I call it PLIL, because this is more like playing and language combined, rather than pure content as we are more familiar with from CLIL (Content and language integrated learning).
I’m always interested in finding new ways to combine a little extra culture and language into my lessons. This is an idea that arose kind of by accident in an online exchange of messages a few weeks ago with a couple of friends. The messages ranged through various themes, but as I remember it, Bruce Springsteen was mentioned, Cathy, one of those involved in the discussion is a big fan. Also, rather randomly, a woman riding a horse was also mentioned……and that was, as it turned out, not an unimportant point.
To amuse myself and, I hoped, the others in the discussion, I decided to write a short fictious exchange between me and an imaginary stranger (the woman on the horse!). The challenge I set myself was to try and squeeze in as many Bruce Springsteen song titles as possible into my short text. I am reasonably familiar with Springsteen’s body of work, but after Googling his musical biography I was surprised by the sheer amount, but also the number that were going to be useful for this challenge.
The titles available dictated to a large degree where the narrative headed, but in a way that was the fun of this word puzzle. It is all about playing with language and in my art and culture CLIL classroom that is very much the sort of area that I like to search out and make use of. In this case selecting out the words and phrases that are loaded with possibility and then working out ways to link and connect them without altering any grammar or phrasing in the existing titles.
The result of my own puzzling went as follows:
I saw a woman on a horse yesterday,
I asked were you ‘Born in the USA’?
Yes, she said, in the ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’
And ‘Growin Up’ I asked
Mostly near ‘Harry’s Place’ she replied
So this isn’t exactly your’s or my ‘Home Town’ I remarked
No, not ‘This Hard Land’ she said, ‘I’m working on a Dream’
You ‘Walk like a man’ she went on,
I’m ‘Outlaw Pete’ I said as threateningly as I could
Am I being ‘Held up without a gun’?
I was hoping for some ‘Easy money’ I said
Go and jump in ‘The River’ she replied……and rode off.
I haven’t actually tried this activity in class yet, but I plan to soon. I’m not a music teacher, but within my broader culture lessons this can certainly find a place. I think my third years (aged 15) could have a pretty good go at this. We will doubtless end up in discussions about which artists and musicians are the best to use. They’ll have their own favourites. But it will be interesting to see if they offer such content and grammatically rich pickings.
In my work as an artist, I spend a lot of time playing with images and forms, working out ways to combine and connect them. It is an approach I love to make use of in the classroom too. It maybe with paint, collage or other materials, but I really don’t see this form of play with words as being so very different to that.