Parents loved this assignment if I could get it graded before conferences. The students take songs, stories, and their own lives to prove whether or not their parents understand. About 90% of my students believed their parents DID understand, and that's what made this assignment so much fun at conferences, especially since the kids rarely told their parents about the assignment.
I have a better version of this assignment listed as an essay about love with many more sources, but this one is a cheaper version to get in on something your students and parents will appreciate, even if some of the student will pretend to be annoyed.
I came up with the idea after reading the following stories with the students:
• "The Sentimentality of William Tavener" by Willa Cather,
• "Guess What, I Almost Kissed my Father Goodnight" by Robert Cormier,
• "Mammon and the Archer" by O. Henry
• "War" by Luigi Pirandello
The songs I used are listed in the assignment. There is also an assignment wherein students analyze one of the songs. You'll just have to print off the lyrics. I have made this assignment better than the original, along with links to the songs and a link to the the Google Doc version to be done online. --
You get links to lyrics of 12 songs and 12 poems about the relationship between kids and parents. The eventual essay was whether or not parents are real people, based partially off reading the story "The Sentimentality of William Tavener" and "Mammon and the Archer." But you don't need the stories or the essay assignment to make this important. It just is, and the students will get it.
First off, the collection of songs is pretty good, since I spent each year I taught this (10) finding new songs to add. The poems were more of a later addition, but still valid. Students answer 10 poignant questions about the texts (I recommend 2 songs and 1 poem).
You will know it's a big deal to them when a few kids ask about song titles so they can download the songs. I always played the youtube versions of the songs listed in the background as students worked, but there are two on the list you must show (links provided).
The added bonus is that this assignment looks great to parents, too. If your students are mature enough, they'll feel real emotion dealing with these lyrics. This assignment always represented one of those days I was proud to be a teacher. Just download it and find a way to use it so you can see why.
Links are to lyrics, but you'd have to print from the internet for in-class usage. I used it as an online assignment, so I also provide the Google Docs version.
Oh yeah, you should talk about yourself a little bit during this assignment, even if you don't do that too much. Whether you as a parent or you when you were the students' age. The students will appreciate whatever you tell them, unless you ran away at 14 to get away from horrible parents. Then keep it a secret.
I usually made this group work. If you're an awesome music teacher who's being forced to bring in English-type assignments, this is the one. If you can never find time for poetry, this is the way.
The list of songs and poems (and you can add more) is just as important to this assignment as the handout. These are generally quality songs, though a few were student recommendations, but that was cool, too, since how many times do our assignments get students coming up to us after class to add ideas?