First I’d have them listen to Tojo, with a printed version of the lyrics in front of them, and write their initial impressions of the meaning. Then I’d play for them Santa Never Made It, with the lyrics to reference. Then I’d ask them:
- What did you think Tojo was about when you first heard/read the lyrics? Turn your page of initial impressions in with your essay. (I was thinking it was a love song: his girl abandoned him on Christmas eve, and he was so devastated that he didn’t bother with the traditions that year.)
- What motivated David Faulkner to write Tojo?
- The meaning of Santa Never Made It is pretty clear; what is the meaning of Tojo?
- What is different between the two approaches?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of the two approaches?
- What information would be important to know before listening to Tojo for the first time to interpret it correctly? How does world knowledge affect our ability to comprehend the messages we receive from art, from media, etc.?
I’d award some bonus points to students who accurately describe who Tojo is; slightly less points for making a good guess. I would also possibly award various levels of bonus points for various levels of answering the question, “What would be required for a computer to understand either song?” It’s probably a good thing I’m not a high school English teacher: my students would have too much fun. Or I’d get fired for not following Common Core.