Sunday, January 21, 2007


On top of teaching 4th grade, I teach the 5th grade reading and language arts. As I mentioned a couple months ago, I am discouraged by the powers that be from teaching novels. Instead of using nothing but short, boring test prep passages, I would like to use songs. I used Nick Cave's Where the Wild Roses Grow to teach the elements of a narrrative and point of view. Next week I'm using the Decemberists Yankee Bayonet and The Mariner's Revenge to teach drawing inferences and conclusions. The latter has a semi-naughty word in it that none of the kids will be able to pick up by listening and I could just omit from the lyric sheet. I hate it that I have to do that, but it's either that or not use the song.

So my request is this: Do you know of any songs that tell stories? Songs that I could use in a classroom full of 5th graders, that would be enjoyable but not get me in trouble? I like using the indie rock ballads a lot because they'd never hear anything like that otherwise. But I'd also love to find some hiphop I could use. So far, every time I think I find a good hiphop song, there ends up being something in the language that I can't cover up that disqualifies it. Anyway, I'd love to see some suggestions. Anything that keeps the kids from having to read about Milton Snavely Hershey or whatever.


Blogger Venha Futuro said...

You could try "Children's Story" by Slick Rick. Not only is it a narrative with no objectionable language, it will introduce your kids to hip hop far superior that which they hear on the radio. You could also use "Rocky Raccoon", by the Beatles. I loved that song when I was little. I'll see what else I can think of.

1/21/2007 7:58 AM  
Blogger Jake said...

I like the Slick Rick a lot. Eric B and Rakim propbably have a few you could work with, too.

Then, of course, there's the whole folk genre filled with story songs - though they may be a bit dull for the kids...
Dylan is an obvious choice. Try Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts as an example.
Townes van Zandt would be good, too. Of course, his most popular song was Pancho & Lefty.

1/21/2007 10:11 AM  
Blogger lily of the valley said...

Thanks, guys. I'll definitely look at those.

I really wanted to use "Casey's Last Ride," but, yeah, adultery. The kids have a funny relationship with country music. They claim to hate it, but are fascinated by it.

I'm not sure if straight up folk would be something the kids can relate to. I push it with indie rock. They are a little more disposed to like that because they know it's what their teacher likes and listens to. I'm young enough still that they think I am at least marginally cool.

1/21/2007 10:22 AM  
Blogger lily of the valley said...

Also, I thought it might be kind of funny to do a cheesy heavy metal power ballad at some point. I wonder how that would go over.

1/21/2007 10:23 AM  
Blogger Venha Futuro said...

Mississippi John Hurt can be difficult to understand, but "Stagger Lee" is a great song. And you could also use Lloyd Price's version, which is an urban update of the story.

1/22/2007 7:18 AM  
Blogger lily of the valley said...

Stagger Lee could be fun. I'm just sorry I can't do the Nick Cave version. Heh. Okay, not too sorry, but I love that version.

1/22/2007 8:28 PM  
Blogger belledame222 said...

"Rocky Raccoon?" (Beatles)

"Her name was McGill
And she called herself Lil
But everyone knew her as Nancy"

oh, probably more controversial, but "Only a Lad" by Oingo Boingo.

6/19/2007 1:40 PM  

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