My third week of my Close Reading work occurred during our school’s first Friendship Week and around the time when the song “Gone, Gone, Gone” by Phil Phillips was being played on nearly every station on a hourly basis. I would hear the song on my overly caffeinated ride to work at least twice and then again multiple times on the way home. The more times I heard it, the more I began to appreciate it lyrically and I though I could somehow tie it into bigger themes we were trying to promote with our school’s emphasis on friendship. Check out the lyrics below:
As I was getting more comfortable with my interpretation of what Close Reading could be, I wanted to see if, with minor adjustments, I could maintain the course I set when working with “To A Daughter Leaving Home.” To that end, I thought the three day cycle could look like this:
Day 1 – Genre Sophistication and Gist
Day 2 – Connecting Lines/Verses in the Song to develop New Perspectives
Day 3 – Noticing Word Choice and Introducing/Appreciating Author’s Craft to Confirm or Revise Original Gist Statements
On Day 1, the students came to the meeting area with a copy of the lyrics in their SMART Pals folders and dry erase markers. Quickly, I asked them to identify the genre they were about to read and then list everything they knew about that genre on the reverse side of their folders. Almost all of the students noted that the piece was a poem and they wrote down structural elements of poems like stanza, line and rhyming words. I complimented their thinking and pointed out the words “Lyrics by:” which was their first clue that it was not a poem, it was a song. I pointed out that there were three “Verses” in the song and I explained that the part of the song that is repeated over and over again is called the refrain. At this point, I wanted to set our purpose for reading and explained that readers/listeners know that songs are either written to someone or about someone or something. I asked them to quickly skim the poem to see I’d they could figure out if this song fit into one of those categories. After a few seconds, the students agreed that the song was being written to someone. At this point, I posed my two big questions to frame their thinking as we read the song together. Those questions were:
-To whom is the song writer writing?
– What is he/she saying?
After displaying these prompts, we read the lyrics of the song together. Following the reading, the students were asked to work in partnerships to answer the prompts noted above.While circulating the meeting area and listening in to their conversations, it was evident that most students thought this was a love song written by a man who had either been broken up with or whose love had died tragically. I praised them about these ideas and then showed them the covers of two other books that they had been read aloud recently to see if the themes therein might alter their perspectives slightly. The books were:
After giving them another opportunity to turn and talk, I asked them to complete the following prompt on the back of their SMART Pals:
What is this song REALLY about?
Based on what they wrote, there were some students who thought this song was about lost love between a boyfriend and a girlfriend. Other perspectives of interest included that the song was really about:
– the love a parent has for a child
– the love a child has for a parent
– the relationship between sibblings
On the second day of the cycle, I wanted the students to focus on the songwriters’ word choice and to think about how different parts of the song “fit” together. To do so, I introduced more words to help familiarize the students the the structure of songs as you can see in the picture below:
After introducing these new vocabulary words to the students, it was my intention to ask them two questions that they could ask themselves anytime when they might read lyrics or listen closely to a song. The questions were:
To model this for them, I took the lines “When life leaves you high and dry” and “When enemies are at your door” and explained how the desperation in these two scenarios “seem to go together.” I explained that I thought these lines were used to explain that he/she would “be there” for the subject of the song whenever they truly needed them. I asked them if another line in the song could also be related to this idea and had them read quickly with their partners to see if they could make this connection. After a brief interval, I stopped the students and complimented their thinking as many partnerships identified the line “When you fall like a statue” because “statues break when they fall.” As you can see in the picture above, these lines were highlighted in yellow so that the students could see the connection they made.
After this, I gave the students a longer interval to work independently during which time they were asked to highlight or underline words/lines that fit together. After a few minutes, I asked the students to share with their partners what they found. To do so, I instructed them to use the sentence frame, This part ____ goes with this part ___ because… I showed them exactly how I wanted them to point with their fingers to the lines they are connecting and to “lift” those lines entirely as the CCLS for grade 5 speak to using exact quotes when citing text evidence. Again, I circulated while the students talked and then facilitated a whole class share. During this time I color coded the lines the students made connections to as you can see in the picture below:
All of their thinking really impressed me but I really liked when one student connected the lines “I’ll carry you away from war” and “I’ll be at your door tonight” because the songwriter wants to be the girl’s knight in shining armor.” Another insightful comment occurred when a student connected the lines “You’re my backbone” and “you’re my rugged heart” because the songwriter can’t even stand up or even live without the other person. I ended this conversation with praise and offered an optional homework assignment – “What is a cornerstone?” The students were asked to look up this word and be ready to discuss it at our next meeting.
The last day in the cycle began with a review of the optional homework assignment that was given. To my surprise, more than 90% of the class completed the assignment. One student said, “It is the first stone laid in the foundation of a building which is making me think the songwriter is a child, kind of grown up, writing to his mother or father because our parents are our foundation.” YES!!!! To introduce the purpose of this day’s reading, I introduced the students to the words “simile,” “metaphor” and “imagery.” We loosely defined these terms and I had the students reread the text with pencil in hand looking for the songwriter’s use of craft. Again, a partner share proceeded the whole class share during which time many hands were raised. Although the students did not always identify the appropriate literary term, they did notice some of the beautiful writing that is embedded in this piece. To see if all of this work paid off, I returned the students attention back to the focus questions of day 1 just to see if their perspectives about the song changed:
Again, students worked in partnerships to discuss if and how their original ideas had changed. To assess, I asked the students to complete the following prompt in their response notebooks:
At the conclusion of the lesson, I collected the students’ notebooks and, at the suggestion of the teacher, we watched the music video. The kids loved this and it was great seeing the ambiguity in the scenes selected for the video as they could have supported any of the big ideas the students had about what the song could be about. Thanks Cathy!!! That was a lot of fun!!!