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Lesson Plan

Playlist for Holden: Character Analysis With Music and Lyrics

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Playlist for Holden: Character Analysis With Music and Lyrics

Grades 7 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Minilesson
Estimated Time Two 45-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lawrence Baines, Ph.D.

Normal, Oklahoma


International Literacy Association



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From Theory to Practice



Compiling a playlist for a friend or a special occasion is a familiar activity for most students. This minilesson invites students to think of a literary character as a peer, creating an authentic connection between literature and life. While the lesson uses The Catcher in the Rye as an example, the activities could be centered on the primary character of any novel. Students choose a perspective on the character (from options suggested by the teacher) and work in small groups to identify scenes in the novel that reflect their view. They then select songs appropriate for the character and write a rationale for each song chosen, including supporting evidence from the text. When students present their completed playlists in class, their classmates inevitably make observations that increase everyone's insights into the character and the novel.

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  • Playlist for Holden Assignment: This handout outlines the assignment: selecting a playlist, writing a personal letter, and writing a one-paragraph rationale for each song included on the playlist

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Pescatore, C. (2007). Current events as empowering literacy: For English and social studies teachers. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 51(4), 326-339.

  • Asking students to critically analyze popular music in light of character and themes from a novel requires sophisticated skills, including the ability to understand literary figures in the context of contemporary life.

  • Viewing literature through contemporary culture and current events can help reframe the literary experience for students.


Williams, B.T. (2007). Action heroes and literate sidekicks: Literacy and identity in popular culture. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 50(8), 680-685.

  • Probing the identity of a literary character in terms of popular songs and popular culture may help students understand their own motivation and identity.

  • Music and identity are closely intertwined among many adolescents.

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