1. Write the word “dreams” and have the students answer the following questions: – Do you like having dreams? – Do you remember your dreams? – Do you think dreams have special meanings? – Have you ever had the same dreams? – Have you ever had a dream which seemed to come true? What happened? – Do you ever daydream? – What is the best type of dream?
3. In order to find the words for the 24 gaps, the students first solve a puzzle in which they need to match the cut-out squares to make a 4×4 grid by joining word halves. The words are arranged both vertically and horizontally.
4. Depending on the level of the students, you can use different versions of the puzzle: – The first one is the most challenging by far, including a few distractors around it.
5. Once they solve the puzzle, have the students read the lyrics and fill in the blanks with the 24 words. You may want to provide extra scaffolding by having them classify the words into verbs, nouns and adjectives first. There are a few other word categories, but most of them belong to one of these.
6. Do the first two or three lines with the students, showing the kind of reasoning behind each choice, such as the word category that may be needed in each gap or context clues.
7. The students listen to the song and check their answers.
Remember that weird thing you once badly wanted for Christmas? Something you were completely sure would change your life and bring eternal happiness?
The following lesson, based on the song “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas” (John Rox, 1953), tries to recapture some of those childhood memories and associated feelings. These provide an interesting context: they are distant enough to be looked at quite comfortably, you can laugh at them with some degree of confidence, and even if they become the object of conversation in a random English lesson, we all know that memories are fallible and are often reconstructed and manipulated, don’t we?
1. Ask students to think about something they once wanted for Christmas, why they thought they really needed it, and whether they finally got it or not! You may want to have pairs talk about this for 2 or 3 minutes, and then have students talk about their classmates’ past Christmas gift wishes.
2. Tell the students they are going to reconstruct a text in which the narrator explains what he/she wants for Christmas, including the reasons for this. For the first part of the song lyrics, the students use the fireplace bricks: starting at the bottom of the fireplace above number 1, the students choose the following line by selecting one of the bricks in the row immediately above until they reach the last row at the top. Continue with 2, 3 and 4.
KEY : 1. Mom says a __ would eat me up but then / 2. teacher says a __ is a vegetarian / 3. There’s lots of room for __ in our two-car garage / 4. I’d feed __ there and wash __ there / 5. And give __ __ massage
Using the new information, allow a few minutes for students to write down what this person badly wants, providing reasons for their choice. Share a few of them with the whole group.
5. Tell the students they are now going to listen to the song and find out the answer. Ask them to fill in the blanks with the right words as they listen. “Hippopotamus”, “hippopotamuses”, “rhinoceros”, “rhinoceroses” or “crocodile” may well require some spelling work at some point, too!
6. Read this article with the students:
Discuss the following: – In your opinion, which is the weirdest Christmas gift request in the list? And the funniest? – Are any of these gift requests similar to the ones you and your classmates shared at the beginning of the lesson? – What is the weirdest Christmas present you’ve ever wanted or received? – Can any of these gift requests tell us something about a child’s personality? In what ways?
1. Write the word “rain” on the board and ask students to come up with words related to it. Write them down. Are they positive or negative? Can they sometimes be both? Why?
2. Introduce a few idioms with the word “rain” in them. The students read the definitions and write the corresponding idiom next to each of them. Then they decide whether the idiom is positive, negative, or whether the meaning can depend on the context.
KEY: 1. come rain or shine; 2. save up for a rainy day; 3. be rained in; 4. when it rains it pours; 5. right as rain; 6. rain down on (someone or something); 7. come in out of the rain
3. The students read a few lines from “Singin’ in the Rain” and complete the lyrics with them. Encourage the students to use the rhyme and the context to look for possible combinations, and tell them there might be more than one option. Have the students listen and check their answers:
Elicit what the song is about. The students circle any weather words in the lyrics and decide if they are used in a positive or negative way. Can they use any of the idioms in activity 1 to describe the song?
4. Read the information about “Singin’ in the Rain” with the students, and how it became popular with time. What if Rihanna’s “Umbrella” had appeared in the 1952 musical? The students read the lyrics of the song first and then make any necessary changes: all the words in each stanza are correct, but some of them are in the wrong order; the students look for pairs of words in each cloud and change their order so that the lines make sense.
KEY: Cloud 1: star – heart, dark – car, always – never; Cloud 2: shine-shines; together – forever; my – your; stand – stick; now – more; still – that; Cloud 3: world – fancy; together – between; cards – part; mend – hand; Cloud 4: rain – arms; be – don’t; distance – love; I’ll – all
5. Ask the students what the song is about and tell them to compare both “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Umbrella”, paying special attention to how rain is used in each of them. Introduce a few more weather idioms and have the students use these and the ones in activity 1 to write down a few comparisons.
Here’s an update on this post with six other song-based lesson plans and activities. It’s also a desperate attempt at organising the chaos on this blog! In any case, I do hope you find something useful here.
Listening for specific information
1. The students write an explanation for each of the words, names or pictures in this timeline based on “Kilkelly, Ireland”, a song in which family news, including births and deaths, are shared for a period of thirty-two years.
2.“The Marvelous Toy” is used here to get the students to extract the main idea and listen for specific information and details that will be later used to write a paragraph.
Listening for the main idea
3. Before working on an extract from Coleridge’s poem, the students become familiar with the plot of the story by listening to “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” as they put several pictures in the right order.
Working on specific reading comprehension skills
4. Parties, Story Maps and All That Jazz: the students work on comprehension skills, identifying and analysing story elements, making predictions and discussing the events in the story.
5. By making predictions, reading between the lines or establishing connections both within the text and with the world outside, the students practise a wide variety of reading comprehension skills in this lesson based on “Tom’s Diner”.
6. Students use context clues to fill in extracts from ten Halloween songs!
7. A Mad Libs song-based activity in which students will work to reconstruct the actual meaning of the text:
8. This reading and listening comprehension task will get the students analysing this song-based text using cohesive devices such as referencing:
Focusing on pronunciation
9. Using the theme song from “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”, students recognise and practise the various features of connected speech which make the stress pattern and rhythm of English so distinctive.
Practising specific structures and vocabulary
10. Adding and deleting words from texts allow students to use their grammatical knowledge to manipulate sentences, play with the language, and analyse the impact each of these changes have on meaning. In this activity, students add and delete words from two songs following certain rules.
11. In “Big Yellow Taxi”, the students find two words in each sentence which should change places with each other in order to make sense.
12. Paul Simon’s song is used here to practise reported speech structures and reporting verbs in a different way:
13. This song will provide a great context to present or revise first conditional structures, but it will also have students identify words and then sentences in the sequence of letters using grammatical, lexical and contextual clues:
14. Music Borders, which maps number 1 songs in over 3,000 places around the world, can help you to present or revise comparative and superlative structures in a meaningful way.
Revising language structures and vocabulary
Spelling, word order, context clues, inferences or sentence structure, including agreement, number or different tenses, are just some of the language skills the students will be practising in the last 6 lessons and activities:
Music Borders maps number 1 songs in over 3,000 places around the world. The sheer experience of visiting different continents and countries and listening to whatever is popular at the moment has obvious cross-curricular and interdisciplinary implications per se — probably not something we usually do, and I’m sure this largely depends on where in the world you live. So what if we used this quirky, enriching adventure as the basis for an English lesson and try to make learning the most memorable at the same time?
At its very simplest, the site can offer a great context to present or revise comparative and superlative structures. The group of students will first choose two different continents and countries and listen to the songs. As they listen, the students can complete this fact sheet about each song:
Song title: Singer/Band: Country: Continent: Language: Description:
With the song titles on the board, you can now present or review comparative structures using a number of high-frequency adjectives such as the following (but also any other adjectives the students may have come up with in the description of the song!):
loud catchy interesting good original strange happy sad beautiful slow bad unusual unique boring repetitive
And if you have students choose one or two more songs, you are now ready to practise superlative structures!
I work in a secondary school with a strong CLIL programme, and analysing similarities and differences is a common type of text the students are expected to produce across different subjects in the earlier years. As a pre-writing activity, the students can choose between two or three songs, complete the fact sheets, and fill in the sentence frames below with a few ideas. The goal here is for students to simply brainstorm a number of similarities and differences using several types of sentences that may prove useful later on at the writing stage. The students will then share their ideas orally with the rest of the group, and finally select the similarities and differences they will be focusing on in their own four-paragraph piece of writing.
Both __ and __ have __.
__ and __ are alike because __.
A similarity between __ and __ is __.
Their common characteristics include __.
They also __ as well as __.
Words and phrases that introduce additional points may be used: ‘Furthermore…’, ‘Also…’, ‘In addition…’, ‘Another similarity is…’ , “Likewise…”, “By the same token…”, etc.
___ and ___ are different because ___
___, but ___
One major difference between and ___ is ___
On the other hand, one way they differ is ___
Words and phrases that introduce contrasting points may be used: ‘However…’, ‘On the other hand…’, ‘In contrast…’, “Nevertheless..:”, “Conversely…”, “Although…”, etc.
The vast majority of my students speak Spanish as their first language. Verbs in Spanish carry enough information for subject pronouns to be most of the times unnecessary, but this is sometimes a problem with learners of English who fail to include them when references are clear enough. Although this activity will certainly help my students work on this particular feature, it was mainly designed as a reading and listening comprehension task that will get them analysing this song-based text using cohesive devices such as referencing:
Have students read the text in the box and ask them what they think the text is about, who is speaking and who they think this person is speaking to.
2. Listen to the beginning of the song until “you are yet to learn how to speak”. You may want to write it down, too: Though I know I love you / I find it hard to see how you feel about me / ‘Cause I don’t understand you / Oh you are yet to learn how to speak. Discuss the students’ choices again (the song is about a father talking to his newly-born child.)
3. Now that the context is clear, tell the students they will have to put the sentences in the spirals in the right order by writing the number in the centre. To do this, they will also need to fill in the gaps with one of four pronouns: I, you, me or we. References across the text will need to be clear to do this task successfully, and certain words will need clarifying before deciding on the right subject or object pronoun.
Notice that while most gaps have one clear answer, a few might be open to interpretation. This could lead to fruitful discussions about the text itself and its context, which is always a great opportunity to put specific comprehension strategies and skills to the test, isn’t it?
No agreement? Have the students listen to the song and check!
Here’s a song-based Mad Libs activity using Flippity, a site that lets you create lots of different games, quizzes and flashcards using Google spreadsheets:
1.Students first select one of the stories (click on the picture below to get access to the main menu):
2. Then they fill in the boxes with one word belonging to each category:
3. They click on “Show me the story”:
4. Students read the result and discuss it in pairs, small groups and finally with the whole class. Although they should be able to identify the main topic, they will immediately see some sharp dissonances! This information gap will be solved by listening for detail so they can reconstruct the actual meaning. (If they click on “Go back”, they will be able to edit the song, type in the actual words and share the final results!)
The other two “stories” are based on these two songs:
I’ve worked on this set of songs so far, but I’d appreciate any other suggestions! Apart from appropriate language and a topic you can play with, the songs should have enough content words that could be replaced to create a specific (most of the times hilarious!) effect.
If you like the activity and have any ideas, could you please write them in the comments section below, or on my Facebook and Twitter pages?
Students in this activity identify words and then sentences in the sequence of letters using grammatical, lexical and contextual clues. Notice that a few distractors have been included, such as homophones, different prepositions, articles or verb forms. The lyrics from “Count On Me” (Bruno Mars, 2010) should result from this, and listening to the song at the end of the activity is in fact the best way for students to check their answers.
Apart from introducing an engaging conversation starter or writing prompt around the theme of friendship, the text also provides a great context to present or revise first conditional structures!
“Everybody’s Changing is a song about something I think a lot of people will experience, which is when people’s lives start going different ways and you’re sitting there, thinking my friends are doing this, what am I doing? What do I do with my life? I think things like that are quite common to people and are probably more important than a lot of things that people write songs about.” (2004)
Change and finiteness are two of the main themes in “Everybody’s Changing” (Keane, 2003), topics which students should be able to relate to in different ways and around which a good reflective speaking lesson can revolve. Conversation questions such as these or these are good examples, although they may need to be adapted to the age group you’re teaching.
But why not introduce the topic by doing some language work using this song first? Here the lyrics have been broken down into 5 different grids corresponding to different parts of the song. Students write down the lyrics by using the letters on top in the columns directly below. There are a series of guidelines for them to follow:
Black squares represent spaces between words.
Each letter can only be used once, so students should be crossing out the letters as they use them.
Students should start by looking for the shorter words first, which typically belong to function words such as prepositions, articles, conjunctions or pronouns. This will then allow them to identify word categories and help them to think of the type of word they should be coming up with.
Other clues such as isolated letters, apostrophes, the position in the sentence and other context clues will help students solve the puzzle as the number of available letters falls.
The activity can be adjusted to different levels by pre-teaching a few words we may think the students will find difficult, or by adding or deleting letters in each one of the grids. As with any other similar activities, it is also important that we model the procedure before having the students work independently or in their teams. By working out the first lines together and explaining the type of thinking behind each decision to be taken, the students will soon understand the type of language skills they should be practising and will accomplish the task more efficiently. Play the song at the end so that they can check their answers!
Anagrams are words formed by rearranging the letters of a different word, as in “elbow”-“below”, “act”-“cat”, “save”-“vase”, or “stressed-dessert”. In this activity (B1/B1+) based on Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time” (1983), the students read the lyrics and try to find the forty-five anagrams that have been included. The students write their answers on the right-hand column, which also indicates the number of anagrams they are expected to find in each line.
1 said 2 me 3 tonight 4 still 5 left 6 write 7 what 8 could 9 time 10 once 11 was 12 now 13 goes 14 where 15 arms 16 there 17 miracle 18 how 19 need 20 how 21 me 22 maybe 23 last 24 feel 25 right 26 could 27 wrong 28 maybe 29 this 30 for 31 much 32 when 33 take 34 start 35 said 36 on 37 heart 38 now 39 are 40 wonderful 41 and 42 care 43 things 44 bad 45 intend
The students will be using their knowledge about grammar and vocabulary to rearrange the letters of the words whenever communication is interrupted as they read. Word categories and collocations will prove useful in some cases, spelling will be decisive in a few others, yet a good number of anagrams will be solved by focusing on meaning and thinking of words with similar letters (and which belong to the right category and with the right spelling) that might be the most appropriate for that context.
The activity is checked by having the students listen to the song at the end. Did they solve most of the anagrams? How did they solve them? Which anagram did they find the easiest? And the most difficult? Why? After checking the meaning of some of the anagrams in the song, can they now write a sentence using some of them?