Advice for Teaching Poetry through Song Lyrics

Advice for Teaching Poetry through Song Lyrics
The Editorial Team March 14, 2013

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Teaching poetry through song lyrics is a great way to get a class to pay attention to a sometimes tedious lesson. By breaking down and closely examining lyrics to contemporary songs, teachers can introduce students to the basic mechanics of writing poetry using sentences they already know.

Many parts to poetry, like rhyme schemes and alliteration, are important fundamentals students need to understand. And starting lessons off by using words and phrases already familiar to students to explain these concepts helps the process go smoothly.

Use students’ favorites

A teacher could teach poetry through song lyrics from the 16th century, but would that be interesting? Probably not. That’s why it’s important to engage the students through using popular music that they enjoy. For this kind of lesson to work, a teacher needs to know what kind of music the class likes. Not every class is the same, so using a set grouping of bands or songs won’t work.

Teachers can ask students a few things to get started, like:

  • What books they enjoy reading
  • What popular movies they’ve enjoyed lately
  • What they do in their free time
  • What bands and types of music they like

A teacher can do this through a questionnaire at the beginning of a semester or school year to find out more about the students. These questions will give clues about the types of music that come into play with those interests. For instance, a class that really enjoyed the Spider Man moves will likely know the song Hero by Chad Kroeger. Tying this song into a lesson plan could be beneficial, or, if there is an off day at school, letting the students watch the film, and then reintroducing a lesson with music from it in the following days, could be a great way to keep in a theme that students will enjoy.

Teaching the lesson

One way to teach a poetry lesson with music is to play the song upon the arrival of students to class. This is good for a number of reasons. First, it calms students and gets them quiet for class time. Second, they will likely catch on to the rhythm and some lyrics, but it won’t be enough to ruin the rest of the lesson plan.

Now, a teacher can introduce a lecture through a handout. Play the song again, asking students to focus on the lyrics. You can use this system to help students learn sound devices, rhyming schemes, beats, and more that are all important parts of poetry creation.

The lesson might include a number of poetry devices, such as:

  • metaphors
  • similies
  • personification
  • assonance
  • hyperboles
  • rhetorical devices/questions
  • rhyming
  • onomatopoeia
  • epistrophes
  • alliterations

Teaching poetry through song lyrics in this way is a great way to capture students’ attention while still providing the lesson on deeper grammar and language devices.

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