I was partially inspired by this interpretation of Rebecca Black's song Friday
So I wrote up a quick paragraph (which will be edited thoroughly and used as the sample paragraph for the students)
“Friday” has important historical referencesRebecca Black’s song Friday is about the tensions in The United States of America in the 1950 and the 1960s. The 1950s and 1960s in the United States were a tense time of the Cold War, presidential assassinations, and racial segregation. First, Rebecca Black focusses a great deal of her song to discussing which seat she should take, indicative of racial segregation. In the 1950s and 1960s The United States employed racial segregation in many parts of life, but this was seen especially in public transportation; people were told where to sit based on their race. Most memorably Rosa Parks, the mother of the freedom movement, refused to give up her seat to a white woman in 1955. She made a stand on which seat she took, and Rebecca obviously alludes to this here. Another point is Rebecca says that everyone needs to “Get down on Friday,” referencing the assassination of John Kennedy on Friday, November 22, 1963. When there is a shooting the first thing people will scream, to decrease unnecessary casualties, is “get down.” The assassination was a tense moment in American life making people feel depressed, or “down,” just as the song suggests everyone felt that Friday. Finally, Rebecca has a line in which many feel she says, “Everybody is rushing,” this however is actually her hinting at “Everybody is Russian.” The cold war with Russia was a big deal in America and many Americans were falsely accused of being Russian. In the 1950s McCarthyism swept through the country and simply by being Russian, or labeled as a communist, many people were blacklisted from their jobs. Thus Rebecca Black’s Friday is a song that does more than just invite people to enjoy the weekend, it also speaks to the tumultuous times of the United States in the 1950s and 1960s.
Assignment. Write a paragraph in which you express and support a unique interpretation of a song.
_____ is about an alien abduction _____ is a song written about a pet not a boyfriend.
_____ is about open heart surgery. _____ is about Mexico earning its independence.
o ANY interpretation on ANY English song it is OK as long as it is unique:
GOOD:) Christina Aguilera’s “Reflection” is about a transsexual who is not accepted by his family.
BAD:( Christina Aguilera’s “Reflection” is about a girl who doesn’t fit in.
GOOD:) Aladdin’s, “A whole new world,” is about someone who has been diagnosed with cancer.
BAD :( Aladdin’s, “A whole new world,”is about a couple exploring a new place.
Hopefully I get some decent reads, I think most English teachers will vouch that someitmes the hardest part of grading is reading the same boring papers over and over again.
EDIT Oct-18: I've done this three times now and it has worked really well! Some fun examples from students:
"The Lion sleeps tonight" is about a woman in an abusive relationship.
"The Lazy song" is about a man sufferring from depression due to the eocnomy.
"Never gonna give you up" is about the the United States Cold War with Russia.
"Call me Maybe" is about a lady with crush on a married man.
You can purchase the whole kit and caboodle on Teachers Pay Teachers for the bargain price of $1
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Paragraph-Assignment-to-Interpret-Songs (if you don't have an account yet you can sign up here)
Have you had a chance to use songs in any way like this? How have your students found it?