Playlist Autobiography or Soundtrack of My Life Essay:  (Using Music and Lyrics to Write)

Many high school English teachers, especially 9th and 10th are familiar with the standard “Autobiographical Narratives” as a way for students to share with their peers and teachers a bit of background information about themselves.  While this is a great writing exercise, students are often not engaged or invested in producing an essay. Having taught “Autobiographical Narratives” a few times before, I have done extensive research on the types of activities that work best.  One lesson plan for a traditional essay on this topic that I have used before comes from the Scholastic website, I have used it and modified certain aspects of it. However, in trying to engage a larger number of students through different rhetorical methods a great alternative to this assignment is a Playlist Autobiography or Soundtrack of My Life.


For many students it is often easier to explain who they are through music and lyrics.  Through this assignment students incorporate music and lyrics to write an essay about themselves. 


Playlist Autobiography Essay Lesson Plan:

In this activity you will have an opportunity to write an essay incorporating music and lyrics to bring your words to life.  Instead of merely writing to show and not tell, your readers, viewers, and listeners will also have an opportunity to hear your writing.  This will be accomplished through the use of lyrics that can be embedded in your writing but also the creation of a “playlist” or a list of songs to accompany your essay.



Brainstorm a short list of events about the most significant moments in your life (elementary school, memorable holidays, first crush, etc, etc.) When you have come up with a list of events, think about songs and lyrics that you feel connect to these events.  These songs and lyrics can be those that you are already familiar with, perhaps you associate a specific song with a particular memory.  As you set out to write think of the importance and relevance of each song as it pertains to the event or memory you are writing about. 


The connections do not need to be direct (Example:  That Christmas felt right.  For the first time in a long time mom and dad seemed to tolerate one another’s presence without filling the air with wrath. Johnny and I waited patiently chewing on caramel popcorn and smelling grandma’s cinnamon potpourri.  Have yourself a merry little Christmas; let your heart be light, from now on all our troubles will be out of sight.


The songs or lyrics of your choice could also be implicit.  (Example:  “Giant steps are what you take walking on the moon.  I hope my legs don’t break, walking on the moon.” Taking mom’s car and driving in the night was exhilarating to say the least.  Picking Carlos and Susan up added to the excitement.  I felt very grown up.  Irresponsible, not one bit.  Sure, I could have asked mom to borrow the car. But even if I had asked, the answer would have been,NO.  This was much more fun. 



Besides describing the most significant events in their lives the topic can also be expanded to go beyond the traditional autobiographical narrative in which students describe childhood, growing up, family, etc, etc, instead students can select a particular focus in their lives to describe and write about.  Examples:



v     Write about the most challenging experience in your life.  Explain the events leading up to the event, and what happened after.  Describe how the experience affected or changed your life. 

v     Write about making a change in your life.  Describe why and how the change occurred.  Explain whether the change was positive or negative and how or if this impacted your life.

v     Write about how your upbringing helped to define the person you are today.  Describe whether culture and environment had any influence in how your identity was shaped. 

v     Write about the most memorable moment in your life.  Explain how and why this moment is of importance.  Give a lot of descriptive and sensory details. 

v     Write about the most influential person in your live.  Describe what this person has taught you about life and how their influence has shaped the person you are.


WRITING:  As you write your essay keep in mind that although this is in some sense not a traditional essay, your writing must have some sort of organizational quality.  For example you may want to use a different song or lyrics for each paragraph, section or even title of your essay.  Remember that the inclusion of songs and lyrics to your essay is not merely to make this activity more fun, instead think that adding these elements will help create a writing piece that is more meaningful, rich, and engaging. Think about how each song or lyrics you select can help to add meaning to your words.  Besides showing and not merely telling, the usage of lyrics and songs will also allow your readers a chance to hear what your essay is about. 


PUBLISHING/ PRESENTING:  After you have revised your draft and have worked in peer groups to improve content as well as syntax and grammar of your essay, you will have an opportunity to present your final piece.  Each student will be allowed 4 to 5 minutes in which they can choose to read through their favorite sections of the essay and playlist. 

Websites where you can find SONG LYRICS:









Websites where you can make your own PLAYLIST for free:




Playlist Autobiography/ Sountrack of My Life- Rubric Example.doc
File Size: 23 kb
File Type: doc
Download File

Playlist Autobiography/ Sountrack of My life Essay- My Example.doc
File Size: 28 kb
File Type: doc
Download File