Close reading is the new buzz word, but here’s the deal, straight up, no lies…IT’S NOT NEW! Teachers from the beginning of time have “read closely” with their students. Looking deeply at text is what good teachers have done for ages.
Common core standards have simply put into words what students should be able to do, but, I will say it again, TEACHERS WERE ALREADY DOING THIS BEFORE COMMON CORE!
I have heard a lot of teachers say that they struggle to keep reading fun for students, as there is so much they need to get through. One of the ways I have tried to bring in a fun activity for my kids and still keep plugging away at the common core standards has been through song lyrics. I have students reading songs that they are both interested in and that have a deeper meaning. Typically I begin my introducing the song to students with a cold read. From there, I will have a brief conversation about words that really may stump the kids. From there, I give my kids a packet of 8 questions to discuss with a buddy or a small group.
The questions I give to kids range from lower level questions that are “right there,” to those questions that ask kids to think harder than they have ever thought before! The entire time, students are engaged x10, as they are loving what they are doing, as these are lyrics they have heard time and time again.
I would suggest following these steps when doing a lesson using song lyrics:
1. Begin with a cold read; that is, having your students simply read the lyrics alone. Close reading them using the standard mark-ups sometimes helps students get a grip on the overall message. I have my kids write the gist of each stanza in the margins, underline important parts, and circle unknown words.
2. Have a brief conversation with students about what they have just read.
3. Have students get into a small group with a buddy or small group. I have even used this in our guided reading groups, especially for those struggling to keep up. This can be a tough activity for those who are having a rough time keeping up. Have students complete either all, or maybe just a couple of the close read questions. Sometimes I have my kids complete a jigsaw activity. One group completes 2-3 questions, at which point we come back together to discuss the findings of all questions.
4. Have a whole group conversation of the song lyrics. Whatever the current comprehension skill is that we are focusing on, I make sure we go over this as a whole group. Typically, it’s fairly easy to discuss theme, as there is generally a very apparent message the songwriter is trying to get across to the listener.
5. We always end by watching the music video, or listening to the song. After listening or watching the video, there is usually more to discuss. We typically discuss “why the producer and director of the video did what they did.”
The best part of these close reads is when a student says, “Wow, I never knew that song meant that,” which happens almost every time we close read a song.
One of my favorite close reads is the one I most recently completed with the kids. “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile,” by Sia, from the new version of Annie coming out this December is an unbelievable song, and the kids had a blast. It was quite the inspiring lesson for both the kids, and for me!
I have bundles of close reads on TpT using song lyrics. Check them out and let me know what you think! I guarantee the kids will love them! 🙂