11th Grade Student Song Writing Exam Project

Presented by
Tiffany Getty, Wellsboro High School and Wilkes University (PA)

I'd like to propose a project and rubric I used as an end of the year assessment in my 11th grade chemistry class. I had students choose a topic, and write and record a song, instead of taking an exam. They seemed to have fun completing the project and I think it went well. I am seeking input on anything – but specifically a better rubric to grade students, and also music technology that is easy to use, high quality, and accessible to all. Thanks!

Tiffany Getty - Writing a Song Parody.pptx
Rick Heineman

I don't have a lot of input to give on this, other than to say that I think having students write their own songs is a great idea and I'm hoping to do something along these lines myself.

I like the idea of having it be an optional assignment, I was also thinking of doing this.

I was considering the usefulness of having students have to deliver a rough draft to me, perhaps of the chorus and one verse, to catch some of the problems I've seen in some student songs over the year - most notably, terrible scansion. Of course, this might work better as a sort of "paper" replacement rather than an exam replacement. In any case, thanks for presenting! I hope it goes well!

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 15:37 Permalink

Tiffany, thank you for this presentation and for being so open to feedback.  The Google Doc appears to be view-only, so viewers can't leave comments there; is that your intent?  For now, I'll note a couple of things. First, I think you are very right to focus on the assessment issue.  As fun as it is to say, "Here ya go, kids, go write a song, have fun!" ... if we are serious about this being an important form of learning, and not just a fun thing, we do need to be able to assess critically, e.g., to identify scientific errors that appear in the lyrics.  Second, as I've thought about my own songwriting process, I've realized that a lot of the learning I do in researching a topic (before and while writing a song about it) is not necessarily evident in the final lyrics themselves. Therefore, I am wondering whether we should have students submit some sort of artist statement and/or documentation of their learning process, in addition to the song itself.  Some additional thoughts on this, including a possible template for capturing student learning as it happens, are in the following paper: G.J. Crowther, A.J. Ma, and J.L. Breckler, "Songwriting to learn: can students learn A&P by writing content-rich lyrics?", HAPS Educator 21(2): 119-123. (Link to paper: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319464299_Songwriting_to_Learn_Can_Students_Learn_AP_by_Writing_Content-Rich_Lyrics.) 

Sat, 09/23/2017 - 15:48 Permalink

P.S. Your fellow VOICES presenter Avi Silber and his 4SW club may have good ideas for you on music technology!  I think Avi is now teaching a class on this (music tech) at his high school....

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 00:57 Permalink
Lynda Blodgett

The Science Songwriters' Association ran a science songwriting contest for one year. (The SSA does not currently exist as it did.) We did get 40 or 50 entries sent in from different contestants, and we did judge the songs as a group, but there was not a well-developed rubric set up. I think your rubric is very detailed and good to share with those attempting to write in order to gain a grade or win a prize.
I have written science songs myself to use in my teaching, but I rarely use existing melodies. I create original melodies based on the cadence of the language and ideas I want to present clearly. There is something to be said about letting the words evoke the melody. Do you have any way for students to create their own melody, if they ever want to do that?
I admire you for encouraging the students to write songs. They will undoubtedly always remember the concepts they put to music themselves.

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 21:10 Permalink

Tiffany, I taught secondary school mathematics for 35 years and often had students do song projects. I enjoyed your poster session and really appreciate the fact that you are not simply explaining what you do, but you are asking for ideas. In my mind, that is the hallmark of an excellent teacher. In that light, I'd like to share three thoughts, keeping in mind that I am not an expert but have found some things that work well with MY teaching style. First of all, my rubric always included a portion for other students in the class to "chime in" (pun intended) on how effective they thought the song was. Secondly, I have often found that song parodies are more memorable if they are actually close to the original lyrics and the parody lyrics put in a humorous and interesting twist which helps anchor the concept at hand. The third thing is that I have found it easier to memorize a haiku than the Rhyme of the Ancient mariner. My humble opinion is that a really good 1 minute song parody is more valuable, in the long run, than an excellent one that is too long to be remember.

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 09:58 Permalink
Jennifer Breckler

Hi Tiffany, I really enjoyed seeing all the thoughtful and creative ideas that you posted in your materials. I agree that student songwriting is the way to go to help students learn. Your assessment rubric is great and I think it really captures what most of us are thinking about when we want to drive student learning through music. Great job! I would love to know what genres (or types) of music that your students especially enjoy and tend to favor.
Jennifer Breckler

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 18:24 Permalink