Nine teaching ideas for using music to inspire student writing

Or, you could have students consider what a conversation like this looks like in writing. “Kendrick Lamar Shakes Up the Pulitzer Game: Let’s Discuss” by The Times Music Editors is a good example. The conversation begins:

JON PARELES For me, this award is as expected as it is unexpected. When I watch Pulitzers across the board, what I see overwhelmingly rewarded are journalistic virtues: fact-gathering, vivid detail, storytelling, timeliness, verbal dexterity, and, often, real-world impact after publication. It’s a prize for hard-earned persuasiveness. Hello, hip hop.

ZACHARY WOOLFE … But there is also a mistrust, which I agree with, about an opening of the award – not to hip-hop, per se, but to music that has achieved commercial blockbuster success. It’s now officially one less guaranteed platform – which, yes, should be open to many genres – for non-commercial work, which is content with grants, scholarships, commissions and, yes, rewards.

Talk This response is similar to many reactions from the publishing world when Bob Dylan received the Nobel Prize for Literature – that a promotional opportunity was lost for something worthwhile but more obscure, preferably between hardcovers. A literary figure who had changed the way an entire generation looked at words and ideas was supposed to forfeit the award because he touched too many people? Do we really want to put a sales cap on what should receive a price? The New York Times and The New Yorker already have a lot of subscribers…uh-oh.

Then, in small groups, have students come up with their own musical topics worth discussing. For inspiration, they can browse through some of the past “Popcast” episodes.

You could then ask them to brainstorm some initial ideas and research the Times Music section to deepen and broaden their knowledge of the topic.

Then invite them to a written conversation on the chosen topic. One student initiates the conversation, then each person in the group takes turns responding to what the other writes – acknowledging their classmates’ remarks, voicing their own opinions, making connections and citing evidence for support or disagree with others.

Scott R. Banks