In the Ghetto

This song is ideal for presenting the use of Present Simple. It has all the forms, affirmative, negative, question, third form singular –s and more.

I first let students listen to the song:

We go through the lyrics and explain any unknown vocabulary. At the end of this, I draw students’ attention to the fact that the content of the song itself is the very essence of this tense. The story is not a single story, based in the present, it is a general story of so many, that starts all over again when it ends, that is omnipresent in time and not focused only on the immediate present. Just as the tense.

Then I ask them to find examples of the present simple structures and explain additionally where needed that e.g. “the snow flies” does not mean it is snowing in this moment, but that it is rather a general condition of this season, happening every year.

When they confirm that they understand the concept, I give them the ultimate question (often it is homework as the class ends at this point): Find 2 examples of a grammatically wrong use of Present Simple in the text (line 3 one thing she don’t need and line 14 he don’t get far). This does not sound like too much for homework and appeals to those who seek challenge, but there are many positive side effects to doing this, such as increased self-esteem and the challenge-solved feeling of accomplishment.

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Video by India Arie

This song is perfect for teenagers with low self-esteem. It practically says everything, so you go into the lyrics as much as appropriate according to your students’ level. This is how I would do it:

STEP 1

Have students listen to the song, supported by lyrics:

STEP 2

Check understanding. My students usually do not know the following:

unconditionally, freckle, pantyhose, conclusion, confusion, misconception, mass-deception, mink,

You might want to point out the use of ain’t and other features of spoken language she uses and discuss their use with your students.

STEP 3

Ask students to work in pairs or small groups to discuss how they understand the following verses:

Get in where you fit in

Clear your mind

Put your salt on the shelf

Invite them to share their ideas and tell share yours.

Ask them how this song can be related to them, Depending on the group and its size, either all together or in groups first.

This part could also be done in writing, either in class or as homework. When you have their thoughts in writing, you can display them around the classroom and ask them to play “Find somebody who”, asking them to find 2 people who thought something similar to them and 2 who thought something different.

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Everything at once by Lenka

STEP 1

Students listen to the song and read the lyrics. Depending on their level and time you have, either let them research the meanings of unknown words on their own or help them with understanding.

STEP 2

Ask pairs or small groups of students to change the

as … (basic form of adjective)… as…. (noun)

into

…..(comparative form of adjective) … than …(noun)

and then

the .. (superlative form of adjective) of all (noun)

STEP 2

Each group checks another group’s work. If it is appropriate, you can make this a competition.

FOLLOW UP

You can ask students to create another part of the song with their own ideas.

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Counting Stars by One Republic

Step 1

As students are entering the classroom and preparing for the class, play this song informally. Just let it be the background sound, most of my students know and like this song anyway.

Step 2

Ask students to watch/listen to this video. The video is of the same song but instrumental only. Ask students to work in groups to write the lyrics of the song from memory. (you can do this activity with any well known song where you can find an instrumental version)

Step 3

The groups compare their lyrics and then check it against the original version. This is a good listening exercise. If there are still problematic parts of the song, allow students to use the net to resolve them. This will help them develop skills for finding information.

Step 4

If your students need speaking practice more, have them talk about how they understand the lyrics. If they need reading or writing practice, you can have pairs or small groups do a short research of the net to find how other people interpret the lyrics and then report either orally or in writing on the class blog or on the classroom walls.

There are a lot of interesting interpretations of the lyrics here (but definitely not only here):

http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/3530822107859452557/

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Englishman in NY by Sting

STEP 1

Write the following words on the board

Manners maketh man

and ask your students what they think they mean and let the discussion go in the direction of what manners are important, which they have and how they got them (or not).

STEP 2

Play the extract from this film and ask students what the character meant when he said, “manners maketh man”.

I usually stop the video at the beginning at the scene with the outside of a pub and ask students what they think it is. When they figure out it is a pub, we discuss the difference between beer, ale and stout and the pint as the unit of measure. I point out typical names of pubs and assign it as homework to find funny or curious pub names until the next lesson.

After 1 minute, the clip gets a bit violent so if you do not think it is appropriate, stop the clip at this point. The truth is, most of my teenage boys have recognized the film because they have already seen it and some of the rest wrote down the title to watch it at home later.

It should be clear after the clip that the gentleman is teaching the youngsters a lesson by behaving like a man with manners.

STEP 3

Play this song and check understanding by dealing with unknown words after each part. Point out the typical British and typical American habits.

Depending on how much time you have, you can explore the concept of tea, toast and English accents after the first part.

When you get to the part with the walking cane, you can refer back to the film, where the gentleman is using his umbrella in a similar way.

Let the part with the chorus play uninterrupted, this will be dealt with at the end.

In the third part, the song mentions the phrase “manners maketh man” again. Elicit the meaning of “it takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile” and show the first part of the film extract again, pointing out that the gentleman knew beforehand he is cleverer, faster, stronger and better equipped than the youngsters, but he did not brag about it or use it in an improper way.

Explain the words in the next part or have students find them in dictionaries. In one lesson, we had to stop here, so I asked them to think about the possible meanings of : “A candle is brighter than the sun” part for homework.

When you get to the part “a gentleman will walk but never run”, refer back to the video. By this time it is obvious how very British the gentleman in the Kingsman video is, so it is a good idea to explore what he says and what your students would say instead of using the British wording. Also point out how the youngsters speak and the contrast between the two. Ask your students which is preferable to them and in what situations.

STEP 4

Go back to the chorus of Englishman in New York.

Either for homework or at class, ask students to come up with occasions when they feel like Englishman in New York or a candle at night, out of place, different. Have them share their stories.

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Suzanne Vega: Tom’s Diner

Pre intermediate

Present continuous, writing

STEP 1

Have the students listen to the song and read at the same time so they get an idea of what the song is about

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYGNWig7Vyw

If appropriate, ask students support questions to check their understanding.

Who is the main person in the song?

Where is she?

What is she doing?

What is happening around her?

STEP 2

Ask students to work in small groups or pairs and look around them to write a similar song about what is going on at this moment in classroom and outside. They should make sure the rhythm pattern fits the song. You can support this activity by playing the instrumental version of the song.

Help if necessary; provide dictionaries or internet access if you can.

STEP 3

Have students perform their songs with the support of the instrumental version of the song.

If you need to make the students take the task seriously, tell them the videos will be recorded. This usually spurs them to put more effort into the performing of the song and gives them a good reason to rehearse it beforehand.

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You Live you Learn by Alanis Morisette

Usually I do this song quite early on in the school year. It sets a good basis for the learning environment and offers a new perspective on learning.

Step 1

Ask students if they like learning. I have only had rare students answer yes to this question so it is only natural to ask them also why they feel so negative about learning, how do they learn, where and when. Ask also how often they learn. If you have a very big group, you might want them to do this in smaller groups. Depending on the class, I sometimes tell them that by the end of this lesson, they will feel completely different about learning. This often triggers their attention, because they (as teenagers do) want to prove me wrong.

Step 2

Tell students to listen to the song very carefully and write down any words they catch and understand. I warn them beforehand that the first 2 lines are the most difficult and that they shouldn’t get discouraged by them. This task is good from more points of view:

  • Students need to practice their listening skills and keep listening even if it is hard. Very often, my students just stop trying if they judge the text too difficult.
  • Very often, they understand words but do not know how to write them. They sometimes get quite creative at this point. Fortunately, it is mistakes like this that we learn most from.
  • Students see how an accent can lead them astray into thinking they hear something completely different from the actual lyrics. They hear words that are not in the text at all or misinterpret them. (they think they hear “hi” instead of “I” and similar)

Do not forget to praise them at this point for sustaining their concentration despite the difficulty of the task.

Step 3

Ask students if they managed (even if that was not the task) to understand what the song is about. Then go through the lyrics together, starting with the chorus, but after each line, you ask them specifically about their experiences. For example:

You cry, you learn – “Have you ever cried in your life? If not – Have you seen other people cry? Why? Did you learn anything from it?”

You love you learn – “Have you been in love? What did you learn from it?”

I usually give a lot of emphasis on the last line (You ask you learn) and point it out that they only rarely ask questions and that school has somehow managed to teach them that asking is not ok. I stress the fact that it is their duty to ask when they do not understand something.

Step 3

Go back to the beginning of the lyrics. Ask them why they think she recommends all those things. The answer is always “because you learn something from it”. If they ask or don’t know what exactly you learn, set it as homework to try and report in the next class.

At the end of a lesson, ask them again, if they like learning and how often they do it. J

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Yoghurt by Ylvis

STEP 1

Ask students to work in pairs and list what they would put in a yoghurt. If they need help, they can start with kinds of yoghurt they usually buy and later move on to their own ideas of what could be a good mixture.

STEP 2

Ask student if they know what other ingredients there are in a typical yoghurt and if they know how it is made. If they are interested, you might want to watch one of the videos on How to make yoghurt. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyZ5mv8kyik

STEP 3

Have students listen to the song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0eWawTdt_w

STEP 4

Ask students if they can now add more things to their lists.

Types of Yoghurt

What we eat yoghurt with

Ingredients

STEP 4

Ask students to make similar lists with other basic food, such as: eggs, bread, milk etc.

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Welcome

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