In my previous job, I used to spend a lot of time lamenting the fact that my students never bothered to listen to any English-language media outside class. Now, I have exactly the opposite ‘problem’ – my students know so much about English-language popular culture that I’m forever trying to find lesson material they haven’t heard or seen before!
That’s where I got the idea for this lesson plan, which I built around a lesser-known song by British electro-pop group Clean Bandit. It has worked particularly well for me with teenagers, but there’s no reason you can’t use it with your adult classes – especially if your students are getting a bit complacent about their listening skills!
Level: B2 to C1 (Upper-Intermediate to Advanced)
Age: teenagers and adults
Time: 80 minutes
Materials: slide with photos, song (YouTube or MP3), 1 class worksheet + 1 homework sheet per student ––– comment for files
- By the end of the lesson, students will have understood the overall meaning of a song about moving on from an old relationship. They will do this by listening for keywords and making inferences.
- Students will also have practised meaning-building strategies (using contextual and grammatical clues to make sense of audio signals) and decoding strategies (discriminating between similar sounds).
1. Speaking: Show students a slide with two photos. Ask if they know who the two women are. Elicit or supply that one is Grace Chatto, lead singer of Clean Bandit, and the other is Louisa Johnson, winner of The X Factor 2015. Build interest by chatting a little about Clean Bandit. Do you know any of their other songs? (Symphony, Rockabye, Rather Be …)
2. Prediction: Tell students that the song is called “Tears”. What do you think the song is about? Limit this stage to 1-2 minutes, including some quick whole-class feedback.
3. Listening: Give students the worksheet, folded so they only see the top section. Students read the questions, and listen to the song once to find the answers.
4. Speaking: Students share their answers in pairs or small groups. Get some whole-class feedback, but hold back from confirming or rejecting ideas. Students will find out more about the song first, and then return to check their answers at the end of the lesson.
5. Reading: Students unfold their worksheet and look at the lyrics. Focus them on the first verse, and tell them one word in each line is incorrect. In pairs, students try to predict which words are incorrect (in the first verse only) and underline these in pencil.
6. Listening: Students now listen to the first verse and check their predictions. The first time they listen, they should underline the ONE word in each line which is NOT heard in the song. The second time, they should write the word that is sung instead.
7. Feedback: Students compare answers in pairs or small groups. Monitor to see what the problem areas are. For example, my students struggled to identify the incorrect word in line five (‘fall’). Ask context-based questions: Does the ocean fall? No. So, what does the ocean do? You can use a similar technique with line eight (‘dropped’), asking grammar/vocabulary-based questions instead. This will arm students with strategies they can use later in the song.
8. Listening: Use the same procedure to work through the rest of the song.
9. Feedback: Project or write the answers on the board. Students check. Use your notes from monitoring to focus on any problem areas, isolating these parts of the song and practising their pronunciation with students to help them understand what has happened to the sounds they expected to hear. Again, I’ll leave you to handle this stage using your preferred technique; listening methodology is pretty varied these days. You might also like to include a final listen, so students can follow along with the complete, correct lyrics.
10. Speaking: Students return to the five questions at the top of the worksheet. Now they have examined the lyrics, would they like to change any answers? Get some feedback on this, and also what they thought of the song in general. If you have time, you might also like to focus on some of the vocabulary in the song, or assign this as a homework task.
HOMEWORK: Students complete this open cloze, based on FCE and CAE Reading Part 2. (I adapted this activity from a Telegraph article on the Clean Bandit band members.)