The Lyrics of a Song

I still have one class to teach today, but I am so inspired by my two a.m. Intro to Lit classes, I am squeezing in a mini-post during the time I usually plan or grade.  This morning, I witnessed what every professor, teacher, tutor or coach lives for: when students use skills and information you have taught them in a natural, innate way.

Last week, we reviewed rhetorical analysis and then segwayed into literary analysis.  We covered literary devices, entered complex discussions on writer/audience interaction, unveiled the problems with unreliable, but charismatic speakers, and we talked about why they should study literature at all.  For homework, each student had to choose the lyrics of any song and analyze both its rhetorical and literary devices.  They had to discover what it is about the language that makes the song so engaging to them.

Today, they brought in their songs.  In groups of three, they shared both their lyrics and notes to eachother.  Then I gave them the task of picking the “best” song out of the three.  Then each group had to build a case for its choice.  During the second half of the class, each group explained and presented their decision.  Because this is only the second week, I really wasn’t sure what to expect.

As they presented, what impressed me most was their natural usage of literary terms.  They analyzed Kanye West’s word choices, Tupac Shakur’s juxtapositions, Rise Against’s effective use of graphic imagery.  Why you should use Tupac to teach literary and rhetorical analysisAs simple as this may seem to many academics or to college students attending more competitive schools (such as the other students I teach who use literary language in daily discourse, which has its wonderful perks too), it is a huge step for these students.  Some I have taught since they first entered as struggling freshman, forced to take Developmental English before they could take the expected English Composition 1.  They were completely unprepared for college level writing.  One student, whom I am teaching now, was also a student in my Developmental (remedial is what this was once named) English class last year.  She explained in the most genuine, but distraught and frustrated way, “I thought I was completely ready for college.  I got A’s, but I’m totally not.”

Today, she discussed how the use of the word, pipe, in the song her group chose was a synecdoche employed to represent drug addictive behaviors.

I watched my students feel validated, respected, pleased to realize that so many of the musicians they hear are also avid users of literary devices.Why you should use Tupac Shakur to teach lierary and rhetorical analysis.



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