I Need a Visual: Analyzing the Argument in Song Lyrics with Graphic Organizers

Debbie Brown, English, Vance High

Curriculum Unit (pdf)


This curriculum unit focused on using graphic organizers in order to follow the lyrical argument of singers, rappers or songwriters.  The “Time Travel Through Music” seminar examined the social and political implications of multiple musical genres.  In this examination, Fellows were able to listen, audibly digest, select, organize and interpret our understanding of the lyrical messages being played through informal group discussion, free form artistic renderings, targeted video clips and still imagery.  This method of internalizing the musical arrangement of an artist, along with commentary about a song’s design from Professor Corbett, led to the progression of my unit “I Need a Visual.”  My unit focused on using graphic organizers as a way to capture, funnel and visually form the message made in the lyrics of a song using various text types.   Students consider how to use graphic organizers to interpret a song in order to arrive at the central argument of the artist.  By using graphic organizers, students are crystallizing their thoughts visually, isolating key words in associative categories, and making analytical inferences that will yield a focused blueprint of the argument an artist made with music as an accompaniment.  Regardless of the time period, it is evident that music is used as a way to impact the mood of the listener while ethos, or credibility is used to build an invisible cord of trust between the musician and the audience.  Without ethos, without credibility, the artist’s message would not be able to impact the audience.