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Playlist Creation: Insight into a Literary Character

Subject: English Language Arts

Grade: 6 (or above)

Lesson Objective: This lesson aims to make literary characters more "human" and relatable to students through music.

Common Core Standard:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI 6:1 "Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text."
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.2 "Determine a central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments."
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.3 "Analyze in detail how a key individual, event, or idea is introduced, illustrated, and elaborated in a text (e.g., through examples or anecdotes)."

Materials: You don't need special materials for the lesson, but your students will need access to YouTube or other music streaming sites at a minimum. 

You can have students physically write down the song names and the reason for their choice, or you can have them create a presentation with the music embedded on each slide and their reason for choosing the song shown. The second option will then encourage students to present their playlists to the whole class. 

 A Note to Teachers 

This assignment aims to give your students more insight into what makes literary characters tick. It's a fun activity that allows students to use their imagination. Fashions in music change rapidly, and you shouldn't be surprised if you haven't heard of some of the artists that your students include on their list.

You might like to gently tell your students that they shouldn't include songs on their playlists that might offend classmates or contradict classroom and school rules.

Lesson Options

You can adapt this lesson plan to cover just one character in a book or decide to cover a range of characters.

Choosing one character might create some interesting differences in playlists that students can discuss as a class activity. On the other hand, choosing a range of characters will allow students to familiarize themselves with a wider cast and think about the relationships between them.


Say: As we have been reading BOOK TITLE, we have been introduced to several characters. What are the names of some of them? (List the characters on the board as they are called out. Add any that your students overlook.)

Say: What is a playlist? (Wait for students to respond.)

Say: Do you use playlists? Which singers are one them? (Wait for students to respond.)

Say: Do you think the character NAME would have a playlist? (Wait for students to respond.)

Say: Today, you will make a playlist for one of the characters from BOOK TITLE. Your playlist will only need to be 10 songs long. You will create your playlist for your chosen character based on their characteristics, physical description, personality, actions, etc. As you create your playlist, you must also explain why you have chosen a particular song for your character. 

Let each student pick their favorite character if you have given them the option. Or proceed with your students all working on the same literary character playlist. You may also choose to complete this lesson plan in small groups. 

Move around the class and see how students are getting on. Give them some suggestions if they get stuck.

Allow 30-45 minutes for playlist creation; you may allow a longer period or multiple periods of work if your students are going to present their playlists.

Feedback or Presentations

Say: As a playlist, why do you think the songs represent the character NAME? (Wait for the student to respond.)

Allow other students to ask questions of the presenter, or allow group discussion should students agree or disagree about a particular song choice. 

During the feedback session, there will be disagreements, especially if the character is controversial. Keep the discussion lighthearted and ensure that students know that any song choice is valid as long as the student can support their song choice.

Extra Activity or Homework

If there is time, you can ask your students to write a short description of their character and the overarching reasons for choosing the curated playlist. Again, students should state ideas about their chosen character's characteristics, physical description, personality, actions, etc.

As a bonus idea, ask students to pick a character's theme song. Similar to movie scores playing in the background when a specific character is on screen, this theme song wholly encompasses the literary character.

Written by Steven Tomkinson
Education World Contributor
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