I teach a thematic unit entitled “Identity and Society” using the novel Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer along with 5-6 supplementary texts (poetry, visual arts, nonfiction essays). I use songs from the soundtrack Into the Wild written and performed by Eddie Vedder while we read and discuss the book. Students really get into analyzing Vedder’s lyrics, and, inevitably, they start drawing on their own musical tastes to make connections between the book, supplementary texts, and song lyrics. As a final project, students create a playlist of songs that they connect to specific themes, passages, ideas, characters, etc. from the unit. In an extended composition, students explain the connection between the texts.
Grade Level/Age: 10th grade (15-16 years)
Curriculum Addressed: The focus of the curriculum is on critical thinking, close reading, literary analysis, and composition.
Materials: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild soundtrack
Process Goals: Students analyze song lyrics as a creative work of writing, use song lyrics to make connections between the thematic content of a song and a nonfiction work, and explain the connection between song lyrics and a nonfiction work.
- As students read and discuss Krakauer’s Into the Wild, they analyze connections between the novel and songs the film soundtrack of the same name.
- Students add their own sources to the conversation (in this case we will use song lyrics, but I will usually let them bring in any art form as a text) and explain connections through analytical reasoning.
- As an assessment, students compile a playlist of five songs that connect thematically to the ideas and concepts we’ve discussed through the unit. The playlist must include the actual music recording of the songs, lyrics from each song, and a composition analyzing the shared connections between the texts. As an extension or alternative to writing a composition, I’ve had students turn their playlists and compositions into a digital essay that students post online for their classmates to view.
Standard 1: Oral Expression and Listening
- Content that is gathered carefully and organized well successfully influences an audience.
Standard 2: Reading for All Purposes
- Literary and historical influences determine the meaning of traditional and contemporary literary texts.
Standard 3: Writing and Composition
- Literary or narrative genres feature a variety of stylistic devices to engage or entertain an audience.
- Organizational writing patterns inform or persuade an audience.
Standard 4: Research and Reasoning
- Collect, analyze, and evaluate information obtained from multiple sources to answer a question, propose solutions, or share findings and conclusions.
Assessment: Because students’ playlists are making a persuasive argument concerning the connection between multiple texts, I use our English Department’s AP extended composition rubric to evaluate students’ reasoning.
Adaptions/Accommodations: While I expect all students to do their best in completing the assignment, I often will limit the number of songs students need for the playlist as well as limiting the length of the final composition as needed.