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  • Writer's pictureScott Cameron

Bringing Together Music and Literature in the Virtual Classroom

Updated: Jul 5, 2021

This morning, as I listened to a song from Mikaela Davis, I thought, why not ask students to share their favorite song? This virtual learning situation actually lends itself to this type of assignment. They can listen to the songs in the comfort of their own home. If they don’t like a song, they can move on to the next one. Listening to music relieves stress. Songs also contain tons of literary techniques, so I made that part of the assignment as well.

Here’s the assignment (free) I posted on Google Classroom. They basically need to pick a song and talk about why they love it. They also can interpret a quote or interpret any literary techniques or figurative language in the song.

When I was in high school, I presented an interpretation of a short clip of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush”. I inserted the white cassette tape of the album into the stereo and talked about how Neil Young had a vision of war in his dream:

I dreamed I saw the silver

Spaceships flying

In the yellow haze of the sun

There were children crying

And colors flying

All around the chosen ones.

At the end of the year, my seniors present something beautiful or creative or inspiring. One year, a student presented the “Hold Up” music video from Beyoncé’s Lemonade. I’ll never forget it. We talked about Beyoncé’s greatness for a long time.

In an elective I teach called Media Studies, I introduce a unit on culture by analyzing Bob Dylan’s “Who Killed Davey Moore?” He tells the story of a boxer who died after a fight and examines the people of the fatal show – the referee, the crowd, the manager, the gambler, the sportswriter, and the boxer who hit Davey Moore. Dylan wants us to think symbolically – what do they represent and what role do we play when we consume culture?

Last year, a group of my students created a podcast where they asked their friends to talk about their favorite song and why they love music. They played the song in the background as their friends told stories. They actually interviewed me for the podcast. I told them a story from when I was in college. My friend and I were sitting in a car in a parking lot because her boyfriend went to get something in a store. A song called “Holiday in Spain” by Counting Crows started playing. She started crying. Her boyfriend planned to take a year off in Spain, and she said, he’s going to leave me, he could have written that song himself.

Poetry, with its rhythm and rhyme, contains beautiful sounds that please our ears, especially when we hear it out loud. And lyrics often contain figurative language that opens up a space for interpretation. Music, when done properly, can move our bodies and our minds.

*Update. I've been blasting the songs (and dancing!) whenever I get the chance - here are some of my favorites:

“(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano” by Sampha

“Rewrite the Stars” from the movie The Greatest Showman

“Whatever We Feel” by Sammy Rae

“Die a Happy Man” by Thomas Rhett

“100 Bad Days” by AJR

"Farewell Wanderlust" by The Amazing Devil

“Feeling Whitney” by Post Malone

“Come a Little Closer” by Cage the Elephant

"Hard Times" by Paramore

“Streetcar” Daniel Caesar

"Felt Good On My Lips" by Tim McGraw

“Living” by Dierks Bentley

"Brother" by Kodaline

“Harmony Hall” by Vampire Weekend

Scott Cameron

Teacher's Workshop, LLC online professional development for high school English teachers

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