Fifth grade appropriate, positive, and catchy songs that have some enriching or interesting vocabulary?
August 20, 2012 12:41 PM   Subscribe

I've been trying to help my wife with this over the last week. She's looking for "school-appropriate, positive, and catchy songs that have some enriching or interesting vocabulary." They have three main requirements: 1. The lyrics have vocabulary and other literary devices that they can use as teaching points. 2. The song is "catchy". (something 10- and 11-year-olds and their teachers will enjoy) 3. The song has a positive message.

My wife's team of 5th grade teachers is looking for school-appropriate songs to include in their language arts studies to help supplement their vocabulary and grammar curriculum. Every week they plan to use one song. The beginning of the week will be spent reading through the lyrics, looking at vocabulary, and talking about any literary devices (similes, metaphors, idioms, etc.). They'll listen to the song and sing it later in the week.

They're also trying to grab from different musical genres and time periods.

Here is a sampling of what they've found so far:
"Let It Be" -- The Beatles
"Life is a Highway" -- Tom Cochrane
"Don't Stop Believing" -- Journey
"Lean on Me" -- Bill Withers
"Where Were You" -- Alan Jackson
"Rainbow Connection"
"America the Beautiful"

Thanks folks! She needs about ten more.
posted by adamwolf to Media & Arts (28 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Alphabet of Nations -- They Might be Giants
The Hoppity Song -- John Ondrasik
Firework -- Katy Perry
Big Yellow Taxi -- Joni Mitchell
Where the Streets Have No Name -- U2
posted by Ostara at 12:57 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sounds like some Tom Lehrer would be appropriate. Here is a list of many of his songs. I was introduced to Mr. Lehrer via New Math when I was in sixth grade, but plenty of others would be great as well.
posted by blurker at 12:58 PM on August 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

They Might Be Giants. If you must only choose one song, then make it Birdhouse in Your Soul, but if you must choose only one album, make it Lincoln.
posted by pmb at 12:59 PM on August 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

I think "bridges, squares" by Ted Leo has lots to offer for vocab and metaphors.
They Might Be Giants will have something too, but I'm drawing a blank.
posted by natasha_k at 1:00 PM on August 20, 2012

More sciency, but lots of vocab! They Might Be Giants - Why Does the Sun Shine?
posted by McSwaggers at 1:13 PM on August 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I recently listened to the new Shearwater record and was immediately struck by the cascade of beautiful words in the song Animal Life, (lyrics). Interesting themes in there are well. Perhaps a bit obtuse for a 5th grade class, but maybe that would be a good thing!
posted by otolith at 1:31 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

The choice (for this context) from They Might Be Giants is "Istanbul (Not Constantinople).
posted by DWRoelands at 1:31 PM on August 20, 2012

Andrew Bird's Imitosis would be great for this in my opinion. Not a happy-happy-joy-joy song, but probably speaks to the middle school experience more than Rainbow Connection (which I love, BTW, but...).
posted by cocoagirl at 1:48 PM on August 20, 2012

I feel like Sloan's Autobiography is perfect for this.
posted by saladin at 2:29 PM on August 20, 2012

I'm thinking that either of the last 2 songs from Shrek, the Musical: Freak Flag or This is Our Story would be pretty perfect.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:37 PM on August 20, 2012

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo has alliteration and a ton of middle rhymes.

The Morning Report from The Lion King has a ton of wordplay.

The Rose by Bette Midler is pretty awesome, too.
posted by spunweb at 2:55 PM on August 20, 2012

apologies if any of my links have popups for ringtones - I have massive popup blockers on my computer.

One hippopautimai

Bulbous Bouffant (igloo macadamia!)
posted by tilde at 2:59 PM on August 20, 2012

my kingdom for a 3 min edit window!

posted by tilde at 2:59 PM on August 20, 2012

My favorite inspirational tune would be appropriate for fifth graders, I think: Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 3:16 PM on August 20, 2012

I've always thought the Magnetic Fields song "If There's Such a Thing as Love" seemed like a song that would be fun to sing with kids. Has some good words and structural concepts that could be used educationally, too.
posted by Coatlicue at 3:40 PM on August 20, 2012

Have them write their own songs.... my daughter's 5th grade Language Arts teacher did this and it was hugely successful. Use well known tunes, have the kids write the the lyrics / rules themselves. Great project and they'll never forget them!!!
posted by pearlybob at 3:54 PM on August 20, 2012

Hazy Shade of Winter
posted by bq at 4:16 PM on August 20, 2012

Afternoons and Coffee Spoons by Crash Test Dummies... aside from the obvious literary basis, it's fun to sing and has a lot of metaphors. Easier for 5th graders to grok than TS Eliot, but with some of the same themes.
posted by artifarce at 5:51 PM on August 20, 2012

The Smiths - Ask
Joey Ramone - What a Wonderful World
The Magnetic Fields - When My Boy Walks Down the Street
Randy Newman - Simon Smith and his Amazing Dancing Bear
Florence + the Machine - Dog Days Are Over
Sam Bush - Same Ol' River
Neil Young - Comes a Time
Bob Dylan - Shelter from the storm
posted by colfax at 6:47 PM on August 20, 2012

What you need here is Jason Mraz, and lots of him. Dude is all about the wordplay. He even wrote a song called Wordplay, which I came here to recommend. I'd also suggest You and I Both, The Remedy, Coyotes and perhaps the very famous I'm Yours.
posted by yawper at 8:45 PM on August 20, 2012

Schoolhouse Rock!
posted by SisterHavana at 9:03 PM on August 20, 2012

When I was that age, my teacher played in a band, and one day she brought her guitar in and taught us all Guns and Roses' Sweet Child of Mine. She got lots of cred with the students for this, and the lyrics are full of simile and metaphor.

We also did Bon Jovi Wanted dead or alive but some people might think that's not so appropriate for kids.
posted by lollusc at 10:53 PM on August 20, 2012

My reading teacher used All Star by Smashmouth to teach us metaphor and allusion.

It's an old song now but it's catchy and a lot of fun to dissect line by line.
posted by Vysharra at 11:24 PM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

When it comes to an expansive vocabulary and catchy tunes, look no further than Sparks. And many of the pop culture/historical references in their lyrics (Fu Manchu, athletes selling cosmetics, Vogue magazine, liking someone just for their looks, etc) can provide plenty of discussion questions.

I tried a handlebar design
My Fu Manchu was real fine
My Ronald Colman made 'em blink
My Pancho Villa made 'em think
But when I trimmed it real small
My Jewish friends would never call

M-M-M-M-M-M Moustache
One hundred hairs make a man

We doctors´╗┐ are important men, We'll make you feel well again.
You open wide and we look in, and throw in several aspirin.
We athletes run around and round, we moan and groan and hit the ground.
And when we get to 35, we sell cosmetics and survive.

Funny Face
Billions of dollars are spent on the face
Covering, smoothing, and changing the shape
Everyone wanted a face just like mine
Nobody wanted me
Only to look like me
posted by Oriole Adams at 2:08 AM on August 21, 2012

Allstar is a good one - so is "Walking on the Sun". Okay, except the use of the word toke, darnit. Then go with the original one, Satisfaction (dang, Make some girl? I thought it was Meet some girl!!!)

Okay fine. How about Blackbird. Better! And Here comes the sun.

I'm trying to pick a Simon and Garfunkle song ... how about Kodachrome? They'll love the bit about "all the crap I learned in highschool".

I think Flowers on the Wall is kind of an interesting song, as are I've got your picture, and I never cared for you (reminds me of the Going to Alabama song without the minstrel history).

That covers country, mostly, trying to find happy songs doesn't work for me! Weird.

so that would put us to cowboy songs

My rifle, my pony, and me.

Uncloudy day.

23 Skiddo has some hip-hop style music, just browse their collection. I also thought about Caribbean, Afro-Caribbean (kids did a section this summer on that) and came up with Rainbow by Wummi.
posted by tilde at 6:22 AM on August 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I came in here to suggest "They Might Be Giants - Why Does the Sun Shine?", but McSwaggers beat me to it.
posted by illongruci at 7:53 AM on August 21, 2012

Moxy Fruvous - the two that spring to mind are King of Spain and My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors.

They also have a song that's all about food - Johnny Saucep'n.
posted by bendy at 12:24 PM on August 22, 2012

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