English KS2: Write song lyrics

This video presents a real-world context for writing song lyrics and challenges children to write their own lyrics for one of two provided backing tracks.

Set in a recording studio, presenter Karim Zeroual and a group of children take on the challenge of creating their own song lyrics.

Our master songwriter – Janet Devlin – adds to the challenge by inviting the children to incorporate the ‘Master Skill’ using symbolic language (simile, metaphor or personification).

With the support of Karim, the children are walked through the process of writing some lyrics for a piece of music.

They go through the process of: listening to the music, drafting ideas and thoughts in response, counting beats to find rhythm, creating sentences to fit rhythm.

The children then create songs and record them in the studio.

This short film is from the series Get Creative.

Teacher Notes

Download the instrumental music used in the lyric writing challenge;

Before Watching

Talk to your children about their favourite songs. Encourage them to think about why they like that song.

What is it that makes them want to listen to it again and again? Get them to think about the words. Are there any words they really like singing? Why?

After Watching

This activity can be done either individually or as a piece of shared writing, in groups or pairs.

You may choose to present the Thinking Questions below to the children at this point.

Play the children the piece of music a few times.

  • First time, have the children just listen to the music.
  • Second time, have them write down any thoughts, feelings, ideas the music conjures in them.

You may want to let the children share some of their ideas at this point.

Now, have the children work out the beats and rhythm of the piece, by clapping or tapping.

Give the children 10-15 minutes to turn their notes into lyrics. You may want to play the track in the background or let them focus without the music.

Play the track again and let the children practice their lyrics and make any changes. Consider giving the children time to share their lyrics with peers and take feedback.

When they are happy with their songs, why not record them or perform them for each other?

For an extra challenge invite children to incorporate the ‘Master Skill’.

Master Skill

  • Use symbolic language – simile/ metaphor/ personification.

Share examples of each with children (there are many examples, use any that you think will connect with your students, here are a few ideas).

  • Simile:

    • Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan
  • Metaphor:

    • Baby I’m a Firework - Katy Perry
  • Personification:

    • Mr Blue Sky- Electric Light Orchestra

Pull out an example of metaphor/ simile from song lyrics and discuss how comparison helps the writer make a point in an imaginative way.

Now give the children some examples of song lyrics with similes/ metaphors in them and ask them to underline in colour all the similes or metaphors, personification they can find.

Thinking questions:

  • What am I trying to say with this song?
  • How can I express my thoughts/ feelings/ ideas in an interesting way?
  • Which words do I want to repeat as a chorus/ hook?
  • Is there an image I can use to symbolise thoughts/ ideas/ feelings?

Supported Learning and SEN

As writing song lyrics is predominantly an oral task, it is ideal for children who may struggle with the written word. When working with these children you can avoid having the lyrics written down at all and opt to perform or record their creations.

Depending on the ability of your students, you may want to offer more support. Here are some ideas of how to do that:

  • Allow the children to work in pairs/ groups.
  • Provide adult/ peer support to scribe or note down ideas.
  • Give the students a recording device to use instead of notes.
  • Suggest that the students use repeating lyrics as in a chorus.
  • Provide a support sheet with pictures or ideas as inspiration.
  • Don’t push for symbolic language for those.

Extend this Activity

Make a music video of one/ all of the songs to share on school website. You can do this by taking on the Create a Stop Motion Animation challenge in the Get Creative series.
Create longer versions of the films.
Produce an album of songs (sell for charity or upload on school website)
Organise a live event to perform the songs (assembly, celebration day)
Use this experience to springboard into another type of creative writing (write a story based on the theme/ character of song, write a news report of the album release, create a ‘How To’ booklet for writing a song).

Curriculum Notes

These short films are designed to support the teaching of creative writing for KS2 in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and 2nd level in Scotland.

In England, the videos offer a chance to write with purpose in context, using the skills of notation and editing whilst also providing the opportunity to read work aloud and work towards mastery through developing specific key skills.

In Wales, the videos provide an opportunity for students to write creatively with chances to adapt their writing for purpose, use a range of language skills, note ideas and plan their writing then reflect, redraft and improve their work.

In Northern Ireland, the videos give students the opportunity to participate in independent or group writing, select, plan and adapt their writing for purpose, express thoughts and feelings through their imaginative compositions, experiment with language and practise the skills of revising and redrafting their compositions.

In Scotland, the videos present students with an example of contextual writing to explore, from which they can create their own pieces of writing from notes, use appropriate vocabulary, language and style to engage their reader and check their writing for sense and purpose.

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