Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Writing in the Style of Leonard Cohen
Ask students to name some of Leonard Cohen's songs. They will likely mention "Suzanne" and "Everybody Knows," two of his better known songs, which are referred to in the topic Leonard Cohen: Canada's Melancholy Bard from the CBC Digital Archives website.
Consider playing "Suzanne" and/or "Everybody Knows" to the class. "Suzanne" can be found on The Best of Leonard Cohen, (CBC Music, 1974) and "Everybody Knows" can be found on Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man (CBC Music, 1988). Both songs are also on Tower of Song, Polygram, A & M Records, 1995).
Outline the Opportunity
Do an online search to find the lyrics to "Suzanne" and "Everybody Knows" and have students view them on computer monitors. Read the words to each aloud. Ask each student to choose one of the songs, and explain that they will first read and analyze the song, and then use it as a model to write a poem or song. Give students time to analyze the song they have chosen. They should make notes about literary devices, symbols, theme, diction, rhythm, rhyme, mood, and sensory appeal; characterize the speaker; and record personal reactions to the song, for instance, its emotional appeal and intellectual impact.
As a class, discuss the critiques that students have prepared. Then explain that students will be writing a poem or song that follows the pattern of the song that they chose to analyze. If students chose "Suzanne," they should write a poem or song that tells of something that happened to them, because Cohen says that he wrote "Suzanne" after an old friend invited him over to her home by the river and served him tea and oranges. He said, in 1979, "The song is almost reportage. It's just a very accurate evocation of exactly what happened. It's as if she had handed me the seed for the song."
Revisit and Reflect
When students have completed their poems or songs, have them read or present them to the class and submit their draft and final copy.
Students can choose another one of Cohen's poems or songs to analyze for a formal, critical essay. It will be evaluated for thoughtfulness of response, proof of interpretation, understanding of theme, and analysis of diction, symbols, and images.
- lyrics to "Suzanne" and "Everybody Knows" by Leonard Cohen
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