Saturday in the Park lyrics

"Tell Me Something Good": Music and the Language Arts

Every song has a story.

Whether taking us on an undersea adventure in the land of submarines or introducing us to a guitar prodigy named Johnny, songs establish settings, introduce characters, and develop plots. Music can also inspire new stories that we create in our imaginations!

"'Tell Me Something Good': Music and the Language Arts" explores the ways that rock & roll tells stories. Participants learn to identify key details in lyrics through performances by Hall of Fame Inductees—including the Beatles, Chuck Berry, Aretha Franklin, and the Police. This interactive class guides students as they retell what they hear or read through words, pictures, and movements.

Related content areas: Language arts, fine arts / music
Level: Grades 1–4
Days offered: Tuesday–Friday (October to June)
Times offered: 10:00am or 11:30am
Duration: 60 minutes
Capacity: Up to 150 students per session
Available supplemental materials: See below!

Register for This Class

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The program is FREE for schools within zip codes that begin with 440, 441, 442, or 443. Regional groups can participate in Rockin’ the Schools for a discounted rate.

Questions? E-mail [email protected].

Writing Prompts

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Use these writing prompts in your classroom before or after your visit to encourage your students explore the relationship between music and stories! Each prompt is available below for download as a PowerPoint slide.

Alien Writing Prompt

2.39 MB

Book Song Writing Prompt

1.75 MB

Animal Song Writing Prompt

4.8 MB

Special Song Writing Prompt

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Musical Storytelling

Many songs tell stories. Like words in poems or novels, lyrics—the words in a song—depict settings, characters, and plots. “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” takes place in a jungle near a village, where a lion snoozes. “Under the Boardwalk” details a beach scene by the sea with the heat of the sun, the sight of blankets on sand, the noise of the carousel, and the taste of hot dogs and French fries. “Fun, Fun, Fun” features three main characters: the singer, his girlfriend, and her dad. “Erie Canal” takes the listener on a trip down the Erie Canal, while “Puff the Magic Dragon” narrates the changing adventures of two friends. 

Musical sounds enhance the stories told in lyrics, and they can even tell stories on their own. Music without words can create mood and setting before a vocalist even begins to sing. “Dancing in the Street,” for example, starts with an uplifting rhythm to introduce a hopeful, positive message. Music can also reinforce characters: “Johnny B. Goode” describes a young man as an excellent guitar player not only through lyrics, but also through Chuck Berry’s own skillful guitar playing. “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” starts with a bugle to introduce the main character. Sometimes, songs even incorporate non-musical sounds, such as “Splish Splash,” which opens with the sounds of splashing water.  

Musical Storytelling Playlist

Musical Storytelling Playlist

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Download a PDF copy of this playlist & background information.


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In this video, Little Richard (Inducted 1987) performs the well-known nursery rhyme "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." This nursery rhyme includes a character, setting, and plot. Can your students identify them?

Inductee Biographies

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Read more about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees covered in this class!