Slice of Life Tuesday: I Should Have Read Closer

Thanks to The Two Writing Teachers for hosting Tuesday's Slice of Life.  Please visit their website and read and comment on other Slices.

Today's post pokes a little humor at myself, and we all need a little humor, don't we?

I finally had a large chunk of time to do some professional reading last weekend and I finished Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts Falling In Love with Close Reading:  Lessons for Analyzing Texts and Life.  I LOVED it!  I especially loved the suggestion of beginning to teach close reading with lyrics from a popular song.  I couldn't wait to try the lesson with my fourth graders.  I asked my 18 year-old daughter for some suggestions.  I didn't want anything that would even suggest something inappropriate for fourth graders.  She said, "Katy can't go wrong."  She then told me to check out her song "Roar."  Well, I knew the song and thought that it would be perfect.  I found a video  from YouTube and I carefully scanned the lyrics to ensure there were no curse words.  Satisfied, I printed the lyrics and bookmarked the video.  I then made copies of the lyrics for each of my students so that they could mark up the text and write about their thinking.  I was looking forward to the lesson all day.  I knew that my kids were going to love it.

Fast forward to this afternoon.  I clicked on the link for the video and I got an error message.  For some reason, the site was down.  It was ok.  I found another link to the audio version of the song.  We were back in business.  I gave the mini-lesson and played a small blurb from the song.  Oh, my kids were happy. They were smiling and singing and bouncing along.  We talked about what we thought the message to the song was:

  • Stand up for yourself.
  • Never give up.
  • If you fall down, get back up.
  • Keep going, no matter what.

They were on the right track!  I was feeling really good about the lesson and I was looking forward to seeing how their thinking would deepen as they closely read the lyrics.

I handed out the song lyrics and gave the instructions.  "Read the text carefully.  Circle words or phrases that stand out to you. What do you think they mean?  What new ideas can you come up with when you think about the message of the song?"  The kids eagerly took their papers and got to work quickly.  I walked around the room, conferring with students about what they were noticing.  Everything was going really well!

Then one of my boys came up.  "Um, Mrs. Johnson, there's a cuss word on here."
"What? No there isn't.  I checked it." I said incredulously.  I had gone over those lyrics with a fine tooth comb.  I was sure nothing was inappropriate.
"Look," he said.  He then pointed to the fine print at the bottom of the lyrics.  And sure enough...

there it was...When I'm  Rich, You'll Be My B****.

I freaked out just a little and told the kids to scribble it out.  Of course, the room erupted into laughter and kids yelling out, "I need a Sharpie.  You can still see it."  Oh my...the lesson went downhill from there.  I decided to put it away for the day and told the kids we'd go back to it tomorrow.

 So, my great lesson kind of fizzled at the end (or maybe a better word is exploded).  The irony was not lost on me though.  Here I was, teaching a lesson on close reading, and I realized that it was me, who had not read closely enough.  Lesson learned!

Have you ever had a lesson go terribly awry when you thought everything was going well?  Please share you story in the comments.


  1. Julie,
    Thanks for sharing your lesson adventure. That's so crazy the record label is named that! You'd definitely never expect it. Sorry there was a spoiler on taught me to read even closer than close! ;)

  2. That fine print will get you every time. :-)

  3. Oh wow...I guess you can never read closely enough, right?!

  4. Uggg...but one of your students got to shine in close reading! I know I have a ton of these examples but thankfully I have forgotten them! :)

  5. Ha! Those kids will remember you! Popular songs are risky these days, aren't they? You might want to pull out some Beatles.

  6. hahaha... that is too funny!!! I especially loved the part about needing a Sharpie -- hilarious! I felt like I was standing right in your classroom in the midst of the chaos! :-)

  7. Oh no-they sneak those words in. I agree, one student gets the reward for close reading, Julie. Sorry it all fell apart, but perhaps you can just refer back! As I taught middle school, I had to be careful about words or the class would totally crack up, mostly connected to sexual references of course. But one funny story: I was on an overnight trip, and our agenda said that we would have an experience after dinner with a special guest who would help us learn about mediation. The students were so disappointed because they didn't read closely enough & thought the word read was meditation. They said they were all ready for it, thought it would be interesting. It isn't quite the same thing as your experience, but does have to do with close reading!

  8. Too funny! Have definitely been there! More than once! By the way, I really like the idea of using song lyrics for close reading!

  9. So funny to read... though it probably did NOT feel too funny in the moment!

    I had a student teacher who needed to read something like this to make it clear how careful teachers must be to make sure what they bring into the classroom is 100% appropriate... she actually brought an R-rated movie into my elementary classroom expecting to show a clip during her lesson. After all, she tried to explain when I said no way, she wasn't going to show any bad parts...

  10. Who would have thought to look there! How funny. At least you can laugh at yourself.

  11. Thank you for sharing. A lesson for you. A lesson for kids. A lesson for your readers.

  12. You handled this like the pro that you are.

    What a great lesson!


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