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Monday, April 3, 2017

Critical literacy: examining stereotypes and deeper meanings of song lyrics

It is important to me to have a culturally relevant classroom in which students learn to critically examine the world around them. A few weeks ago, my students engaged in an critical literacy/inquiry lesson* in which we analyzed song lyrics for stereotypes and underlying messages that we often overlook when singing the lyrics in front of our parents (well, not me).

I started this lesson by sharing the song "Cater to you" by Destiny's Child. We listened to the song first, then discussed the lyrics. For the sake of argument, I took a strong feminist perspective, arguing against everything the ladies sing about, claiming it represented stereotypical view of woman. I feigned strong disgust (maybe I was a bit disgusted) toward lyrics such as my life would be purposeless without you, let me help you take off your shoes, and I'll keep myself up

But my kids are proved just how intelligent they are. They changed the perspective on me, explaining how it was acceptable for a woman to do nice things for her man when she wants to. And I had a few boys tout that this is the way it should be. All in good fun. 

After this, my students were allowed to choose individual songs to analyze for stereotypes. The assignment was to create a poster which included the song title, the artist, sample lyrics that exemplified stereotypes, and a brief explanation of how the song reinforces stereotypes (we quickly learned that country music is a gold mine for this activity).

Now, not every poster was done perfectly, but my students rose to the occasion. I could not be prouder to share their work with you (and they are also proud to have it displayed on this site). Here are a few examples to get you started:

During our passing periods at school, we play music. Last week, our programmer had "I can't feel myself when I'm with you...and I love it..." blasting from our overhead system. I stood in the hallway giggling, and when class started, I asked my students who knew what that song is really about, connecting it back to this lesson. They knew. They are critically conscious young individuals. Do you know?

*This lesson combines two activities from AVID's Culturally Relevant Teaching and consists of very little original thinking on my part.


  1. I love this post. I am a high school English/special education teacher and we were just discussing stereotypes in relation to Twelve Angry Men. The kids got FIRED UP when we had the discussion because they were upset that the entire jury was full of white males in the 50s. This lesson definitely relates and I love how you are exploring this with your students. It is a conversation that needs to happen and some teachers are afraid to. xx

    1. Thank you so much for your feedback. I truly believe that we have to have the conversations to get past the discomfort. We must always remember that what we do is about and for the kids.