Activity: Songs About School

Adam’s Note: The following activity is designed for people who want to use music to engage students in critically analyzing the purpose of schools. It’s not for everyone, everywhere, and can produce challenging conversations afterwards, particularly in a school setting. However, by approaching students from a forthright, honest perspective, I (and hundreds of educators who use this activity annually) form lasting, substantive relationships with young people that promote student engagement.

Activity: Songs About School
Taken from the SoundOut Student Voice Curriculum by Adam Fletcher, copyright © 2012 CommonAction Consulting.

Before class, ask students bring the following songs about school (or any combination of them) to class, both recorded on CD and the lyrics. (NOTE: Facilitators may allow students to bring their own choice of songs about schools, with consideration for lyrical content. Also, following many of these songs are linked to Youtube, and you can find all the lyrics on the internet.)

Appropriate Tone. The following songs have been chosen because they have appropriate lyrical content, including lyrics that are not violent and do not contain profanity.

Objectionable Tone. The following songs have been chosen because they have appropriate subject matter, and often represent “alternative perspectives”; however, they also have objectionable content, including lyrics that may be violent or profane.

Gather students in the room and listen to 3-4 songs. After each, have students spend a few moments writing their immediate responses to the song, without talking or sharing their insight with their peers. After the class has heard each song, have a group discussion about images from the songs. You might have students share their responses to the songs, or have them discuss the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of school, according to these songs? 
  • Do these songs show the reality of schools, or the exceptions? 
  • Why would anyone object to these songs?

After this discussion, challenge students to write a creative response to the lyrics they have heard. They can write a poem, prose, or a even a song. Provide students with the opportunity to share their creativity with their peers, giving everyone equal space to share in their own ways.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

Published by Adam F.C. Fletcher

I'm a speaker and writer who researches, writes and shares about youth, education, and history. Learn more about me at

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