Incorporating pop culture in the classroom is an easy way for teachers to show students how much literature impacts the world around them and how relevant it is, no matter how old it may be. In this sense, the students can connect the new with the old, finding commonalities that interest them. Finding perfect song and poem pairings for your instructional unit can be a way to grab your students’ attention and keep them interested in poetry.
An easy way to bring pop culture into the classroom is through song lyrics. Song lyrics are essentially poems set to music, and as students will likely recognize any of the top twenty songs, they will better understand poetry through the lyrics.
Here are 9 Song and Poem Pairings for the High School English Poetry Unit:
1. Song and Poetry Pairings: “Sonnet 18” by William Shakespeare and “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran
This is a good pairing of poem and song because of the similar romantic themes found throughout both. They both tell a love story that shows how humans have not changed over hundreds of years. Also, the literary device repetition is in both pieces.
2. Song and Poetry Pairings: “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost and “Out of the Woods” by Taylor Swift
Both the poem and song include a plethora of natural images that are similar to one another and express the same ideas. The most prominent literary devices students can analyze are imagery and repetition.
3. Song and Poetry Pairings: “Love” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and “One Call Away” by Charlie Puth
This pairing works because both titles discuss the theme of love and relationships, which is a common theme in poems and songs throughout history. This particular pairing works well because of the allusions found in both, “Genevieve” in Coleridge and “Superman” in Puth.
4. Song and Poetry Pairings: “When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be” by John Keats and “Umbrella” by Rihanna
This pairing, at first glance, seems not to work, but the rhymes found in both are an active part of the overall story of the art. The most robust sound device, assonance, helps tie these two titles together. Furthermore, students can also analyze repetition with these two titles.
When teaching poetry analysis, one of my favorite resources are these poetry task cards. These task cards are versatile, can be used with any song or poem, and can be used again and again. I like using them as a station activity!
5. Song and Poetry Pairings: “She Walks in Beauty” by Lord Byron and “Havana” by Camila Cabella
Both the song and the poem in this pairing work well together because they include stories about the love of someone and the descriptions of the setting in which that love is found. Students can analyze and compare the alliteration found in both of these titles.
6. Song and Poetry Pairings: “My Heart and I” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and “No Tears Left to Cry” by Ariana Grande
These two selections pair together nicely because they share a a similar thematic concept of heartbreak. The repetition found in both the poem and song also emphasizes this theme.
7. Song and Poetry Pairings: “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe and “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction
Both the poem and the song revolve around the idea of a love who does not realize she is loved or perhaps, even beautiful. There is a lot of repetition in both, and assonance is one of the most substantial elements found in both.
8. Song and Poetry Pairings: “You’re” by Sylvia Plath and “Stitches” by Shawn Mendes
Both the poem and the song, in this case, include powerful imagery that drives the story of the piece. The primary literary device, similes, add to the imagery of pain and sadness throughout the song and poem.
9. Song and Poetry Pairings: “Your World” by Georgia Douglas Johnson and “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake
Both the poem and the song convey the message of having a happy outlook on life. Having students analyze the metaphorical language in both titles and how this language helps express the excitement is one way to incorporate this pairing in your classroom.
This exercise will not only get students interested in poetry but will also allow them to engage in analyzing skills that will help them as they continue writing and learning. As a way to encourage students to pursue their poetry analysis, support them to find their song and poem pairings.