National Poetry Month: Finalized Classroom Playlist

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Written by Sylvia Denice

It may be the last day of April, but it’s going to take more than a slash on the calendar to close National Poetry Month in Room 18. Throughout the month, we have added songs to our classroom playlist, celebrating music and lyrics as poetry. The final additions to our National Poetry Month Playlist have taught us more of what it means to be a poet. We hope Poetry Month lives on in your learning spaces beyond April, the way it inevitably will for us.

“Intro,” Kehlani

Both of Kehlani’s album “Intro” poems are impactful; but, I like the poem introducing SweetSexySavage best. Don’t worry: despite the album title, the “Intro” track is classroom-friendly. I especially love sharing this poem with the girls in my classroom, as the message of honest self-worth and confidence permeates in its words. Starting, “My condolences to anyone who’s ever lost me,” and ending, “The truth is, I’m a superwoman / And some days, I’m an angry woman / And some days, I’m a crazy woman… For still trusting that I’m still worth the most,” Kehlani challenges listeners to demand acknowledgment of each woman’s dignity and value. The poetic element of meaning lives in Kehlani’s “Intro.”

“Lean On Me,” Bill Withers

When I was in fifth grade, I sang Bill Withers “Lean On Me” with my school’s choir. Where I am from, May in fifth grade means graduation from elementary school. This made singing “Lean On Me” alongside my ten-year-old peers at the end of the school year an emotional experience, as we approached the daunting journey endearingly known as “middle school.” Looking back, the transition from elementary to middle school seems menial. Nonetheless, the sense of community at my elementary school was evident in the joys and sorrows that “Lean On Me” invoked in its members. In Room 18, many of us have turned to our classroom community for comfort, friendship, and stability through times of strength and pain alike. The relatability and message of “Lean On Me” brought elements of feelings, meaning, and imagery back into our poetic discussions.

“Vocab,” Fugees

The Fugees’ “Vocab” is a true exemplar of figurative language, word choice, rhythm, rhyme, and collaboration. From Biblical allusions (“Cast the first stone if you feel you ain’t a sinner”) to similes (“I’m like the phantom that’s flying like the bird”) to onomatopoeia (“Baby be, baby be, baby be bo”), writers, poets, and artists can learn invaluable lessons from the power of words in this Fugees track.

“Park Bench People,” Innercity Griots

What I like most about “Park Bench People” is the lyrical evidence that anyone can write about anything, anytime, anywhere. What seems objectively mundane to the untrained eye, an uneventful walk through the park, Innercity Griots turns into artistic storytelling. I love the accessible lesson “Park Bench People” presents to young writers who struggle to find writing topics, or who lack confidence in their topic selections. With its catchy beat and imagery, “Park Bench People” finds relevance in our National Poetry Month conversation.

“Just Want You Around,” Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill’s effective use of repetition in “Just Want You Around” does not disappoint. There is an apparent sense of sentimentality in Room 18 lately as we approach our final month of fourth grade. Hill’s track has us celebrating the time we have left together as a classroom community. “Just Want You Around,” once again, brings us to appreciate rhythm and feelings in our poetry studies.

Confining poetry through music to one month’s time is both impossible and unfair; nonetheless, we are grateful for the artistic celebration National Poetry Month has invoked in our classroom. Below is our finalized Classroom Poetry Playlist to date. We hope you enjoy, and we would love to hear your song suggestions. Thanks for listening with us!

The Complete Playlist: Poetry Month in Room 18

  1. “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” Fugees

  2. “Can U C the Pride In the Panther?,” Mos Def

  3. “Wake Me When I’m Free,” Babatunde Olatunji & Sikiru Adepoju

  4. “Superwoman,” Alicia Keys

  5. “The Rose That Grew from Concrete,” Nikki Giovanni

  6. “Girl On Fire,” Alicia Keys

  7. “In the Event of My Demise,” Outlawz & Geronimo Ji Jaga

  8. “Easy,” The Commodores

  9. “Bright,” Kehlani

  10. “Angel / Better Together (Live in Paris, France),” Jack Johnson

  11. “Imagine,” John Lennon

  12. “What’s Going On,” Marvin Gaye

  13. “Three Little birds,” Bob Marley & The Wailers

  14. “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” Stevie Wonder

  15. “Isn’t She Lovely,” Stevie Wonder

  16. “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing,” Stevie Wonder

  17. “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing,” Tori Kelly

  18. “Faith (feat. Ariana Grande),” Stevie Wonder

  19. “Happy,” Pharrell Williams

  20. “Best Life (feat. Chance the Rapper),” Cardi B

  21. “Lean On Me,” Bill Withers

  22. “Vocab,” Fugees

  23. “Park Bench People,” Innercity Griots

  24. “Just Want You Around,” Lauryn Hill

  25. “Intro,” Kehlani