Teaching Blog (continued)
- This week’s class had a theme: songs with a story behind them. I reminded the class that last week’s song, “7 Years,” had a story behind it—Lukas Graham wrote the song after his father died suddenly at 61. I told students the songs for today’s class all had stories behind them.
- First, we listened to the songs–“You’re Beautiful,” “Ring of Fire,” and “A Change Is Gonna Come”–while reading the lyrics. After the song “You’re Beautiful,” I asked, “Who was the woman on the subway? Was she a stranger? Someone the songwriter knew? We’ll find out.” After “Ring of Fire” I asked, “Who wrote this song?” A student replied that Johnny Cash wrote it. “Maybe,” I replied. “Or maybe not. We’ll find out.” After “A Change Is Gonna Come,” I asked, “What change did the songwriter want? We’ll find out.”
- Students counted off 1, 2, 3. (They wrote their number on a sticky note and put it on their shirt so I could keep track of who was in which group.) I distributed the stories: the story behind “You’re Beautiful” (More True Stories Behind the Songs, Unit 1) to Group 1, the story behind “Ring of Fire” (True Stories Behind the Songs, Unit 2) to Group 2, and the story behind “A Change Is Gonna Come” (on this site under “Stories”) to Group 3. I gave the students time to read the story assigned to their group.
- When students were finished reading, I sent Group 1 to one corner of the room, Group 2 to another corner, and Group 3 to the hallway outside the classroom so that each group could confer in privacy. I went from group to group and reminded students of the questions I’d posed about their song. (For example, I reminded Group 1 that we wanted to know who the woman on the subway was.) I gave each group time to agree on an answer. Then everyone returned to their seats.
- First, Group 1 told the class about the woman on the subway. Then we watched the music video for “You’re Beautiful.” Next, Group 2 told the class who had written “Ring of Fire” and why the songwriter thought love was dangerous. (Little known fact: The songwriter was June Carter, Johnny Cash’s future wife.) Then we watched Scene 34 from the movie “Walk the Line,” where June finally accepts Johnny’s marriage proposal. (A shorter clip from the movie is on YouTube. Both videos show a romantic kiss and may not be appropriate for all classes.) Finally, Group 3 related the experience that prompted Sam Cooke to write the song “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Then we watched the 2016 music video.
- We had about five minutes of class left. I told students they could leave a little early, or we could listen to another song. “Another song!” they said. I happened to have the lyrics to “Let It Be” with me, so I passed out them out. I briefly told students the story behind the song (on this site under “Stories”). We listened to the song while reading the lyrics, and many students sang along. On that note (literally!), the class came to an end.