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Using Music Videos in the Classroom

A few months ago I had a startling revelation.

Before I explain this, a small disclaimer: When I say ‘music video’, I am not talking about those verging-on-pornographic spectacles of musicians exposing far too much skin and dancing in inappropriate ways, which are degrading and contribute to unrealistic expectations of beauty and sexiness (can you see me on my soapbox?). I mean those meaningful narrative videos, which add layers of subtext to the song, portray the essence of the lyrics and contribute to its effectiveness. Got it?

My revelation was this: why not use music videos (see above) as a teaching tool? If a picture is worth a thousand words, surely a music video must be worth a few million.

A good music video can add a layer of meaning on top of a song through visual literacy. If we can get our students to analyze this, they will surely be exercising a whole host of language and comprehension skills… and enjoying it in the process.

Why use music videos in the classroom?

Young people generally love music: it speaks to them, helps them make sense of their world and has the ability to evoke emotions and feelings. So when I start a lesson with a current music video (yes, that means Pink Floyd is off the table I’m afraid) then I grab their attention, peak their interest and they are open to learning.

Moreover, the solid learning possibilities are endless.

For example, music videos can be used to teach visual literacy, helping students to interpret and make meaning from information presented through images. They can be used to teach film study skills: camera angles, lighting, costume and casting etc. Song lyrics can be analyzed as literature – often lyrics contain great examples of figurative language and poetic devices.Videos can be used as writing prompts for all types of writing styles – narrative, descriptive, expository and persuasive. Narrative music videos can be analyzed in terms of plot development and characterization and these 3-minute mini-films can be used as prompts for discussion and debate, especially around issues or ideas presented in the visuals or lyrics. These are just a few examples of the pedagogical value of music videos.

How would you use them exactly?

This would depend on the music video being used. However, generally I would start a lesson with the video. No discussion beforehand, no rhyme or reason explained, I don’t even instruct students to take out books. Just start the lesson off with a music video.

Why? Because immediately students are intrigued. Questions are forming in their minds: Why are we watching this? What is the point of this? Where is this leading? Is Mrs Lloyd unprepared and trying to waste time? And they then subconsciously want to know the answer to these questions, and therefore are engaged and invested in the lesson.

Following the showing of the video, there are a variety of activities I move into. Sometimes I facilitate a discussion on the meaning of the video. Sometimes I hand out worksheets for group work. Sometimes I set them to do some creative writing. It really all depends on the video.

Do you have an example?

Yes. If you head on over here, you can download a free sample of a lesson plan based on the music video for Hall of Fame by The Script and featuring will.i.am. I love this music video, and it is such a great one to show teenagers. The song is about being great – no matter what you do. It encourages the listeners to be students, teachers, politicians, preachers, believers, leaders, and truth seekers. It suggests that greatness is attainable through being who you want to be, and being great at it. What a message. Moreover, the video is an amazing representation of this theme. But I won’t spoil it for you; rather, take a minute (or 3) to watch the video here.

HallOfFame

If you want more, you can purchase my Music Video Unit from my store on Teachers Pay Teachers. This includes step-by-step lesson plans, worksheets and answer keys for six different music videos.

MusicVideo

So, are you convinced? Have you used any particularly great educational music videos in your classroom? I would love to hear your suggestions for great videos to watch, or activities to do.

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