A few days ago, I was very happy to be contacted by Matthew Ray, in order to start a great project we are calling “More than 140.” We hope you will follow the hashtag #MoreThan140, as well as our blogs and youtube channels (links are provided after the video).
Watch the video to find out more about our project:
Vodpod videos no longer available.
***Update: We are working on figuring out how to upload wetoku/vodpod videos to youtube. In the meantime, the videos will be hosted on vodpod, which you can access by clicking here.
I love using different kinds of texts in my lessons, I have mentioned poetry and literature before – so now I will share with you a lesson plan I made about five years ago, using the song Clocks by British band Coldplay (which is also one of my favourite songs by them).
People who know me, know that they are one of my favourite bands – I love their music and the lyrics are great! (As a devoted fan I have all their CDs, but have not been to one of their concerts…yet!)
The students I have used this song with so far have really enjoyed it. (Depending on the group of students I may or may not use all of the activities. I usually use it for upper-intermediate or advanced students.)
Here are the lyrics:
Clocks by Coldplay
(from their CD A Rush of Blood to the Head)
The lights go out and I can’t be saved
Tides that I tried to swim against
Have brought me down upon my knees
Oh I beg, I beg and plead singing
Come out of things unsaid
Shoot an apple off my head
And a trouble that can’t be named
A tiger’s waiting to be tamed singing
Confusion never stops
Closing walls and ticking clocks
Gonna come back and take you home
I could not stop that you now know singing
Come out upon my seas
Cursed missed opportunities
Am I a part of the cure,
Or am I part of the disease? Singing
You are (x6)
And nothing else compares (x3)
Home, home where I wanted to go (x4)
These are the tasks I used with them and usually one thing leads to another and might not even be on the lesson plan, which makes things even more interesting! It is fantastic to see what the students come up with every time. As with poetry, each person perceives things differently – it gives rise to amazing discussions and excellent language circulates in the classroom!
1. What is the general feeling of the song, when you look at the lyrics? Does anything change when you listen to the music? (This can be a pre- and post- listening task.)
2. Why do you think the lights go out and he is swimming against tides? What do these symbolise?
3. Who do you think the you is when the singer says you are? Use your imagination to think what that person is and why the singer does not complete the sentence.
4. Explain these words and phrases from their context and/or find synonyms. (As a teacher, I love it when we play with vocabulary!)
a. to bring somebody down
b. to plead
c. to tame
5. What do these words symbolise in your opinion, and what feelings do they render?
a. the tiger
b. the apple
c. closing walls
d. ticking clocks
e. my seas
6. What do you think the singer means with …Am I a part of the cure, or am I part of the disease?(Here they can point out things like word contrast, allegory and so on.)
The things you can do in class with songs are countless. If you have any other ideas to add, please feel free to do so!
Here are the lesson ideas in a Word document: Clocks by Coldplay. Let me know how they worked, should you use them!
Usually before my next class with any level of students I prepare them a little bit about what is to follow. For instance, if I decide that the lesson will be about Martin Luther King, I may tell them a little about him or the Civil Rights Movement. This day, though, was going to be different from all the rest. I was still teaching in Greece then. I said goodbye to my students and that I would see them next time and they looked puzzled. “What, you’re not telling us about next time?” “No, I would like the next lesson to be a surprise and I would like to see what you will make of the specific lesson completely on your own”, I told them. “What is it? A poem, a song?” they insisted. “Well, forgive me but I would prefer not to tell you”, I said.
So the next lesson came. It was with two teenage students of an advanced level. I greeted them and told them we would start immediately by listening to something from a CD. I pressed the play button and suddenly Bruce Springsteen was heard singing his song Born in the USA.
I let it play until the end and the kids had the lyrics in front of them, but I could still see their frustration at the song and they were looking at each other in a “What is this?” kind of way. When the song ended, one of them, a really polite boy, said: “Sorry Miss Vicky, but this was the worst choice of a song. What can we possibly analyze about this song? That he is proud of his country, the USA that wage wars in various parts the world?” So I let them talk to me and vent their frustration. “Yeah”, said the girl of the pair. “So okay, he is feeling patriotic. What for, though?” she said. Quite a while passed by and the kids were telling me, in fantastic English throughout the lesson, how frustrated they had felt at listening to the song, how Bruce Springsteen could have written such a song and how he could feel proud about events like the Vietnam War. The kids were raising extremely persuasive arguments and using the most beautiful vocabulary they had learnt. So, I decided to tell them the real deal.
I started to explain Springsteen’s background – that he comes from a working-class Jewish family and that the title and lyrics of the song were actually ironic towards the policy of the USA, with reference to the Vietnam War and the welfare system that was not working and all those things that made the singer feel frustrated with what people were going through at the time. The kids were so interested and surprised and we had a wonderful discussion based on the song. They came up with some fantastic questions and we even pretended to take an interview from Bruce Springsteen, coming up with the questions we would ask him. We talked about how it was to be a part of working-class America at that time. What really satisfied me was that the students were very intrigued by the history behind the song. They loved it so much, that they asked me to bring more of this kind of songs, for the reason that they said “it made them think”. They did think, they did learn and they used a great part of the vocabulary they had assimilated until then.
So the next song I took into class was Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”…