S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders

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The Basics


Subject Area and/or Course Title:



Targeted Grade Level:



Time Required:

Six 90 minute lessons


Related Standards:

  • Students will be able to “cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text”
  • Students will be able to “determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text; provide an objective summary of the text”
  • Develop the topic with relevant facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples.
  • Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.
  • Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1-3 above.
  • With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on how well purpose and audience have been addressed. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1-3 up to and including grade 7 here.)
  • Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and link to and cite sources as well as to interact and collaborate with others, including linking to and citing sources.



Michael Mannix


The Lesson


Introductory Narrative to Lesson:

In this unit, students will design an imitation of “Song Exploder,” a podcast in which musicians break down the segments of their songs, explaining the thinking behind both lyrical and musical elements. There are a couple of imaginative leaps involved in adapting the format of this podcast for the classroom, both logistically and instructionally. First, rather than hosting the podcast from their own perspective, students will be composing and then recording the “Song Exploder” podcasts from the perspective of a character in a text we are reading. (In the case of this lesson, the example will be The Outsiders, so students will be choosing a character from the novel to analyze the song). The second leap is that, in the fictional reality of the podcast, students will pretend that the character him or herself actually wrote the song being analyzed. In doing this text analysis, students will need to demonstrate an understanding of the way in which a character developed over the course of a novel. In the context of an Outsiders unit, students will focus thematically on the ideas of identity, the influence of peers, or the concept of being an “outsider.”     


This project, a twist on the academic essay, offers some concrete benefits for teachers teaching the standards stated above. Using a familiar song as the basis of this analysis will enable students to combine prior knowledge and channel enthusiasm for music in the context of a textual analysis, leading to higher motivation and a more divergent, less literal set of responses.     A few words about context: By the time this lesson is taught, students should have familiarity with basic recording and editing skills in recording software like GarageBand. They should also be comfortable articulating their emotional responses to music. Lastly, since this lesson requires students to analyze character development, they should be equipped with strategies to trace the development of a character over the course of a text.  These lessons will be taught over the course of the time used to teach the novel. It follows that the best timing for this unit comes when the students are done reading the novel.


Instructional Goals or Objectives:

  • Students will be able to use text evidence to support an analysis of a character’s
    development over the course of a text.
  • Students will convey analysis clearly and elaborately from the perspective of a character


Procedures/Lesson Activities:

Day 1: Modeling.. Song choice

  • On the first day of the assignment, the teacher will explain the objective of the
    project and explain its overall background.
  • The teacher will then present a “Song Exploder” podcast as a model as the final product that the students will create. (note: while most “Song Exploder” podcasts contain ten or fifteen sections of analysis, students will be required to only analyze four segments of the song they choose).
  • Students will listen first.
  • On the second listen, students will listen for the structure and purpose of the podcast, and the purpose of the podcast. (Who speaks? When and why? What music plays? When and why?). The teacher will guide the students through this first, and later will pause the segments, allowing students to think-pair-share and then share with the class.
  • From listening to the podcast, the class will generate a set of conventions for Song Exploder's general structure and purpose.
  • After analyzing the podcast, students will have time to start thinking about what songs they might want to use while creating their own fictional podcast. They will also decide upon a character who will host the “Song Exploder” podcast. (This character should be one who demonstrated change at some point in the novel, not a static character).
  • Homework: finalize song and character selection

Day 2: Example and writing, “Stay Gold” by Stevie Wonder

  • The purpose of this day is to give some examples of how students can make connections between the lyrics of a song and the character from a text.
  • The teacher will play the song once, asking the students to listen.
  • The teacher will then focus on one line from the song (“So must the day too fade away/and leave a ray of sun, so gold”) and give an example of how one character in the book may connect to it. From there, the teacher will compose an
    explanation of this line from the perspective of the character.
  • Teacher will ask students to listen again, this time choosing one line or sets of lines that they think would resonate with a character from the text.
  • In groups, students will then form responses written from the perspective of the character.
  • Groups will share these ideas, and the class will revise as necessary.
  • After group work, students will turn to the songs they chose and focus on lyrics, composing some of the segments of their podcast.
  • The teacher will conference with the students during this time.
  • Homework: finish writing at least two lyrical analysis segments

Day 3: Example and writing, “Out in the Streets” by the Shangri-Las

  • This day is similar to the previous one, but students will be asked to eventually
    focus on a musical analysis instead of a lyrical one.
    The teacher will play the song once, and at the end of it analyze some musical component from the perspective of the character, explaining why the character made this musical decision.
  • Next, the teacher will provide the students with a graphic organizer of musical terms, briefly explaining each concept. The organizer, which students can create in their notebooks, will include a section for the song’s melody & tune, rhythm and timing, instruments (including voices), and lyrics (to the extent that they interact with the music).
  • Students will then form groups and listen to the song again. This time, groups will analyze different elements of the song according to their own musical knowledge. Some students may use technical vocabulary, while others may use general terms to describe what they are hearing musically. Groups will discuss and then share out. The teacher will collect these responses on the board and ask each group to investigate one of them in more depth, again forming an example of a character’s response. The groups will then share their responses and the teacher will collect them on the board, revising as necessary.
  • After this, students will work individually to start analyzing their own songs from a musical perspective.
  • Homework: finish writing at least two musical analysis segments

Day 4: Recording
On this day, students will take their analysis and record it onto Garageband. They
will arrange the song to play at appropriate moments.

Day 5: Editing & Sharing
On this day, students will put finishing touches on their project, re-recording, rearranging, and editing as needed. They will also name and upload their file to Google Drive.  (Note: Google Drive is an internal sharing system. Students’ work will only be accessible by those with whom they share it. Other options, especially those that are public, may require additional permission from administration).

Day 6: Publishing
Students will listen to each other’s podcasts.


Assessment and Evaluation:

Students’ responses will be assessed for how well their responses relate to a theme, how clearly responses reflect the change of the character, and how well the responses are supported by examples from the text.  The teacher will meet with students throughout the course of this unit in the context of an informal formative assessment, offering feedback and guidance. The final grade will be based on a summative assessment—the final product itself.



  • Speakers and laptop for teacher
  • 1 to 1 computers for students with audio-recording ability and audio-editing software
  • “Song Exploder” podcast from iTunes
  • Lyrics and recording of “Stay Gold” and “Out in the Streets”



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