If I close my eyes I can still see my family dancing around the kitchen in the thick of the pandemic, singing Taylor Swift’s “Me” and laughing our heads off. We’ve watched The Shake It Off video a dozen times, listened to “Willow” over and over at my daughter’s request, laughed at “We are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” maybe teared up a little over “Love Story.”
I mean, haven’t you?
Taylor Swift has been part of the world soundtrack for a LONG time, and many students these days love her music as much as their teachers. So why not tap into that incredible popularity for some engaging ELA lessons and projects? Featuring what are students love as the heartbeat of lessons and activities whenever possible helps open the ELA doors wide to more kids.
(And of course, it’s fun for us Swiftie educators too).
Today on the podcast, you’ll find NINE ways to incorporate Taylor Swift’s music into class. Find out how to have students create their own eras for a personal identity project, practice public speaking on song-inspired topics with song-inspired tones, build book bracelets or character playlists, practice rhetorical analysis with songs, and much more.
You can listen in to this episode below, click here to tune in on any podcast player, or read on for the full post.
Try The Eras Student Identity Project (Betsy from Spark Creativity)
Taylor Swift’s Eras tour showcases different periods of her life through music. How might students choose to showcase nine different periods of their own lives? Did they have a soccer era? A trombone era? A Pokemon era? For this identity project, students choose photos and songs to represent their own eras, then explain how they made their choices and how those choices represent them. It’s an easy getting-to-know you project at the beginning of a new term, or a fun addition to an identity unit at any time.
Make your copy of the Canva template I designed for you here. Your students can simply move the color filters on the front page to drop in their own photos, then fill out the nine era slides with their images, songs, and explanations. You could choose to include other multigenre elements if you wish, asking them to choose from a list of other possible additions, like their own audio clips, videos, drawings, maps, etc. to help express their eras.
Design Character Bracelets based on the Text (Ashley from Building Book Love)
Promote reading, writing, and creative thinking by tapping into the popularity of friendship bracelets! Using symbolism, color connotation, and word choice, students design bracelets or other wrist accessories for a character from a book.
Use Taylor Swift Songs for Rhetorical Analysis (Amanda from Mud & Ink Teaching)
What is the fastest way to teach a difficult skill to students? Attach that skill to something highly engaging and well-loved, of course! Here is your perfect match: the challenge of rhetorical analysis and the instant engagement of pretty much any Taylor Swift song.
So many songs have beautiful craft for analysis in the literary sense, but let’s not forget the extensive library of music videos to use for teaching the rhetorical situation and claim.
Download my free rhetorical triangle templates here and tackle your favorite Swift song as a whole class, or, when your students are ready, create a choice board of songs and let students tackle the board in small groups or pairs to amp up the challenge just a bit more.
The Eras of Character Analysis (Delia from @MrsReganReads)
Hi! I’m Delia Regan of MrsReganReads and I’m so excited to share with you a lesson I created encouraging character analysis, inspired by Ms Taylor Swift’s many Eras.
With my freshman I have been reviewing dynamic and static characters, and as they finish their independent novels this quarter they are writing essays about how or why their chosen character is dynamic or static.
As a way to prepare them for that, I am going to ask them to consider the different ‘eras’ their character went through before their final iteration at the end of the novel. For this I use an assignment, which I’ve shared as a free resource on my TPT page, guiding students through choosing adjectives or traits that would fit their character throughout the course of the book, using Taylor’s eras and evolutions as a model.
I ask students to identify traits they would use to characterize the person as the novel progresses, and additionally to find textual evidence to support their thinking. It’s really a simple and fun way to encourage character analysis while making it feel current and modern, and this scaffolding will work well leading up to a more formal essay assignment.
This can also easily be edited to work with a short story, a whole class novel, or based on an entire unit! Feel free to play Taylor’s Version while students are working, and I hope this helps you in your classroom.
Teach Narrative Terms with “Love Story” (Allie from @BayeringwithFreshmen)
Hi! Allie, or, BayeringWithFreshmen here! Seeing as I’ve been in my Swiftie Era since 2006, I’ve been bringing Taylor into my 9th grade English classes my entire career. One of my favorite (and most low prep) activities is a song analysis of “Love Story”.
It makes for the *perfect* review of narrative terms early in the school year for a couple of reasons…
…The “text” is short and seemingly straightforward but it does contain a few niche components that are critical to review with students.
…Almost all current high schoolers immediately recognize the song from their childhoods and have a blast singing along with the music video.
…Ninth grade is the year almost all students in our country are introduced to the world of Shakespeare via “Romeo and Juliet” and the song is obviously full of perfect allusions!
You can find more details on this lesson (and other bookish Taylor fun!) on my Instagram: @BayeringWithFreshmen
You can find this free resource is in my TpT store here.
Dive into Antiheroes with “Antihero” and Have Students Make their Own (Meredith from Bespoke ELA)
Taylor Swift’s song “Anti-hero” is a perfect teaching tool for introducing students to the concept of anti-heroes. The song’s narrator is a complex and flawed character who struggles with self-doubt, insecurity, and anxiety. She is also relatable and sympathetic, which makes her a great example of an anti-hero.
To use “Anti-hero” to teach students about anti-heroes, you could start by asking them to listen to the song and identify the narrator’s anti-hero characteristics. Once students have a good understanding of anti- heroes, you can challenge them to create their own original anti-heroes.
By using Taylor Swift’s song “Anti-hero” to teach students about anti-heroes, you can help them to develop a deeper understanding of character development and to develop their own creative writing skills.
Challenge Students to Craft Character’s Playlists (Krista from Whimsy & Rigor)
For many of our students, music = life. It is what they reach for when they are sad and need to get into their feelings. It’s evident when they spend countless hours crafting the most perfect playlist. And now, it’s how we crafty English teachers will get them to do some serious character analysis.
My name is Krista Barbour aka @whimsyandrigor and I want to share with you how I use adolescents’ love of music to hone their skills of analysis. As T. Swift says, Are you ready for it?
There are so many incredible educators who have shared with you how to use Taylor Swift’s song lyrics to dive into textual analysis. Now I want to push it a step further. Thanks to some brainstorming with a former student, Quinn P, I came up with this idea:
What if we had students craft the most epic playlist for a character from their current reading? It could be a whole-class novel, an independent read, or a lit circle experience. The idea is that they choose a character (antagonists welcome!) and select songs with lyrics that best suit that character during a particular moment in their journey. For each song (I would require at least 5 songs for the playlist) the students have to read the lyrics, analyze the song’s meaning, and explain their choice of song for the playlist using at least one in-text citation. This forces students to not only analyze song lyrics but to also make deep connections about fictional characters, taking into account their personality, quirks, inter- and intrapersonal conflicts, and relationships with other characters. Plus, students get to practice writing analytically and following all of those delightful MLA requirements.
To make it T. Swift adjacent, create a requirement that at least 2 of the songs are Taylor’s. (But I know a few Swifties who would make every single one of their choices a Tay Tay song and that’s okay!)
Bonus idea! If you are doing a whole class novel, choose a song a student added to their playlist and use it as an assessment. Maybe all students have to listen to the song, analyze the lyrics, and apply it to a moment in the text. And of course, you can create a Spotify playlist based on your students’ choices and play it when students are working, entering the classroom, or transitioning from one task to another.
Ok-time to fill in that blank space with this innovative lesson plan! You can sign up for the free character playlist curriculum right here.
Help Students Practice Tone Taylor-Style with this Fun Speaking Game (Melissa from Reading & Writing Haven)
Melissa Kruse from Reading and Writing Haven has a fun speaking and listening activity inspired by Taylor Swift’s songs for us!
Melissa is always looking for ways to tie speaking and listening skills to other course content. Tone is generally challenging for students to understand, which is why she loves to embed tone in simple speaking activities. It gives students an audible foundation they can transfer to literary analysis and writing application.
Here’s the low-down on the activity. It’s called “talk swiftly” because students are engaged in short impromptu speeches. They have to think fast and talk for only a short period of time to practice their tone skills.
Taylor Swift is well known for the tone and mood of her songs. To scaffold this tone activity for students, Melissa created a choice board full of words and phrases that are Taylor-made. Students roll a dice to randomly choose one. For example, they may roll the term “love story” and then have to quickly come up with something to talk about related to that topic. Maybe they speak about the most outrageous Homecoming proposal they have seen or the best Disney romance story. Before diving into their improv, though, they choose from a choice board of tones popular in Taylor’s songs. Think: reckless, hopeful, regretful, etcetera. Students deliver their impromptu speech using this tone!
Afterward, it’s powerful to reflect on how the speaker’s tone impacted the message. How were listeners impacted? And, you can discuss how choosing a different tone word would have altered the experience.
Ready to get started? Melissa has created a Canva resource with the prompts, the tone choice board, and student directions. If you love this idea, you can use this link to download the free teaching tool!
Try a Poetic Devices Scavenger Hunt (Betsy from Spark Creativity)
If you’ve listened to many Taylor Swift songs (and I know you have), chances are you’ve repeatedly made a mental note to go back to a certain lyric that showcases a literary device PERFECTLY. You could fill a notebook with metaphors alone.
So if you’re working with literary devices, and you want to help students start locating them on their own, try printing out large copies of some of your (and their) favorite songs (Taylor’s and more) and then giving them sticky notes to go searching for literary devices. Ask them to find some, label and explain some certain number, then walk around the gallery seeing what others have found. It’s a great chance for them to realize that literary language isn’t just for F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Wow, my friend. That’s a lot of options! I hope you’ve found one (or maybe nine) that you’re excited to try. Remember, building in elements of pop culture that our students love – whether that’s T. Swift songs, Harry Styles, Takis, Youtube, or Prime energy drinks – can be a vehicle for helping them engage with the content and skills that we want them to learn. It helps us build connection and helps them feel seen.