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Description of Unit

In this task, students will study songs and explore song lyrics as storytelling devices. Students will research the songwriting process and songwriters. Students will examine how songs communicate content and emotions. Their learning will culminate in the composition and presentation of original song lyrics that tell a story about their own life.

This guide links the Songwriter’s Club unit to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for first graders. Songwriter’s Club is an English language arts and reading (ELAR) unit that allows students to analyze and create song lyrics. Songwriter’s Club also has interdisciplinary connections to fine arts and social studies disciplines. For example, students will listen to songs to identify language and narrative patterns as outlined in the English Language Arts and Reading TEKS, explore foundational music concepts such as song structure, tone, and rhythm, and learn about events or characters in history and literature as portrayed in songs. The following document includes the applicable TEKS and the details of the Songwriter’s Club unit. The final section of this document presents the applicable Texas College and Career Readiness Standards adopted by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) on January 24, 2008.

Phase I. Learning Experiences

  1. Read several nursery rhymes and Mother Goose stories. Ask students what they can say about the selections you have read. What is the same about them? What is different about them? What are they used for?
  2. Print out the lyrics of several nursery rhymes. Have students circle the word or words that are the same, put squares around words that start with the same sound, and draw arrows between words that rhyme. Demonstrate first on a projector, and then let student groups work on 1­‐2 additional examples.
  3. Create a class name song. Choose a simple, familiar song, such as "If You Are Happy and You Know It." Have students clap the rhythm. Use a computer keyboard to play the tune, and work with the class to find a way to name every student in the class, using the song tune. (“If you are Amy and you know it, clap your hands.”) This can be made fun with each student identifying their own motion, such as stomp feet, wiggle ears, or make their own funny face with “then your face is gonna show it.” Or you can work on another type of song such as "The 12 Rules of Playtime" as appropriate to the class.
  4. Play the "Frog Went A­‐Courting" song. Ask students what they noticed about the song (e.g., repetition, rhyming). Listen to the song again, and lead the students in clapping the rhythm. 
  5. Assign different songs for analysis to groups of 2–3 students. Include historical and traditional songs that tell a longer, more complex story. Examples include “The Ballad of Davy Crockett,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “Puff the Magic Dragon,” and “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again.” Students should listen to the song several times, and then tell the class what the song is about and why they think so. Pass out the lyrics to the class, and then play the song for the class having the children follow along. Point out the parts of the song (e.g., verse, refrain, chorus), and have students identify the patterns/structures (e.g., verse, chorus, verse). Teach the children the chorus to several of the songs and have them sing along.
  6. Present a lesson on the writing of "The Star­‐Spangled Banner" with images and content about the battle, the poem, and the author.
  7. Have students identify and find out about a song that they like that tells a story. They can either present or sing about it to the class.
  8. Have students select their favorite song and provide the lyrics to the song. Students are to summarize and explain what the song is about. Students then are to list at least three images in the song. Students are to determine why the song is popular.
  9. Students will list their favorite songs. Then the class will determine the top 10. Students will develop criteria for songs to be in the top 10. The students then create a survey for other students to list their top 10 or name their favorites.

Phase II. Independent Research

A. Research process

  1. Selecting a topic for a student story. Stories can be about an important event or person in the student’s life, a biographical story, or a dream or wish for the future.
  2. Composing a story. Students should draft and polish a story that will serve as the basis for song lyrics. It should include a beginning, middle, and end, and use standard literary conventions as appropriate for the age group.
  3. Drawing the story in pictures. Students should draw pictures from the story in frames that present a narrative sequence.
  4. Identifying key words. Students should identify the main characters and ideas of the story and write a list of key words. For each of the key story words, students should identify as many rhyming words as possible.
  5. Choosing a song to set the lyrics to. Students should sample a range of songs that might be appropriate for telling their story. Their choice should convey the mood of the story if possible.
  6. Creating a research proposal for finding out more about the original song the new song will be based on. The student’s research should include the original lyrics, in what context the student encountered the song originally, where it came from or what tradition it is linked to, and how it used today.
  7. Writing song lyrics. Write a set of lyrics loosely based on the student’s story set to the chosen tune.
  8. Presenting original lyrics. Practice and present the student’s song to the class using either a recording or a live performance, with lyrics provided to the class.
  9. Responding to student presentations. Students write a brief paragraph about each student’s song identifying what it was about and how it made them feel, then submit the paragraph to the performer.

B. The product

Each student develops a story and an original set of song lyrics loosely based on that story.

C. Communication

Each student presents the song to the class, and other students provide a written response to each performance.

D. A completed project consists of

  1. a draft and final personal story, including picture narrative;
  2. a list of key story words and rhymes;
  3. research on an original song; and
  4. original lyrics set to the song.
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