More Emotional Literacy: Reading Comprehension through Music

On Friday, John Murray and I led our very popular 'Improving Reading and Writing through Popular Children's Media' conference in Manchester. Thank you to everyone who attended and a huge thank you for all the lovely feedback. Here are a few of the comments from the day:


The day focuses on inspiring and creative approaches to improving reading and writing through a variety of media. We make clear that text is imperative. Music, animations, film clips can all be valuable tools; however without quality texts within or linked to it, it won't improve learning. Reading Comprehension can only be done through text. Both myself and John are working with schools who have tried to move away from text and teach english through images and videos. This has led to a dramatic drop in results, especially reading. On the conference, we reiterated the importance of using a TEXT-CENTRIC approach and demonstrated the best ways in which media can link in with this. 

We are running the day in Coventry on Wednesday 2nd November, South Wales in March and have started to take bookings from Academy Trusts and Clusters for the day to be run with schools. If you are interested, please email davyhulme.ipad@gmail.com

As a further example of the approach to the day, I thought I would share this amazing song from James TW "When you Love Someone." It fits in so well with the Emotional Literacy aspect of the day and the textcentric approach. Thanks to Mr Beedie for sharing this one!

Here is the song and music video:


Here are the lyrics with some questions to consider:

Come home early after class
Don't be hanging 'round the back of the schoolyard
I've been called up by a teacher
She says she can't even reach you 'cause you're so far
You've been talking with your fist
We didn't raise you up like this, now did we
There have been changes in this house
Things that you don't know about in this family

  • Who do you think is singing the song?
  • Who are they singing to?
  • Why do you think the singer wants the boy to come home early?
  • What do you think the teacher has said to the singer?
  • What does it mean 'talking with your fist'?
  • How does the boy feel?
  • Why does he feel like that?
It don't make sense, but nevertheless
You gotta believe us, it's all for the best
It don't make sense
The way things go
Son you should know
Sometimes moms and dads fall out of love
Sometimes two homes are better than one
Some things you can't tell your sister 'cause she's still too young
Yeah you'll understand
When you love someone

  •  What doesn't make sense? Why does the singer repeat that phrase?
  • Can you find the two conjunctions? 
  • Why do you think it is all for the best?
  • What part of the world is this song from? How do you know?
  • Why do you think in this situation, two homes are better than one?
  • How old is the sister do you think?
  • Using the evidence from the text, how old is the boy the singer is speaking to?
  • What is 'you'll' a contraction of?

There ain't no one here to blame
Nothing's going to change with your old friends
Your room will stay the same
'Cause you'll only be away on the weekends
It don't make sense but nevertheless
You gotta believe us, it's all for the best
It don't make sense
It don't add up
We'll always love you no matter what

  •  What is ain't a contraction of?
  • Who might the boy be blaming? Why?
  • What is the singer trying to achieve in this verse?
  • Why has the singer used the phrase, 'you gotta believe us' what effect does this have?
  • Why does the singer use the pronouns 'we' and 'us' what do we learn from this?
  • What is 'we'll' a contraction of?

Sometimes moms and dads fall out of love
Sometimes two homes are better than one
Some things you can't tell your sister 'cause she's still too young
Yeah you'll understand
When you love someone
When you love someone
Come home early after class
Don't be hanging 'round the back of the schoolyard
And if we're crying on the couch
Don't let it freak you out
This has been so hard
Sometimes moms and dads fall out of love
Sometimes the best intentions just ain't enough
Some things you can't tell your sister 'cause she's still too young
Yeah you'll understand
When you love someone
When you love someone
When you love someone
When you love someone

  • Why might his parents be crying on the couch?
  • Why would seeing his parents crying 'freak him out'?
  • What does the phrase 'freak you out' mean?
  • Why has the singer chosen to use the adverb 'so' when talking about how hard this has been? What effect does this have?
  • What were the intentions of the Mum and Dad?
  • What tells us this decision is a last resort?
  • How do we know it hasn't been an easy decision?
  • Do you believe they are good parents? Why?
  • Why does the singer repeat the phrase 'when you love someone?'
  • Why will the boy understand when he loves someone?

You may feel the subject matter is tricky to use in class. However, I feel the song would be really useful, not necessarily for children who are going through something similar, more for the other children. It will help them develop their emotional dexterity. Through discussion about this song, children in your class will be able to empathise with someone going through something similar and therefore will be able to be more understanding and patient. 

You may have noticed some questions linked to SPAG in the form of contractions. If you haven't yet seen the READWRITEPERFORM.com resources, have a look, as they show how a contextualised SPAG approach has a much bigger impact on writing.  

As far a writing opportunities linked to the song. You could ask the children to write a reply from the Boy to his Dad or even ask your pupils to write a letter to the younger sister to explain the situation. 


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