What’s in a Word?

Khalila Garcia

Lesson Goals

1. Manifest their knowledge of details in the song text through actuation and collaboration in a tableau based on words or lines in the song.
2. Help create movements for the song that represent their explicit understanding of the text, and perform the song for another class.
3. Classify statements from the lyrics in the song as strong (helpful) v.s weak (hurtful) choices using a T-chart.

Utilizing the song, “Use a Word” by Red Grammer, students will construct tableaux to demonstrate text meaning after studying words and phrases in the song. After this, they will create and perform the song with appropriate descriptive movements, and have a performance for another class. Students and teacher will participate in a discussion centered on the song lyrics concerning strong (helpful) choices vs. weak (hurtful) choices, and classify them into a T-chart.


Song “Use a Word” from CD “Teaching Peace,” by Red Grammer, can be found on YouTube
Handout with lyrics
Cards with lines from the song
Pencils, colored pencils or crayons
T-Chart (individual or whole class)
Sentence strips with statements from song
Whiteboard, smart board, or chart paper


Lyrics to the song are below
Use a Word
By Red Grammer
When someone makes you slip
and you wanna bruise their lip,
use a word.
Use a word.

When someone grabs your books
and you go for your left hook,
use a word.
Use a word.

‘Cause we can work it out.
That’s what words were invented for.
We can work it out.
It’s the best way there is for sure.
To fight over something is absurd,
so for Pete’s sake, use a word!

When someone steals your ball
and you wanna make them fall,
use a word.
Use a word.

When someone plays a trick
and you’re winding up to kick,
use a word.
Use a word.

‘Cause we can work it out.
That’s what words were invented for.
We can work it out.
It’s the best way there is for sure.
To fight over something is absurd,
so for Pete’s sake, use a word!

There’s so many kinds of words.
They do all kinds of things.
Some can make us smile and laugh,
while others hurt and sting.
We’ve got to choose the words
we use each and every day.
So, when it’s time to use a word,
be careful what you say.
‘Cause we can work it out.
That’s what words were invented for.
We can work it out.
It’s the best way there is for sure.
To fight over something is absurd,
so for Pete’s sake, use a word.

When someone hurts your pride
and you wanna run and hide,
use a word.
Use a word.

When someone thinks of you
in a way that is not true,
use a word.
Use a word.

Everybody is different.
Take a look around and see.
You’re the only you I know,
and I’m the only me.

‘Cause were all so different,
there’ll be times we disagree.
But I just want to say, my friend,
that’s all right with me.

‘Cause we can work it out.
That’s what words were invented for.
We can work it out.
It’s the best way there is for sure.
To fight over something is absurd,
so for Pete’s sake, and Jamie’s, and Nicky’s,
and Juan’s, and Jamal’s, and Debbie’s, and
Aaron’s, and Christopher’s, and David’s, and Andy’s,
use a word!
Time Frame (5-7 days)

Day 1
1. Have students stand up and listen to the song. Encourage them to move to it by modeling that behavior.
2. Have students go back to their seats while the teacher says the following:

“Words are very important, we use them everyday, we have them written up in our classroom. This song is made up of words. It also talks about how we should use words. I will give you the words to the song we just heard and you will use the color of your choice to circle all the words that you already know. A lot of these words are also up on our walls so that would be a good place to start. Remember, you are circling only the words that you know. You may walk around the classroom to see which words are the same or discuss words with others in quiet voices as long as you are on the word scavenger, hunting for the words you know. If someone decides that it would be a good time to run, yell or play, then the whole class will need to sit down again and the word hunt will be over.”
For this level I would only use one or two stanzas of our song.
Give them some time to do this (5-10 min). It doesn’t matter if they are finished or not.
3. Put lyrics of the song on a smartboard, overhead projector or chart paper and ask students what words they found. Ask students individually. Point to them as they read the words. Try to have them find different words. Call on between 5 and 10 kids, depending on student engagement.
4. Read the song lyrics to the class or as a choral reading.
5. Have discussion about meaning of the song with your students.
6. After the discussion, Teacher says:
“Now we will play the song again, everybody stand up. Make movements that go with the words.”

2nd-3rd Grade
1. Give them the song lyrics first without hearing the song.
2. Have students move into groups of 3 to 4 and read the song. Tell them you will know when they are finished when their hands are in their laps.
3. Everyone will give their opinion about what the song was about, in one sentence. No one must say anything else or give any opinion about it.
4. You will then tell them that they need to decide in their group what the song is talking about, again limited to one sentence. They have 30 seconds. When the teacher asks one student in the group, they must all have the same answer.
5. Continue with the tableau about what they think the song meant. To teach students how to create tableaus refer to Chapter 5 in the book “Acting Right” by Sean Layne.
6. Walk around and observe the tableau process to see if students are able to show meaning of the lyrics in their tableaus. This is the pre-assessment tool for the teacher to recognize student understanding of the lyrics.
7. You can ask 1 student from each group to be the narrator and share what they did.
8. To end the day, play the song for them and encourage them to move according to the meaning of the lyrics. Ask students to share their own feelings or opinions about how the song felt when they just read the lyrics vs. when they heard the song. It is their opinion. There are no wrong answers.

Day 2

K-3rd Grade
1. Go over arts vocabulary and English language arts vocabulary with the students. Define and give one or two examples. For example, tableau is a living picture, created by people, that is frozen in time. The teacher may model a tableau with one student volunteer. This tableau would have two parts. Say, “We are going to create a tableau of an ice cream cone.” Ask the student if he/she wants to be the cone or the ice cream. Teacher says, “Ok, then I will be the cone. What would that look like?” Show them different poses to which they can do a thumbs up or thumbs down. Say “Ok now where would the ice cream go?” The student goes through the same process and you put the tableau together and give 10 counts while frozen in tableau.
2. Go through the rest of the vocabulary words and find creative ways to show them what these mean.
3. Do not make them copy the words and definitions.
K-1st Grade
4. The teacher may write vocabulary, with definitions and pictures on a poster to display in the classroom after the lesson, so that they can refer to it in the days to come.
2nd-3rd Grade
4. Divide the class, depending on how many vocabulary words you have. Groups of between 3 and 5 students work well together.
5. Give each group a word to define and illustrate. This should take around 5 minutes. Groups can present their work in front of the class.

K-3rd Grade
1. Put up first stanza and read it out loud. Ask, “What are some things that could make you slip?” Discuss with the students.

K-1st Grade
2. Write student responses on white board or poster paper.
3. Explain that the students will be divided into groups of two so that they can create their own tableau.
4. Review ice cream tableau and create it with another student to model. For example, “Remember, each person has to be one part.”
5. Create a tableau about “Things that make you slip.” Groups can refer to the list that was made on the whiteboard or poster paper (step 2).
6. At the end, one person from each group shares with the class.
For this level other tableaus could be created for:
Animals that can sting
Animals that run
Animals that hide

2nd-3rd Grade
2. Explain that they will be creating a tableau about things that make you slip. Divide students into groups and have them create the tableaus.
3. Each group shares with the class.
For this level other tableaus could include:
What things have a hook?
Things that could make you fall
Something absurd
Something invented
Toys that wind
Something that can be kicked safely

Day 3

K-3rd Grade
1. Have a discussion about the feelings students had while creating the tableaus the day before.
2. Play the song and have students sing and move to the music

K-1st Grade
3. Go through each stanza, read it, discuss it together briefly then play each stanza and let kids freely move to the music. Encourage students to sing the song. Many will have been doing this from the very beginning. Observe if the movements are more expressive of the lyrics than they were before.
4. Then play the whole song and have students sing and move to the music.

2nd-3rd Grade
3. Have cards with different lines of the song. Divide the class into groups. Each group picks a card without looking at it and creates a tableau.
4. Have each group do the tableau again with the rest of the class watching to see if the class can match the tableau to the line from the song. Each group gets to affirm or reject the matching and explain why.

Day 4

K-3rd Grade
1. Read each different stanza and ask students to stand up and act it out while you read it.
2. Decide together which movements go better with the lyrics for each different stanza.
3. Practice each stanza together singing and acting out the lyrics.
4. After going through the whole song stanza by stanza, repeat the whole song singing and acting it out. Tell the kids that they will do a performance for another class so they need to do their best.

Day 5

K-3rd Grade
1. Practice the song at the beginning of class.
2. Discuss how our choices affect the team (class). How a weak choice can hurt the group and a strong choice can help the group. Have students give examples from the classroom. 0Say, “I think most of you have noticed that the song, “Use a Word,” has strong choices and weak choices about how to treat others.”

K-1st Grade
3. Have the following statements on sentence strips, and also have a T-chart. Explain that on one side of the chart are the strong choices (use a picture to illustrate it, eg. strong man, happy face) and on the other are the weak choices (also illustrate it).

Statements from song that can be classified as Strong or Weak:
Someone makes you slip
You wanna bruise their lip
Someone grabs your books
You go for your left hook
We can work it out
Use a word
Steals your ball
You wanna make them fall
Winding up to kick
Someone plays a trick
Smile at someone
Laugh with someone
Be careful what you say
Someone hurts your pride
Someone thinks of you in a way that is not true
It’s alright to disagree
Think of someone as your friend

4. Read a statement and pick a child to decide where it goes on the chart. Have the student put it physically on the chart on the side where it belongs.

2nd-3rd Grade
3. Give students the handout with the song lyrics and a T-chart. Give them a choice to either write the statements from the song into the T-chart or cut them out of the handout and glue them on the correct side.
4. They must have at least 4 strong choices and 6 weak choices.

K-3rd Grade
5. After the above activity, discuss what we should do if someone uses a weak choice on us. The obvious answer is, “use a word.” Discuss what words you would use. What would that look like?

Day 6
K-3rd Grade
Practice performance

Day 7
K-3rd Grade
Give performance

Differentiation Approaches

For younger students, or students who have difficulty in reading, only part of the song lyrics could be given. Be more flexible with students who have physical disabilities and their execution of a tableau,


1) Observation of each tableau and student explanation of tableau per group.
2) Performance of song with movements that demonstrate the meaning of the lyrics.
3) Use either class or individual T-Chart that classifies “Strong (Helpful) v.s. Weak (Hurtful) Choices,” having to do with interpersonal relationships and communication in the song.

Follow Up and Extension Ideas

Visual Arts – Students could create a poster that illustrates what words or actions to use if someone made a weak choice toward them or another student.
Science K-1 – How do animals move, based on some of the tableaux used.
Science 2-3 – How our brains tell our muscles to make a certain action.
Social Studies – How were words and letters invented? How were other things invented?
Math- Study and quantify patterns in the stanzas of the song. Determine the ratio of one stanza vs. another. Compare the number of lines in each stanza. Compare this song with another song children already know, in terms of “greater than” or “less than,” concerning the number of stanzas. Turn these numbers into ratios.

Additional Details

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