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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Language of Love: Using Love Songs for Close Reading

February is the month of love and a great time to bring the language of love into your ELA classroom. To tie in with the month, I use love songs as close reading text. Love songs are full of imagery, figurative language, and emotion. Because of this, they are perfect to have students analyze using close reading. It's also a way to bring music into the classroom, which my students are always up for.

I typically begin this with my students the beginning of February and I scatter the poems throughout the month. I currently have 9 activities so I do a few every week. The students seem to like this much better than taking the whole week of Valentine's to do the songs.

Close reading is something that must be practiced and used consistently for students to get comfortable with the process. I use a close reading process of three reads in my classroom. Here are the steps I use for this specific close reading activity:

1. We listen to the song together so students can get the "feel" for the song and this allows them to get acquainted with the text in a way that doesn't seem scary. I do allow the students jot down notes in the margin as they listen. These notes typically include specific feelings or thoughts they had as they listened to the song or effects within the sound of the song they notice. I view this as a pre-reading warm-up and gets them excited about the text. 

2. The First Read: The students then read the text of the song on their own or in small groups. The purpose of the first read is to read for understanding by determining key ideas and details. The activity typically has 1-3 questions for the student to answer during this first read. 

3. The Second Read: The students read the text on their own or with a partner. The purpose of the second read is analyzing the craft and structure of the text. This could include looking at figurative language, word choice, word meaning, or text structure. The second read is "the meat" of the analysis, in my opinion. This is not a time for "right there" questions. This is a time for deep thinking and analysis for the students, which is why, at least at the beginning, I allow them to work with a partner. 

A student example
4. The Third Read: This is the final read for students. They have read to determined the main idea of the text. They have broken the text up and dived into analyzing its parts and figured out how the parts add to the overall effect of the text. This third read is bringing it all back together and asking the students to integrate all of the information from the previous two reads and determine the overall effect of the text. They may look at the mood or tone of the text. They may look at how the title is related to the song. This is a time to decide if the author succeeded in their purpose for the text. And it's a great wrap-up of the process.

This process remains pretty close to what I do in my classroom during each close read activity, whether it's fiction or nonfiction...essay, speech or poem. This is the process that seems to work for my students and allows them to step through the text successfully. 

If you are interested in the songs and questions that I use, you can find them in my here in my TpT store. 

Until next time...