Similes Activity using Jazz (featuring Duke Ellington)

This Similes Activity using Jazz (featuring Duke Ellington) lesson plan also includes:

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Language learners get into the swing of things with a jazzy lesson about similes. They read an article about Duke Ellington, listen to samples of his music, and then try their hand at crafting similes to describe his improvisational and syncopated style.

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Instructional Ideas

  • Introduce the concept of improvisation by showing the YouTube video of Duke Ellington's orchestra playing "It Don't Mean A Thing (If You Ain't Got That Swing)" pointing out the syncopation and how various musicians improvise on the basic melody
  • Once class members understand the concept of similes, ask pairs to identify the similes in the lyrics of Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood"
  • Invite a musician to demonstrate improvisation and syncopated rhythms
Classroom Considerations

  • Although the lesson is designed for English language learners, it is appropriate for mainstream classes as well

  • Class members create their own similes to describe Ellington's music

  • No examples of Ellington's music or similes found in Ellington's music are included