concerns about students choosing songs with appropriate lyrics, you may want to send a parent letter home prior to the lesson that explains the project.

5. Choose your own song to use as an example in Sessions 2 and 3. You will need copies of the lyrics for every student in the class and a recording of the song.

6. Make two copies of the Music and Me Idea Map for each student in the class. Make a transparency of this as well. Make one copy of the Music and Me Project Instructions, Using Movie Maker to Create Photomontage Movies, Rubric for Photomontage Movie, the Self-Reflection on the Music and Me Project, and Music and My Friends for each student in the class.

7. You will need a CD player or computer with speakers to play your song during Session 3. In addition, students will need to listen to their songs; they can do this on your classroom or lab computers if you have headphones available. If you do not have headphones, you may need to assign the activity in Session 3 for homework in between Sessions 2 and 4.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Make text-to-self connections by examining the lyrics to a song they have chosen and describing how they relate to the words and music

  • Express and organize their thoughts by using graphic organizers

  • Practice interpretation by reading song lyrics both with and without music and by choosing images that represent the text-to-self connections they have made

  • Increase their technical skills by learning how to acquire images digitally and how to use Windows Movie Maker

  • Apply what they have learned by creating a photomontage movie

  • Analyze their own work as well as the work of their peers by looking at the movies and filling out evaluation forms

Session 1

Note: Prior to this session, students should choose their song and listen to it.

1. Hand out the Music and Me Project Instructions and read through the objectives of the assignment with your students.

2. Ask students to think about the song they chose and ask themselves the questions listed under “Guiding Questions: Set 1” of the instruction sheet. To model the process, you can first put the questions on the board and ask individual students to answer the questions, providing feedback that will assist other students in answering the questions.

3. Students should work individually on filling in their answers to the questions. When they are finished, they should share their answers either with the whole class or in small groups. They can ask for assistance or suggestions from their peers or from you.

Homework (due at the beginning of Session 2): Students should bring a copy of the lyrics they have chosen to class.

Session 2

1. Using an overhead projector, show students the transparency of the Music and Me Idea Map. Distribute the printed lyrics of the song you have chosen and ask students to read them.

2. Use the “Guiding Questions: Set 2” from the Music and Me Project Instructions sheet and demonstrate how you would fill in the Idea Map. Fill in a couple of spaces yourself. Then ask students to add their ideas to the map.

3. Ask students to fill in the second set of guiding questions on their Project Instructions sheet.

4. Distribute blank copies of the Idea Map and give students time to fill them in. They should write their song title in the middle, write down key words, and make sketches of images that come to mind when reading the lyrics.

5. Ask students to read through the lyrics again and check their Idea Maps to make sure they captured the mood of the song to their satisfaction. Ask them to note questions they have and ask themselves what bothered or concerned them as they worked? What interested them? What did they find confusing?

6. Students should discuss these thoughts with a partner. They can also ask their partners for help with words or ideas for images. Questions to consider include: How do you feel about this song? What do you think about the words I chose? What words would you choose?

7. Students should then revise their web, making note of the discussions they had with their partners and making any changes they feel make a more powerful statement about the song.

Homework (due at the beginning of Session 3): Students should bring in a recorded version of the song they have chosen as well as their filled-in Idea Maps.

Session 3

1. Distribute blank copies of the Music and Me Idea Map. Tell students that you are all going to fill them out after listening to the song you have chosen. Explain that you are going to use a visualization strategy while the song plays: You will close your eyes and see what pictures or words pop into the “TV” inside your head.

2. Play the song you have chosen. Using the Idea Map overhead, write words or draw sketches of images you see while the song is playing. When the music is finished, add any additional thoughts that come to mind. Ask students to share their ideas as well, until the bubbles are filled in.

3. If you have headphones and computers available for students in your lab or classroom, ask students to complete this visualization activity with their own songs. Questions for them to consider as they work include:
  • What do I think of when this song is playing?

  • How does the music make me feel?

  • What does this song remind me of?

  • Are there any parts in the song where the music adds power to the lyrics?
They should use a blank copy of the Music and Me Idea Map to write down key words and make sketches of images that come to mind when hearing the song play.

Note: If you do not have headphones for students to use, they should complete this activity for homework.

4. Ask students to compare this web with the one they created during Session 2. They should fill in the answers to the “Guided Questions: Set 3” on their Music and Me Project Instructions sheet.

5. If you have time, use Tech-Ease: Images Q & A for Mac and PC to help students understand the process of creating digital images. If not, you can ask them to do this for homework.

Homework: Students can prepare for the moviemaking sessions at home by gathering images to use in their movies. The questions they have answered and their Idea Maps should serve as guidelines for the type of images they want to use.
Students can assemble images in a variety of ways, such as by:

  • Taking photos using either a digital or conventional camera (if they use the former, they should make a photo CD; if they use the latter, they should make a CD or scan the images).

  • Collecting images from magazines or books (again, these will need to be scanned).

  • Searching the Internet for images. Please note that you should consult your school’s guidelines regarding safe Internet usage before allowing students to conduct an open search. In addition, your students should access and follow Copyright and Fair Use Guidelines for School Projects.

If students have difficulty accessing equipment, provide a few disposable cameras for them to use. You might also want to refer students to the training information on Tech-Ease: Images Q & A for Mac and PC so that students can practice using the software if they choose.

You should provide at least a week for students to collect their images.

Sessions 4 through 6

Note: During these sessions, students will import the images into Windows Movie Maker and make a photomontage movie to play along with the music to their song. They should bring all of the images they have collected for homework. If you have not already done so, distribute Using Movie Maker to Create Photomontage Movies to students.

1. Introduce this part of the project. Tell students that they are to create a movie that connects the song to their personal experience.

2. Using an LCD projector if one is available, show the students how to open Movie Maker and import images into the program. Then show them how to open the storyboard and click and drag the images into place.

3. Have the students work on this part of the lesson and assist them as needed.

4. Students then need to decide what effects and transitions they will use and why. Once again, model this process, showing them what the various transitions and effects look like when you play them back. Ask them to brainstorm some ideas about how the transitions and effects add to meaning. Students may choose to consult their Music and Me Idea Maps for inspiration while they work.

5. While they are working, circulate around the room to provide assistance and encouragement. You may also use peer feedback by asking half of the students to stay at their computers and work while the other half circulates and provides suggestions.

Session 7

1. Invite students to share their movies. You might choose to have them look at each other’s work on the computers. Or students can also do formal presentations where they show their videos with an LCD projector.

2. After the presentations, have students choose a few peers to fill out the Music and My Friends: Evaluating Classmate’s Work for their movies.

3. Finally, ask students to self-evaluate, using the Self-Reflection on the Music and Me Project form.


Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Make text-to-self connections by examining the lyrics to a song they chose

  • Express and organize their thoughts by using graphic organizers

  • Interpret the song lyrics both with and without music

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