From Electric English...
When teaching English and all of the skills this encompasses, it is often very beneficial for the teacher to use other artistic mediums to inspire interest and learning in their students. This song by Johnny Cash pairs very well with concepts and ideas encountered within the chapter from "The Red Pony".... "The Leader of the People" by John Steinbeck. This chapter can stand on its own, and for that reason, is many times taught as its own short story. Whether the lyrics compare or contrast with the other material you are covering, songs provide an innovative, electrifying way to point out similarities and differences in the material. Give it a try; you'll be glad you did!!
NOTE: It has recently been brought to my attention that perhaps I need to be a little more explicit with my instructions pertaining to the musical activities themselves, and how I utilize them in the classroom... I play the song for the students; they have the lyrics in front of them, so they can annotate as they listen... Considering, not only, the lyrics but also the overall tone and mood of the music itself. After they have had the chance to listen and annotate (Sometimes I play the song twice for them if the connections are not as literal, or are more difficult than some of my other music choices), then we discuss the piece as a class to discover all of the similarities and differences (connections) they have found. As we discuss, we are also considering how their choices provide supportive analysis for their opinions. It is a fun way to get them considering inferences and higher level connections between different artistic mediums, historical movements, etc... Sometimes, there are also questions that I have created to accompany the music, if so these will be included at the bottom of the activity. Other times the activity only involves the annotations and discussion.
Sometimes, I, also, use their annotations as a formative assessment, if we as a class have done enough of these activities that I feel I can gauge their learning based on their annotations. I usually tell them ahead of time how many annotations I expect to see on their papers by the end of the activity, usually between 5 and 10 depending on the complexity of the connections I am asking them to consider. Like I said, prior to this we as a class have already practiced with other songs, etc. Inevitably some students are always better at these types of instruction than other students, so I find that the discussion is key to ensuring everyone's understanding. After a couple of rounds though, you will be amazed at what the kids start seeing and discussing, they find both literal and figurative connections, stuff even I hadn't considered. Music is a great way to inspire learning in the classroom.