Hitting the Right Note:
Extending the Theme of Your Song Activity #4

2013_Heyer_Sandra Sandra Heyer

One way to extend the lessons in True Stories Behind the Songs and More True Stories Behind the Songs is to follow up each unit with a supplemental song that connects to the theme of the unit, plus an activity to go with the supplemental song. Each month I’ll share a song-based activity that has worked well with my beginning and high-beginning students.

This month, let’s look at some examples of song choices and building a lesson around a repeated phrase.

There is a lot of repetition in song lyrics. A song’s refrain, for example, might be repeated several times, or a particular phrase might recur throughout a song. When the repeated material is a common idiom, phrasal verb, or grammatical form, you can capitalize on the repetition by using it as a teaching tool. Consider these examples of repeated phrases in Beatles songs:

  • “We Can Work It Out” repeats the idiomatic phrasal verb work out eight times.
  • “With a Little Help from My Friends” repeats the idiomatic phrasal verb get by five times.
  • “Here Comes the Sun” (the featured song in Unit 1 of True Stories Behind the Songs) repeats the expression all right six times.
  • “Anytime at All” repeats the expression at all thirteen times.

You can simply call students’ attention to the repeated phrase, explaining its meaning and use, or you can expand the lesson even further by adding an activity that focuses on the phrase.

How to Create a Lesson Around a Repeated Phrase in 4 Easy Steps:

Step 1: Choose a song with a repeated phrase worth learning, and copy the lyrics from the Internet. (You could highlight the phrase in boldface or color.)
Step 2: Call students’ attention to the phrase, explaining its meaning and use.
Step 3: Students listen to the song while reading the lyrics.
Step 4:  Whenever possible, spin off an activity based on the phrase.

The theme of Unit 3 in True Stories Behind the Songs is “Miracles and Memories.” Both stories in the unit are about young men—one a soldier and the other a motorbike racer—who had temporary amnesia. So Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You” is an appropriate supplemental song.

Example 1: Building a lesson around the future form with will
The song “I Will Remember You” repeats these sentences four times:
I will remember you.
Will you remember me?

Tell students that will (as opposed to going to) is customarily used for making promises. Point out that the singer is promising to remember someone. Then have them listen to the song while reading the lyrics. Below are two possible follow-up activities.

1. A Person I Will Always Remember
Have students draw a picture of someone they will always remember. Under their drawing, they complete this sentence:

A person I will always remember is __________________ because ______________________________________.

They then share their drawing and their writing in a small group. Alternately, you could ask students to draw a picture of a happy event they will always remember, write about it, and share their drawing and writing in a small group. (Please see p. 27 in True Stories Behind the Songs for writing prompts to go with the “happy memory” drawing.)

Note: The Draw-Write-Share activity was described in greater detail in last month’s newsletter. Please see the archived article for more examples of song-based Draw-Write-Share activities.

2. What Will You Bring to the Party?
In this activity, students practice making statements and asking questions using the future form with will. Tell your students: Imagine we are going to have a party. We will all bring food. What will you bring? Begin the activity by saying what you will bring—for example, I will bring potato chips. (Or I’ll bring potato chips.) Then ask a student, What will you bring? After that student answers, he/she asks another student, What will you bring? That student in turn asks another student, until everyone in the class has said what they promise to bring to the party. You could extend the activity even further by asking students to write from memory, in full sentences, what everyone will bring to the party. The person with the most correct sentences could win a small prize.

Alternately, you could play the Memory Circle game with sentences beginning I will…Sitting in a circle, the students state not only what they will bring to the party, but what the students who answered before them will bring. (Please see p. 92 in the To the Teacher section of True Stories Behind the Songs for step-by-step instructions for the Memory Circle game.)

Just for fun, the class could also watch the official music video for “I Will Remember You” on YouTube.

The featured song in Unit 3 of More True Stories Behind the Songs is “Lean on Me,” and the theme of the unit is “Someone to Lean On.” So the theme song from the movie Toy Story, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” is a perfect supplemental song.

Example 2: Building a lesson around the expression have got
The phrase you’ve got is repeated in the song twelve times.
You’ve got a friend in me.
You’ve got a friend in me.
When the road looks rough ahead,
And you’re miles and miles
From your nice warm bed.
You just remember what your old pal said.
Boy, you’ve got a friend in me.
Yeah, you’ve got a friend in me…

Explain to your students that you’ve got = you have. (Have is generally used in questions and negative statements; the contracted form of have + got is used mostly in affirmative statements in informal spoken English.) After students listen to the song while reading the lyrics, further explain that I’ve got = I have. Then practice the expression I’ve got.

While your students are occupied with something else, walk around the classroom and move their personal items, placing one student’s pen on another student’s desk, for example, or putting one student’s backpack under another student’s chair.  Students find their missing items by asking Who has my ________? or by guessing who has them. (Araceli, do you have my ________?) The student who has the missing item says I’ve got it and returns it to its owner.

Just for fun, students can watch the opening credits to the movie Toy Story on YouTube.

Tip: Have you found a great song with a recurring grammatical form and are now looking for a follow-up activity? For ideas, go to AzarGrammar.com and click on Classroom Materials, where you will find worksheets and activities organized by level and topic. On that website, there are also ready-to-go “Song Lessons” based on grammatical forms found in selected songs.