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Release Date: ***. 2010: Age: 10+; 66 minutes; Available from AidStillRequired.org.

Description of the CD:     The Aid Still Required CD was created to raise awareness about the continued suffering of those who survived the 2004 Southeast Asian tsunami. To support the effort, major musical artists donated some of their most popular songs, music that is enjoyed the world over.

Educational Benefits: Young people listen to and sometimes memorize words set to music. The CD therefore provides a significant opportunity for teachers to engage students in the study of poetry and in assignments helpful in meeting curriculum standards.

The Aid Still Required CD offers the opportunity to instruct in any of the following areas:
  • Development of skills in poetry analysis;
  • Practice in writing formal explications of poetry;
  • Mastery of literary terms;
  • Formulation of thesis statements and thematic commitment;
  • Exercises in creative writing;
  • Research on the history of the political and cultural use of song;
  • Research on multi-cultural musical forms;
  • Oral and choral reading; and
  • Oral presentation.
This Learning Guide will provide an exercise in deriving theme using the lyrics to James Taylor's Up on the Roof.

Possible Problems:    NONE.

Parenting Points:     One of the joys of parenting is when children and parents enjoy the same music. Parents can find one of the cuts on the album that are loved by both generations and listen to them with their kids. This will provide an opportunity to discuss why the artist donated the song to the album and why it's important to realize that there are still great and unmet needs of the victims of the 2004 tsunami.

Songs and Performers:

    1.  Still — Alanis Morisette
    2.  Wild Horses — Elvis Costello and Lucinda Williams
    3.  Let it Be — Paul McCartney
    4.  Bell Bottom Blues — Eric Clapton
    5.  Something to Talk About — Bonnie Raitt
    6.  Up on the Roof — James Taylor
    7.  She Will Be Loved — Maroon 5
    8.  Adia — Sarah McLachlan
    9.  Manhole — Ani DiFranco
    10.  Freedom Road — Blind Boys of Alabama
    11.  How Do I Die For You — Hunter Payne
    12.  Sand and Water — Beth Nielsen Chapman
    13.  Here We Go Again — Ray Charles and Norah Jones
    14.  Bless You — John Lennon
    15.  Nobody's Home — Avril Lavigne
    16.  One Ray of Sunlight — Phantom Planet
    17.  Fall of Rome — Shawn Colvin

Two Methods of Determining Theme from a Poem

The best way to begin to analyze a poem is through questioning the poem itself, even though poets have begged readers neither to give a poem the third degree nor to attempt to torture theme from its verses. Two methods frequently used by classroom teachers are "Say, Mean, Matter" and "Soapstone".
    1. Say, mean, matter:

      Say: Students should write precise paraphrases of each verse in order to determine what the author is saying.

      Mean: Students should then attempt to find meaning in what is said. This is often a matter of paying attention to diction and the feeling that lies behind the words.

      Matter: Students should be able to write a sentence saying how the poet's words matter in terms of their own lives. When the poem matters, theme is easy to find.

    2. Soapstone + Theme: Using this system of poetry analysis, readers ask the following questions of each poem:
    1. Speaker: Who is the speaker of the poem? What do you know about this person?

    2. Occasion: What is the occasion of the poem or the specific events that have provoked the speaker to speak the words in the poem? An occasion can be an emotional experience as well as an action.

    3. Audience: To whom is the speaker speaking? This may be a specific individual, such as a friend or lover, or it may be a general audience. What is the relationship between speaker and spoken to?

    4. Purpose: What purpose lies behind what the speaker is trying to say? What is the reason these words are being said?

    5. Subject: What is the subject of what the speaker is speaking about? Look for a topic that is being addressed.

    6. Tone: What is the tone or the speaker's attitude toward the subject of the poem? What mood is established?

    7. Theme: What is the theme of the poem, the lesson learned or the specific moral or point being made?
Figures of Speech: Students can also explore the artistry in the poem, the figures of speech that make the poem worth reading and which assist in determining theme. The most important of these are imagery, metaphor, symbol and tone, defined here:
  • Imagery: The creation of a mental picture using sensory description. A reader can see, hear, smell, feel or taste what the poet is saying through diction and tone.

  • Metaphor: The use of figurative language that creates a comparison between unlike things. Metaphors that use the words like or as are called similes. Thus, "rosy cheeks" is a metaphor and "cheeks like roses" is a simile.

  • Symbol: The use of an object or an action that creates meaning beyond itself. Particular symbols work within the context of the poem and universal symbols have shared meaning beyond time and place.

  • Tone: The use of diction to create feeling or atmosphere.

Lyric Devices: With most poetry, and especially in lyrics of songs, students need to consider what is referred to as "lyric devices," those elements that create the sounds that make the poem or song a work of art. Lyric devices include:
    Repetition of words or series of words;

    Repetition of sound as in alliteration, which repeats consonant sounds, most often at the beginning of words and assonance, which repeats vowel sounds within a line;

    Rhyme scheme, defined as the pattern of repeated sound;

    Rhythm, defined as the recurrence of stressed sounds within lines.
Analyzing the Lyrics to Up on the Roof

The Lyrics

Performer James Taylor

Song writers: Gerry Goffin and Carole King
When this old world starts a getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I'll climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space
On the roof, it's peaceful as can be
And there the world below don't bother me, no, no

So when I come home feeling tired and beat
I'll go up where the air is fresh and sweet
I'll get far away from the hustling crowd
And all the rat-race noise down in the street
On the roof, that's the only place I know
Look at the city, baby
Where you just have to wish to make it so
Let's go up on the roof
And at night the stars they put on a show for free
And, darling, you can share it all with me
That's what I said
Keep on telling you
That right smack dab in the middle of town
I found a paradise that's trouble proof
And if this old world starts a getting you down
There's room enough for two
Up on the roof...
Say, Mean, Matter — An Example Response

Say: The speaker is saying that he can escape all of the problems he faces by climbing up onto the roof where he is above the city and can see stars. He invites someone to come along with him.

Mean: The speaker means that an opportunity to get away from the fractious cares of everyday life is readily available.

Matter: Respite from troubles, even for a moment, can bring peace.

Responses may vary but the substance should be similar to what is contained in the example. Students will easily see the theme as laid out in the "matter" response to the poem.

Soapstone+theme — An Example Response

Speaker: the speaker is an individual who seeks relief from troubles;

Occasion: a moment of depression or difficulty in everyday life;

Audience: the speaker is talking to a friend;

Purpose: the speaker wants to share with the friend and escape from troubles;

Subject: relief from troubles;

Tone: hopeful and loving;

Theme: Respite from troubles, even for a moment, can bring peace.

After students have completed either method of analysis, they should look to the literary devices Taylor used to communicate his theme:

  • Imagery: Taylor creates an image of the rooftop as fresh and sweet, away from the noisy, distracting world below. He sees stars and has found what he calls paradise above the city.
  • Metaphor: The stars that "put on a show for free" compare stars to a performance intended to delight.
  • Symbol: The rooftop is a symbol for paradise, for peace, for escape from woes.
  • Tone: The tone is peaceful, as is the message of the poem and is indicated by diction such as peaceful, fresh, sweet, stars, free, darling, share and paradise.
Lyrical devices also help Taylor communicate his theme:
  • Repetition of words: "On the roof" is repeated.
  • Alliteration: Much, me; climb, cares; below, bother; show, share; rat, race; paradise, proof; for, free; room, roof.
  • Assonance: Stairs, cares; only, know; where, air; smack, dab; peaceful, be, me; so, go; below, no; town, found; too, roof.
  • Rhyme Scheme: End rhyme occurs in the first quatrain, face and space. Be and me are end rhymes in the following couplet. Next beat, sweet and street rhyme in an irregular pattern introduced in lines 7, 8 and ten. Other pairs of end rhymes occur with the words know, so, free, me, town, down.
  • Rhythm: The rhythms of the lines vary considerably with stressed and unstressed syllables controlled by the singer's voice and the music itself. Teachers who want to teach scansion, a method of determining rhythm in a poem, would be better served by using a poem not put to music.

Assignments, Projects and Activities:

After the lyrics have been analyzed, the following assignments will exercise ELA skills required by most curriculum standards:
    1. Write a formal explication making reference to the various literary devices which support the theme of the lyrics.

    2. Write an evaluation of the poem in which you show the effectiveness of the various literary devices in illustrating idea and feeling.

    3. Write a narration in which an individual invites someone to join him or her in a brief escape from the day's difficulties. It could be a situation that occurs after report card day or when a senior has received a rejection letter from the college of his or her choice. Where might these friends go to find respite? What words might be spoken between them?

    4. Write a reflection on your personal experience of having a special place to which you can escape when you feel troubled. Where is it? What do you do when you are there? What provokes you to return to your everyday reality?

    5. Write an essay in which you evaluate the various places the can be used for escape. Consider the idea that many people use television, the internet, or music to escape. What would be the difference between being on a roof watching stars or in a den watching television?

    Similar analysis and assignments can be done for any of the songs in the CD. Students may want to bring in songs of their own for analysis and for the opportunity to read them aloud as poems after they play the music.

The following assignments are appropriate for an examination of music used for social purposes:
    1. Students can be asked to research social movements and investigate the music used in an effort to achieve mass appeal or to make the point of the movement widely known. Oral presentations can be given in which the information and songs are shared with the class as a whole.

    2. Students can be asked to research protest or topical songs, poems of ethnic struggle or nationalism. They can focus on one period of time or one place or they can investigate one song in particular. Oral presentations should follow their study.

    3. In small groups, students can perform, either in reading or singing, important poems or songs of social concern from any period of history or from any country.

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