Songwriting resources for Teachers – Turning a poem into a song

Turning a poem into a song.  Poetry and songwriting are very closely connected – in fact, many songwriters have stated that they started out writing poems before they wrote songs, and those poems became the basis for their lyrics.

So what do a poem and a song have in common? Both make use of RHYTHM and RHYME.

RHYTHM refers to the speed and pace of words, how fast we say them, and which words we emphasise.

RHYME refers to words that sound the same. You’ll often see rhyming words at the ends of lines in poetry. There are many types of rhymes, including single-syllable – like ‘cat’ and ‘hat’ – double syllable – like ‘missing’ and ‘kissing’ – and more.

In poetry, rhythm and rhyme provide a flow to a poem as it is spoken or read. However, in a song, rhythm and rhyme combine with the melodies and production. The rhythm of the words contributes to the overall mood of the song, and the rhyme enhances certain lines, making them more memorable and catchy.

ACTIVITIES TO TRY WITH YOUNG BEGINNER SONGWRITERS

Step 1:  Find a short poem to use – 4 to 8 lines. A limerick might work particularly well. First have the children identify the rhymes, and label matching rhymes with matching letters. (If unsure on this system, consult resources such as https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/topics/z4mmn39/articles/z83g2nb )

Step 2:  Set a pulse beat going, either using a metronome or clapping, and have an individual child or children recite the poem over it. Identify which words were emphasised – this is the rhythm of the words. It may help to underline these emphasised words, for memory.

Step 3:  Discuss melody – what sort of melody would go with this poem? Which words would the pitch move up and down on?
Have the children create their own melodies to fit with the rhythm of the words they have found.
If this is going well, challenge them to find more than one melody, and experiment with the rhythm of the words – lengthening, shortening and emphasising different words than before.

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