NOTE: This is the third in a series of posts about using song lyrics to teach poetry. Where possible, I’ve included links so you can pull the music and lyrics to use with your classes.
Yesterday morning, I got paid to spend an entire class period schlepping around in my Birkenstocks, drinking coffee, and listening to Judy Collins.
Best. Morning. EVER.
As you know from the past couple of entries, I like to use music to teach poetry. Listening to a song and talking about the lyrics generally feels less like work than reading a poem from a textbook. And if you happen to be a folkie, and you happen to have seen Judy Collins in concert nine times, and you happen to have a Promethean board in your classroom, pulling up a YouTube video of her playing “The Blizzard” at a concert in 1989 and helping your kids dissect the lyrics is a glorious way to soothe jittery nerves ahead of a scheduled observation.
“The Blizzard” tells the story of a woman who, in the wake of a breakup, is driving to Estes Park, Colorado, when she gets caught in a blizzard. She stops at a diner, shoots the bull with the owner and a local customer, and ends up accepting the local’s invitation to spend the night in his cabin while she waits for the storm to pass. Inspired by the stunning view as she leaves the next morning, she realizes she’ll get over her ex and be stronger for the experience.
As always, I had the kids go through the lyrics and pick out literary devices (metaphor, simile, alliteration, and boatloads of imagery), and then we put together a quick graphic organizer on the plot (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement). We also talked about the way the music supports the theme of the song, with Collins’ treble piano mimicking snowfall.
“The Blizzard” is a good tool for teaching extended metaphor (the blizzard itself), tone (a bit sad at first, then brighter as the speaker sees the sun shining on the snow and realizes she’ll be OK), and the difference between speaker and writer (the song is written in first person, but Collins has said it’s not autobiographical).
(The photo above is one I shot during the 2012 Woody Guthrie Festival in Okemah, Oklahoma.)