Learning English with songs

Avicii – Hey Brother

I posted this song as one of the first activities on the blog. Today, sadly, we no longer have Avicii among us. RIP Avicii

I love this song  because it talks about the special bond that exists between brothers and sisters. Although I must say that I always find it very hard to watch the video because it makes me quite sad. Even so, I think it’s a great song where you can learn expressions related to daily life problems and relationships. There are two different activities, the first link is for basic levels and the second link is for intermediate.

Here is a listening activity that aims to train the listening skill of basic or low intermediate students so it doesn’t have an exam format.

Level A2

Cliff Richard & The Shadows – Summer Holiday

This is a good song for the present continuous and vocabulary related to holidays and having a good time. The first activity is a jumbled sentence listening and the second activity is a sentence completion. Level A1/A2

The Cure – Friday I’m in Love

This great song by the British band The Cure really puts one in a happy mood and I must say, that it doesn’t matter how old the song is or how many times you hear it, it’s always smashing.  Apparently the song was written in response to press criticism  accusing the group of being incapable of writing anything cheerful (if you want to know what  the press meant by this,  look for their song ‘Lullaby’, even though I don’t agree).  The meaning of the song is not clear. Some say it’s about love, some say it’s about enjoying Friday more than being in love with a person they probably meet on  this day, and some people even go a bit further in their interpretation (there may be minors reading this post, so I’ll leave this to your own imagination). Whatever conclusion you arrive at, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it anyway. There are different activities for this song. The first two are for basic levels, to learn days of the week and discriminate sounds. An intermediate level is for learning some colour idioms as well as filling the blanks with missing vocabulary from different fields.

David Bowie – The Man Who Sold the World

Here’s a song written by David Bowie back in the 70s that became very famous again when Nirvana performed their fantastic cover of it. It was hard for me to decide which version to use, because I love both of them, but since very few people know that Bowie wrote it, I eventuallydecided to use this one. The aim of this activity is to become familiar with the relative pronoun ‘who’ and to practise simple past verbs. There are two versions, one with the verbs in brackets and the second one without the verbs.

Don McLean – Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)

This beautiful tribute to Vincent Vangogh provides us with the opportunity to learn and practise vocabulary related to the art world and nature.

Level C1

ELO – When I Was a boy

This is a great song for beginners to get used to hearing the simple past.

The song I have chosen here is  a song by Jeff Lynne ‘When I was a boy’ to learn how to speak about the past, the dreams and the hopes we had as children. As the lyrics say, the person singing says that as a boy all he really wanted to do was to pick up his guitar and play music. Money wasn’t important because there were other things that made him happy, like listening to the radio and dreaming about his future.

What dreams did you have when you were a child?

Level A2

Five Finger Death Punch

The Wrong Side of Heaven

In this sing you will have to select the best option for the missing parts of the lyrics. Level Intermediate.

Kamelot – A Sailorman’s Hymn

I’ve have removed ten words related to the natural world from the lyrics of this beautiful song. As a pre-listening activity you can do the crossword that you will find below. The crossword was made on http://www.theteachercorner.net

Level B2

Katy Perry – Roar

In this activity you’ll learn some expressions and idioms related to human relationships and conflicts. Level B2 and Advanced.

Madonna – Holiday

Level A1/A2

Madonna – This Used to Be My Playground

This song by Madonna talks about a precious time in life, before reaching adulthood, when life did not have the complexities, that unfortunately seem to come into existence as one gets older.  It’s a good way to practise the structure ‘used to be’ to speak about things that belonged to the past and no longer happen. In this activity you will also have the opportunity to brush up on other structures that use ‘used to’.

Level B1-B2

Muse – Uprising

Muse image from Wikipedia

I love this song! Gives one such a feeling of power recharges batteries. Maybe you like it as much as I do, so you might enjoy doing this listening activity and at the same time, finding out the meaning of some idioms and synonyms. First do the pre-listening activity and after you can do the sentence completion.

The Police – Message in a Bottle

This is a pre-listening activity for B1 levels of English although lower levels could also answer the questions related to future tenses.
The aim of the activity is to brush up on future tenses and to learn new vocabulary as well as revising vocabulary that is often confused.
Once this activity has been completed, you can do the listening activity. Level B1

Simply Red – If You Don’t Know Me by Now

The British pop/soul band, Simply Red covered this song in 1989 and it became their second best-known hit after reaching number 1 in U.S. The original track was recorded in 1972 by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.

Here the aim of listening to this song is to become aware of the first conditional, which is actually in the title of the song. You will also be able to revise some of the vocabulary from A2 such as personal adjectives and pronouns among some of the most important content. The song also has some very useful expressions  related to a romantic relationship between a couple that are having an argument. Although it is a very old song, I chose it because it is easy to understand, but as I always say to my students, be careful with some of the expressions that are grammatically incorrect – like double negatives- but are often used in colloquial speech.

Level A2

Sleeping at last – I’ll Keep You Safe

A great way to learn English is watching a film, but the thing is, how many of us have the time to watch films these days? I mean, I can hardly remember the last time I was able to relax on my settee with this intention, let alone watching one in a foreign language!

Why not try listening to music? It’s easy and fun. You can do this, working, cooking, driving, walking the dog, writing or whatever (as long as it doesn’t make you get up and start dancing). Music can also teach us structures that we need to get our tongues around, and a great number of songs have really catchy tunes that we’ll enjoy trying to understand and even learn.

Here I’ve exploited the soundtrack from the movie Up by Disney. The song is I’ll Keep you Safe by Sleeping at last. It´s a wonderful song along with a beautiful video (watch out! It could make you quite emotional! ) and although the title is great for dealing with ‘will’ used for promises, here  I’ve exploited it to practise some of the English sounds and to help students become more familiar with phonetic symbols. If you haven’t  seen anything about phonetics yet, you may want to brush up a bit on them before doing the activity (you’ll find plenty of introductory activities if you click on the menu Phonetics and English sounds).

Definitely, present-day duties just don’t seem to understand our needs, do they? So, unless we can plug vocabulary, stress patterns and pronunciation into our brains just like those guys did in The Matrix, we’ll need a backup plan.

Anyway, hope you enjoy the lesson.

PS If you don’t see me around much lately, it’s just that I’m SO STRESSSSSSSSSSSSSEDDDD OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUT!!!!!!!!!!!

Three Days Grace – I Am Machine

Three Days Grace Image from Wikipedia

Here’s a sad song by this heavy rock band that was formed during the 90s. First do the pre-listening activity for idioms, phrasal verbs and dependent prepositions that appear in the song.

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