Tag Archives: Music

A Daring Suggestion

3 Jul

I recently stumbled upon an interesting blog post by The Daring English Teacher about poetry pairings.  I loved the idea of pairing classic poems with contemporary pop songs, using the newer material as a means of drawing students in to explore enduring values, ideas and experiences.

It could also be interesting to add a contemporary poem to the mix, such that students are making connections across three texts, perhaps a classic poem, a contemporary slam poem and a song.  This would allow students to develop their comparative skills while also meaningfully exploring the role of textual form and medium in shaping meaning.

This activity, in the form of pairings as proposed by The Daring English Teacher, could be used as a pre-testing activity.  Alternatively, with the additional text included, it could form the basis of an extension activity for a particularly able or engaged student.

Language and Gender related material

3 Oct

I cannot stop thinking about the different types of texts I would introduce students to as part of the ‘Language and Gender’ elective in Extension 1 English.  As such, I have started to compile a list (see below).  I plan to keep revisiting and updating this list as new ideas come to me.

  1. The Bluest Eye (novel)
  2. Beloved (novel)
  3. Americanah (novel)
  4. ‘Girl’ (short story)
  5. The visual album accompanying Beyonce’s Lemonade
  6.  Girl Rising (film)
  7. Poetry of Maya Angelou
  8. Poetry of Warsan Shire
  9. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (autobiography)
  10. Bad Feminist (collection of essays)
  11. The Twyborn Affair (novel)
  12. Annie John (novel)
  13. Quiet‘ (spoken word poem)
  14. Anzac Girls (television series)
  15. Call the Midwife (television series)
  16. The Help (film and novel)
  17. Love Child (television series)
  18. House Husbands (television series)
  19. Black Eye‘ (spoken word poem)
  20. Spear‘ (spoken word poem)
  21. I think she was a she‘ (spoken word poem)
  22. Real Men‘ (spoken word poem)
  23. She Said‘ (spoken word poem)
  24. Macbeth (play)
  25. ‘One Word’ (short story)
  26. The Color Purple (novel)
  27. Mr Selfridge (television series)
  28. Scandal (television series)
  29. Bush Mechanics (television series).

Orsino’s soundtrack

7 Sep

At the start of Twelfth Night, Orsino is a bit sad because Olivia is not returning his affection.  In a bid to get students to understand Orsino’s mood, I asked them to work in pairs to create a 10-song playlist that reflected Orsino’s mood and emotions.

It was really interesting to watch my students discussing ideas.  Some students wanted to only include songs that reflected Orsino’s sadness and disappointment.  These students selected a number of melancholy songs as well as some love songs.  Other students picked up on Orsino’s desire to alter his mood, and thus sought to include songs which would help Orsino to take his mind off Olivia.  For these students, a few upbeat songs also found their way into the mix.

I was really pleased with my students’ justifications and the way they tried to get into Orsino’s head and accurately represent his complex emotional state.

Lyrical timeline

16 Aug

I have a difficult time convincing my Year 9 students to put aside their headphones and participate in my lessons.  Unable to find a solution, I have decided to embrace my students’ love of music.

We have been studying Romeo and Juliet, and I want my students to demonstrate their understanding of the plot by creating a lyrical timeline of the play.  Students are to identify key sections of the plot and locate a line from a song to represent ideas and emotions at each point.  We will then pool our resources and make a timeline along the wall of our classroom.

I am hoping that this will help students to engage with the events, ideas, experiences and emotions at key moments in the text.  I also hope it will give them a memorable shorthand for the main plot points.

Taylor-ing lyrics to a new form

10 Oct

I stumbled upon this amazing skit in which Taylor Swift’s song lyrics are appropriated and used to create a short soap opera.  Each year I examine appropriations in my Year 9 or 10 classes, and this is such a perfect example of creativity!  I can’t wait to show it to my students!

Create a playlist

15 Sep

I am in the market for new and interesting ways to prompt critical and creative thinking.  One idea that has worked well in the past is to ask students to curate a selection of songs which engage with the key ideas of a text.  I am hoping to have the opportunity to try this activity again, this time with Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.  I am particularly interested to discover whether students will gravitate towards love songs or whether they will select (and appropriately justify) other types of music.

‘What is Love’

20 Aug

I found yet another possible related text to be used as part of a Romeo & Juliet unit.  This song is is entitled ‘What is Love’ and is from the hit television show Empire.  The song conveys the intensity of emotion seen in Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, but also flags the complexities of emotion in circumstances where one person seems more committed than the other.

Poetry and politics in the classroom

1 Jun

With Ireland having recently legalised same-sex marriage, Australia is now officially taking steps to put this issue on the political agenda.  It is thus particularly timely to be exploring representations of same-sex relationships as part of a unit examining poetic representations of gender.

I am a fan of using music in the classroom (see, for example, here) and am keen to explore Macklemore’s ‘Same Love‘  (lyrics) as part of a Year 10 poetry unit. I also think it is a good way of expanding the discussion of gender within the classroom.  The only thing that is really holding me back from including it in the unit is that the links to other proposed poems are not very clear.  In this sense, many of my students will be unable to make concrete connections between this song and other texts studied and will, as a result, not give the song due consideration.  Is it right to include the text but not make appropriate provisions to ensure that students value it as much as the other prescribed texts?

Gender across generations

29 May

As you know, I have been working on putting together a unit which explores poetic representations of gender (see here, here and here).  After searching for ages, I am finally starting to make headway on the final section of poems.

After exploring Maya Angelou’s ‘Phenomenal Woman,’ I am going to introduce students to ‘Mother to Son‘ by Langston Hughes.  As suggested by the name, the poem explores a mother’s message to her son.  The mother has had a difficult life but has persevered, she exhorts her son to do the same.   The central metaphor of the poem is sufficiently sophisticated to interest my students, but not so complex that they don’t understand it.  In terms of gender, it also reveals that women are resilient and strong.

Upon the suggestion of a colleague, I am considering teaching Tupac’s ‘Dear Mama‘ (video clip) alongside ‘Mother to Son’.  Again, the focus is on the relationship between mother and son.   Again, the mother in the poem has had a difficult life.  Tupac’s admiration is clear, once again emphasising that women are strong and able to overcome adversity.  As an added benefit, my showcasing the son’s admiration, we also see a softer side to masculinity.

Opera in the English classroom

9 May

As part of the introduction to my Year 10 ‘Visions of Australia‘ unit I asked students to explain how images were created in written text, a double-page spread of a picture book and an opera.  All three texts engaged with a series of quotations from Marsden and Tan’s The Rabbits.  The idea was that they would recognise how different types of texts create images in different ways.

On the whole, students came up with perceptive responses.  They noted, for example, that the rhetorical questions in the original text example created a sense of loss, that the high-pitched voice in the musical clip suggested pain, and that the overwhelming use of black in the double-page spread might represent the absence of something.