Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Single Ladies: A Lesson on Inference

I'm a bit nerdy. So I don't normally listen to music from popular artists. But I've started to love is Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)." It's extremely catchy, and although the video is seemingly very simple, this series of intricate dance moves shot in black and white has gained worldwide acclaim.

Perhaps my brain has been reprogrammed after this past grueling semester, but my awareness of strategies for use with reaching seemingly unmotivated kids is ever increasing. While driving around doing Christmas shopping, I realized that this song lends itself well to teaching about inference.

To infer is to come to a conclusion based on a limited amount of given information. For example, in this song, Beyonce says "if you like it, then you should have put a ring on it." She doesn't make the drawn-out statement, "Hey, previous boyfriend. If you were pleased with your experiences during our relationship, then making it permanent through marriage would have shown prudence on your part." And thank God that she doesn't say all that, honestly. But the listener is able to infer all of this meaning from the brief statement she makes.

Another aspect of inference (one that I hadn't taken time to realize before this post) is the use of both idioms and cultural traditions. Not all cultures use a wedding ring, so even with strategic questioning, a student from another culture might not be able to conclude that Beyonce was speaking to a previous love interest about marriage. And even more interesting is the use of the idiomatic phrase, "You decided to dip and now you wanna trip 'cause another brother notice me." Depending on one's exposure to popular culture, this statement might not make sense. If someone doesn't understand that "dip" is to leave and that "trip" is to act out, they could be left wondering why someone would want to fall down on their face after they decided to submerge something.

Now, I realize that the content of this song might not necessarily be well-suited for an audience composed entirely of people too young to attend PG-13 movies without an adult. I'm not actually planning on using it. But if it is possible to build a lesson around a popular song like this one, I'm pretty sure that with a little research, and a little delving into popular culture, it's possible to create other interesting lessons that gain kid's attention and teach them important concepts.

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