Article 9 of 10
Poetry & Song Lyrics
by Debi West
In last month’s article, I talked about the importance of the art of storytelling. I believe that once our students realize how important it is to create art that has a story behind it, they are hungry for more!
A few years ago, I designed a lesson around poetry and song lyrics to springboard off of their storytelling unit. Not only is this a great lesson in terms of student’s final works, it’s one of their absolute favorites because kids love songs! And when they realize songs are actually a form of poetry, they’re hooked! (And not to mention your language-arts teachers will become your greatest allies!)
I begin this lesson by playing a song for my students. As they’re listening to it, I have them quickly sketch in their journals any imagery that might come to mind as they hear the words of the song. The initial images are always simple contour sketches but often become the premise for something spectacular.
We have a discussion about the imagery they created and how each student has a unique view of the words they selected to sketch. These advanced art conversations are an important and rich part of the AP curriculum in that students must be deep thinkers in order to justify their final portfolios. I think the more they discuss their art-thinking, the stronger their works become.
They are then charged with finding a song or a poem that has personal meaning to them. This doesn’t take long because students usually have their favorite play list right there with them. I have found it interesting, though, to see them begin to write down the words and then think about them through a new lens. So often their initial song choice changes. They think deeply about the words and begin to sketch areas of the song that will flow with the song.
I tell them up front that they’ll present their final works to the class, but instead of talking about their work, they’ll simply play a portion of their song or a reading of their poem and if the class sees the connection, they’re good to go. This adds a new dimension to their thinking and helps them consider how they want to create their pieces.
Since we are now deep into our advanced art course, I rarely give my students too many parameters in terms of media and size of surface. This allows them to create very personal works that they again, have full ownership over.
I have received so many incredible works via this lesson and have found that by not limiting their materials, they are free to be the creative and divergent thinkers we aspire for them to be. This lesson definitely creates art that is music for the soul!
Next Up: “Performance Final/Capstone.”
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A&A Contributing Editor Debi West, Ed.S, NBCT, was an art educator and department chair at North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Georgia. She is now involved with her two businesses, WESTpectations Educational Consulting and Crystal Collage Children’s Art Studio in Suwanee.