Lesson Plan: For Teachers: An Interview with Leonard Cohen
Write the following quotations of Leonard Cohen's on the board:
- "[I am] the "grocer of pain."
- "Music is the emotional life of most people."
- "I think the term poet is a very exalted term and should be applied to a man at the end of his work. When he looks back over the body of his work and he's written poetry then let the verdict be that he's a poet."
- "Women stand for the objective world for a man. They stand for the thing that you're not and that's what you always reach for in a song."
- "[My book Beautiful Losers is] a love story, a prayer, a shriek, a tasteless affront, a religious epic of incomparable beauty."
Have the students read the quotations and discuss what they think the quotations reveal about Leonard Cohen, the man, and his work.
Outline the Opportunity
Discuss with students the general format and purpose of personality interviews. On the blackboard or on an overhead, outline together what the audience can expect from a good personality interview on television, the radio, or in the newspaper:
- an interview is a conversation
- an interview begins with questions about the person's interests to get the person talking
- routine questions are posed next, followed by the more sensitive questions
- an interviewer is a good listener who is interested, prepared, and enthusiastic
- a good interviewer keeps the audience in mind and tries to get information that the audience would like to know
- good questions are straightforward and don't produce yes/no answers
Have students visit the topic Leonard Cohen: Canada's Melancholy Bard on the CBC Digital Archives website, and choose one or two of the interviews with Leonard Cohen. Students should analyze the interview(s), keeping in mind the criteria for a good interview. Ask students to take brief, point-form notes about the interview(s), noting particularly good questions that elicited interesting, revealing responses. Have students critique the questions asked and consider what questions and follow-up questions might have added to the responses.
Revisit and Reflect
Have students share their notes with the class. When the class discusses the interviews, students may notice how cleverly Cohen occasionally twists the questions, or the creative responses he provides that keep the interviewers "on their toes."
Interested students can conduct personality interviews. They should write at least 10 good questions that will not elicit yes or no answers. Subjects might include classmates, teachers, or a mentor in the workplace. Students can audio- or video-tape their interviews and/or present them to the class.