Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Pop lyrics and language teaching

I've always been a great fan of pop and rock music. Since a great deal of it is in English, this also means that I've had a lot of language input. I still remember searching for my favourite lyrics as a teenager - back then that meant you had to put a tape in your cassette recorder and wait patiently for your radio station to play November Rain. AND THEN you had to listen to it over and over and transcribe the lyrics, pressing that pause button till your finger bled. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Not only did I learn the lyrics by heart, I was also developing my listening skills and paying attention to language in general.

Now, of course, the Internet has changed everything. But it shouldn't have to be for the worse. Teenagers still love music and even though all of their favourite songs and lyrics are a click away, you can still use this to your advantage in the classroom. Since they don't have to go to great lengths to get their favourite lyrics, they probably pay less attention to them, but that's what you're here for! You can make them pay attention by preparing pre-, while- and/or post-listening activities of different kinds, and since they have to do all kinds of handouts anyway, I'm sure they'd much rather do it if all of it is somehow connected to their favourite music.




Here are some of the activities you could do with pop lyrics:

  • Pre-listening activities: predicting the lyrics based on the title; guessing the song title after listening to karaoke version; guessing the song title after you dictate a list of words that appear in the song (in random order); your own ideas.
  • While-listening activities: gap fills (the gaps could be random or focusing on a specific area of grammar or vocabulary); drawing; writing down new vocabulary items; singing along; your own ideas.
  • Post-listening activities: paraphrasing bits of lyrics; writing summaries; writing their own similar lyrics with the same song title; adding verses; doing mind maps; singing; your own ideas.
As for the songs you choose to play in your classroom, make them school and age appropriate. Even if you're the biggest fan of death metal there is, I would advise against using it. We get it, you love it, but your students may not. It also goes the other way around: you may not like Beyoncé, but your students probably do and if you find lyrics that would fit into your lesson, use them. Just don't use any booty shaking videos. :)

Here are some lyrics that I've used in the past - I love lyrics for teaching/revising grammar:

Lenka - Everything at Once: great for teaching similes




Beyoncé - If I Were A Boy: packed with conditionals


Caro Emerald - Stuck: indefinite pronouns
Adele - Someone Like You: indefinite pronouns
Gotye & Kimbra - Somebody That I Used To Know: indefinite pronouns and modal verbs





Mr Probz - Waves: I prefer the slower version since it's easier to use for listening activities; I use it for the Present Continuous Tense


video



Kelly Clarkson - Breakaway: Will Future


And in honour of my childhood memories: GNR - November Rain


I hope this comes in handy. If you have any more useful suggestions for the classroom, I'd be very grateful! Till then - in then words of Jerry Springer - take care of yourselves and each other. 


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