Saturday, June 23, 2012

Using Music in the Classroom - Cat's in the Cradle

I mentioned in a previous post that I like to use music in the classroom to help reflect and promote writing/thinking.  I used Harry Chapin's song, "Cat's in the Cradle" to great effect last year.  I had them watch the video, follow along with the words, and then write about family and how it can influence you.  The lyrics are not hard to find, and the video is kind of intriguing and quirky (clothes from the '70's?).  Here's the YouTube link:


Quick note: students who struggle with the text are not going to be able to watch the video and follow along with the words in any meaningful way.  I passed out the questions and lyrics (below) first, then had students read and think about the questions before watching the video.  This helps set a purpose for viewing the video and makes the review of the lyrics almost like a fluency activity, helping them adjust and correct the "voice" in their heads.  Having the lyrics in front of them after viewing, while writing about them, also helps them get specific and respond more directly to the language of the song.

This helped produce a lot of strong feelings, and a lot of strong writing.  I had at least one student crying during this (a "tough guy") - and while he wasn't able (or willing) to explain all of his thinking for this prompt, it created a sense of need or purpose for the explaining that might have been hard to establish in other ways with this particular student.


Here's the text of the handout I created with the lyrics, if you don't want to do it yourself:

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Writing about Family 

Listen to (and watch the video for) the following song about a father and his son.  While you’re watching, think about the following questions/things to write about:

1.     How do you feel about becoming just like your parents?  Do you think you will be just like them when you grow up?  Is that a good thing?

2.     Tell a story about something interesting or funny that happened between you and your parents.  Try to tell it slowly and carefully, including dialogue (a good guess of the actual words you said to each other).

3.     If you choose to become a parent (in the distant future, 40 or 50 years from now), what kind of parent do you think you would be?  What kind of parent would you want to be?

4.     Imagine you are dating someone seriously (twenty years from now), and that person starts asking about your family.  What do you think you would tell that person?  What are the important things that people need to know to understand your family? 

Please focus on only ONE of the questions above, and explain yourself the best you can in the time you have.  Remember that a quickwrite means that you KEEP WRITING for the entire time!



Cats in the Cradle
by Harry Chapin

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin' 'fore I knew it, and as he grew
He'd say "I'm gonna be like you dad
You know I'm gonna be like you"

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin' home dad?
I don't know when, but we'll get together then son
You know we'll have a good time then

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, "Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let's play
Can you teach me to throw", I said "Not today
I got a lot to do", he said, "That's ok"
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, "I'm gonna be like him, yeah
You know I'm gonna be like him"

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin' home son?
I don't know when, but we'll get together then son
You know we'll have a good time then

Well, he came home from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
"Son, I'm proud of you, can you sit for a while?"
He shook his head and said with a smile
"What I'd really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please?"

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin' home son?
I don't know when, but we'll get together then son
You know we'll have a good time then

I've long since retired, my son's moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, "I'd like to see you if you don't mind"
He said, "I'd love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job's a hassle and kids have the flu
But it's sure nice talking to you, Dad
It's been sure nice talking to you"

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He'd grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin' home son?
I don't know when, but we'll get together then son
You know we'll have a good time then


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