Step Up Your Vocab: The Musical


cc licensed flickr photo shared by bionicteaching
This is pretty simple and likely to be pretty fun. It probably fits best in an English classroom1

I’m not sure how I’d start this . . . I think I’d go this route. I’d show the kids a bunch of article headlines and quotes complaining about the deterioration of today’s society and how today’s music sucks. This is really just to get them riled up and interested in proving they’re not the brain dead people being described.

The kids pick their favorite favorite song and go find the lyrics.

Then you have the kids run they lyrics through something like this site which calculates reading levels. This one isn’t great for this purpose but it’ll do for this demonstration. We just want some sort of number that quantifies the sophistication of the lyrics.

The challenge for the kids is to increase the reading level as high as possible while maintaining the spirit of the song and it’s rhyme scheme (if any).

So they have to really figure out what makes the reading level go up or down and then apply what they learn. They’ll be working with vocabulary, sentence structure etc. The students will have to think about the essence of the song and struggle with the subtleties of word choice.


1 Although breaking down the pieces of the “reading level” algorithm as an exercise in logical thinking would be interesting in science or maybe math.

Comments on this post

  1. Sadie said on May 5, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    I really like the idea of doing this kind of activity. Have you had much success with this type of activity. I tried to do a poetry anaylsis using my students favorite songs but it didn’t go well at all. Do you have any reccommendations for a good site that would calculate the reading levels?

    • Tom said on May 6, 2010 at 7:16 am

      The poetry concepts to song path can be kind of rough. I don’t know how you structured it but if you can create conversations that force the need for the poetry term vocabulary that can be an effective. That’s kind of the opposite of the normal path of giving definitions and then saying apply them.

      I looked briefly for reading level calculators but only found the one site I linked to. You can do it in Word. That might be the easiest path. I think the key to making this idea successful will be creating a sense of competition.

  2. Sadie said on May 9, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Thank you for the information. I will utilize the advice you have given me. I have recently started a blog for a course that I am taking in educational technology and I was wondering if you have any advice or suggestions for a newbie?

    • Tom said on May 10, 2010 at 12:13 pm

      Sadie- I probably do but you might want to constrain me. What do you want some advice/suggestions on? Blogging? Tech integration in general? People worth reading? etc. etc.

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