Tag Archives: Discussion

Tim Minchin: Prejudice


Ask your students what the word prejudice means to them and if they have ever witnessed it in any way. It is best to have them discuss this topic first in pairs or small groups and then report.


Play the first 50 seconds of the video and then ask students what they expect the song to be about. If they need help, tell them the song is autobiographical and ask again.


Play the rest of the song, stopping if necessary to clarify. Stop the song after the letters are said and ask students to produce possible words from the given letters.


 Play the song to the end and ask students to discuss in pair or in small groups how they understand it. 

Invite comments.


 Ask students to come up with other words that seem innocent but can also be used to hurt others or share any words that have hurt them in the past. Ask them to think about what could be done about that and opec conversation about bullying.

more such lessons by Sandra Vida on lessonswithmusic.com

Katy Perry: Chained to the rhythm


Put your students in small groups and ask them to find online what the following words mean and 3 different ways of using them in a sentence.



Picket fence










Ask groups to write a short story using these words and share them with the class.


Ask students to listen to the song and watch the video.

What is she trying to say with the song?

Now show them the song with lyrics and see if they understand even more:

Cool Kids by Echosmith


Have the students listen to the song informally as they are coming into the classroom. This will give you a good idea of how well they know the song. In my experience, most students will have been familiar with the chorus and many will be able to identify with it as well at least at some level.


You open the lesson by asking them about the chorus of the song and how they feel about it. Who are the cool kids in their school and why? Elicit some ideas about what makes you cool from their point of view and what makes you uncool and write them on the board.


Help them produce some second conditional sentences with the ideas from the board, Such as:

If I were a cool kid, I would have many friends.

(If you need to, discuss the reasons behind If I was/If I were dilemma here or let students do some research on the subject online. This page is easy to find and offers a good explanation: http://www.cliffsnotes.com/cliffsnotes/writing/which-is-correct-if-i-was-or-if-i-were-and-why and fortunately is just one of many.)


Put the students into pairs or small groups. Play the song with lyrics and ask them to produce as many sentences as possible based on the lyrics. The will need to watch out for all the descriptions of cool kids and use them in sentences.

(If you have a competitive group, you can make it a competition.)


Students compare the produced sentences and check each other’s sentences.


Go back to the song and compare the cool kids from the song with the cool kids in your school. Discuss the differences and reasons behind them.

If you still have time, go back to the original video and ask if the singer is one of the cool kids or not and why they feel so. If you listen to the song again, in the second part it becomes clear that the singer is not singing from her own perspective but from a boy’s perspective, so all answers are correct here as long as they can support them.

Eurovision song contest


Ask students what their favourite songs at the moment are and what songs are topping the charts.

Talk about what makes these songs special. In groups, ask them to choose 3 songs everybody in the group likes and list what makes them so good and memorable.


List all common features of good songs from all groups and talk about them. Then show them this video:


Ask students if the video corresponds to what they thought and, if appropriate, groups write and perform a song that includes all their ideas.


Talk about the Eurovision song contest – why they watch it or not, di they agree that one of the contestants now is also Australia, what language the songs should be in etc.

Englishman in NY by Sting


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).


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.


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.


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.

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