Teaching Other Subjects Using Word Up
An idiom is a word or phrase with non-literal meaning. If students were to look up an idiom in a dictionary, they would not be able to discern its colloquial usage. For example, the literal meaning of kick the bucket doesn't even hint at its idiomatic meaning of "to die." Idioms can also manifest in the form of slang, where "that's cool" is a phrase of approval rather than a description of temperature.
While native speakers of English can more easily parse the meanings of these everyday words and phrases, idioms can be particularly challenging for ELLs. To help your students understand the idioms that appear in the Word Up songs-and recognize idioms in their daily lives and other reading we have included a lesson plan that teaches the concept and practice of idioms.
To gain the most value from this lesson, we recommend that you teach idioms near the beginning of The Word Up Project specifically, after you teach the context clues lesson, as it builds upon context clue knowledge.
Each song in The Word Up Project recounts a fiction or nonfiction story and thus functions just like any piece of writing that the students might encounter in school. We have written each song with care and attention to detail, so that students and teachers will feel comfortable analyzing the lyrics for figurative language, meaning, theme and voice. All of the songs can also be analyzed for the five elements of a story: plot, character, conflict, theme and setting. For example, you might ask your students: Who is the narrator of this song? What motivates him?
Encourage your students to draw a story arc for the song as well. Summarizing the plot of the song in this manner not only helps students develop critical analysis skills, but it also helps them understand the song through their visual intelligence.
Every state in America tests reading comprehension for students in various grades, and many now test oral comprehension as well. Of course, the reason for this is that effective reading and oral comprehension are the keystones of a successful education.
Each unit in The Word Up Project includes a reading comprehension passage to help students develop strong reading skills. However, you may choose to use the lyrics of the songs themselves as a teaching tool for reading comprehension. Instead of playing the song first, have students read the lyrics aloud or to themselves. You can then ask any type of reading comprehension question, ranging from historical background to character traits.
Oral comprehension can be tested by playing the song without having students read along. Then you can ask comprehension questions, or use the missing lyrics and have students fill in the missing words.
Teaching grammar using a song in Word Up might not seem like an obvious choice, but the songs can easily be used as a high-interest way of getting students to think about language structure and parts of speech. Nearly every line in the song lyrics is grammatically correct, though there are some exceptions. Each song's lyrics are printed to highlight the couplet, even when the result is a run-on sentence. For example, in the song Gold Rush, we have:
Go west, young man, for something new, I went through the barren desert where nothing grew.
Technically speaking, there should be a period after the word new, if those lines were being written as sentences in a paragraph. One exercise you could have students do is go through the lyrics adding the periods or semicolons that would be necessary if the lyrics were written out as sentences. Another exercise is to simply analyze lines for grammar, asking students to identify the parts of speech of different words.