Category Archives: Music

Phones and Music: a Superb Combination

Funny thing! Every single year, no matter the level I’m teaching one of my lessons is  dedicated, without fail, to mobile phones.

This year, in November, I published a lesson for my B2 (upper-intermediate) students (lesson here) and now, it seems to be the turn of my B1 (intermediate) students.

This year my lessons about this topic seem to revolve around Adele’s hit “Hello”. Hey! What else did you expect? It’s not like every single year we have a song with
so many scenes where the leading actor is the mighty mobile phone. We certainly need to take advantage of this. Besides, I love Adele.

The lesson

This lesson is  aimed at students with a language level of B1 and focuses on discussing, reading and writing about mobile phones.There is also some general phone vocabulary and a song.

 

Warm-up: Speaking. Ask students as a whole class some of these questions.

  • What do you use your mobile phone for?
  • Have you ever lost your mobile phone?
  • How many text messages do you send every day?
  • Would you say you’re addicted to your mobile or the Internet?
  • Have you ever…?
  1. lost you phone?
  2. sent a message to the wrong person?
  3.  forgotten to turn your phone off/set to silent or vibrate mode (with embarrassing                      consequences)?

Teaching Vocabulary. You might want to show the slides twice to consolidate vocabulary. I would suggest doing it a third time at the end of the lesson.

Conjunto de Fichas creado con GoConqr por cristina.cabal

The song.
Warm-up. Students are going to listen to a song, so it may be a good idea to get them into the right mood by introducing the activity in a lively way.
Don’t tell students just yet we are going to listen to a song. After revising the vocabulary from the previous exercise, make a long pause until you have all the students staring at you, and say “hello”; I assume everybody should say “hello”. Pause again. Say “Adele”. I bet half the class would add “It’s me”. There you are! The perfect introduction!
(you might want to remind students that to introduce yourself over the phone “ It’s “ or “this is” are used ie. It’s Adele (speaking)/ this is Adele (speaking))

Task 1. Give students a list of words or expressions from the song. Give them some time to read them. If necessary, review how to pronounce the most difficult words. Depending on your class, you might want to keep the words in the order they are going to hear them or if you want a bigger challenge you can shuffle them and/or add some words that are not in the lyrics. Play the song and ask students to cross off the words as they hear them. Play the song once or twice depending on how challenging you want  the activity to be.
Handout here

 

Task 2.  Give students a photocopy with the lyrics of the song and ask them to sing/read along focusing on pronunciation.

Handout here

Reading and writing. Ask students to read online “7 strange stories of lost cell phones”  from the website mentalfloss.com and write a similar short story about something strange, funny or unusual that happened to them using their mobile phones.

Teaching with Adele’s “Hello”

Should I say “hello” in class, everybody would say “hello”, but if I added “Adele”, I bet most of my students would answer “it’s me”. Who, in this planet, hasn’t heard Adele’s new single a thousand times already? And this is good, believe me, at least for teaching purposes. I’ve always found it easier to do songs students are already familiar with as once they know the melody, they are further motivated to work with the lyrics. Mindful of the fact that one of the most important ingredients in learning a language is motivation, what could be more motivating than singing along Adele’s song now that it is being played everywhere?

THE ACTIVITY

Level. B2 (Advanced)

Time required: 30 to 40 minutes

Materials: teacher’s handout here, students’s handout here

Warming Up:

Show a picture of Adele and elicit any information they might know about her and her music. Offer some information about the song they are about to hear.

Adele is a British singer and songwriter. Her two previous albums, 19 and 21, have earned the artist numerous awards. Now, she has just released her third album 25 and the song Hello is the first single from the album. The song is a soul piano ballad that talks about nostalgia and regret and plays out like a conversation. Hello is the first song to sell over one million digital copies within one week of its release in the USA. (source Wikipedia)

Step 1. Introducing telephone vocabulary

Play from the beginning until 0:27 and ask students to tell you what Adele is saying when she is on the phone. Write on the board:

I’ve just got here, and I think I’m losing signal already. Hello? Can you hear me now? Sorry. I’m sorry, I’m — Sorry

Focus on the expression “losing signal”. Do students know what it means? Elicit vocabulary they know related to using the phone and write it on the board.

Step 2. Vocabulary handout

Hopefully students will know most of the words and expressions you are going to give them. Give students the handout and ask them to do Exercise 1.

Ask students to share their answers in pairs and then go over the answers as a class.

Step 3. The video: telling the story.

Tell students they are going to watch the video without sound; their task will be to narrate the story in the video focusing on using the vocabulary they have just learnt.

Ask students to work in pairs, student A and student B. The video lasts about 6 minutes.  Student A will face the board and will tell student B, who is sitting with his back to the board, in as much detail as possible the story in the video for the first three minutes. Then, they change roles and student B does the same from 3.00 to 6.06. Encourage students to use the targeted vocabulary. Make sure everyone understands the activity and demonstrate if necessary.

Step 4.  Focusing on the lyrics

Students listen to the song and their task will be to find the following:

  • a verb meaning  to desire to know something.
  • three phrasal verbs.
  • an informal contraction that some people consider incorrect.
  • an idiomatic expression meaning to be lucky, successful and greatly admired.
  • a modal+ perfect infinitive
  • an idiomatic expression meaning to cause someone great emotional pain.
  • a combination that goes against grammar, but which is very common in casual registers.
  • an idiomatic expression meaningto achieve a goal, to be successful.

Ask students to compare their answers in pairs. Play the video a second time. Go over answers as a class.

Step 5. Singing along

Give students the lyrics and ask them to sing along. Should you have shy students, encourage them to shadow read. It might be good idea, at this stage, to remind students that listening to songs will help them improve pronunciation, listening and understanding of the English language.

The content of the lyrics is open to interpretation. Some people say it’s  about a failed love relationship, some others argue that it is about Adele’s relationships with everybody she loves and cannot be with; others, on the other hand, claim it is Adele’s  conversation with her old self before she became famous.

Which interpretation do you fancy?

 

A Little Bit of Thriller on Halloween

Raise your hand if you have never seen Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. No hands? Right! Just what I thought! You might like it or not, but what is undeniable is that this video has become a classic.

I was racking my brains about the activity I could give my students for Halloween this year when suddenly the image of the undead rising out from their graves in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” appeared in my mind out of nowhere. Yeah! I know! Weird!

A spooky video but also a masterpiece. I hope you enjoy the activity and also the homework.

Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Time required: about 60 minutes

SETTING THE  ATMOSPHERE.

Ask students some of these questions:

  • Do you believe in ghosts? Do you know any stories about ghosts?
  • Has anything ever happened to you that you cannot explain?
  • Do you believe that vampires or zombies  exist?
  • What is the most frightening experience you have had?

THE VIDEO.

Pdf of the lesson here.

Ask students if they know who Michael Jackson was. Can they name any of his songs? Most probably students will know who Michael Jackson was and will probably mention the song “Thriller”. If you deem it appropriate, give students some information about this video, like for example, that it was voted the most influential pop video of all time.

More information about the video here.

The video lasts about 13 minutes. It is going to be divided into two parts, with a different task for each part .

 

TASK 1. Dictation (from the beginning to 4.40)

Tell students they are going to see the first part of the video where there is a dialogue between Michael Jackson and his girlfriend. Half the class will take Michael’s role and half the class the girl’s role.

  • Have the students work in pairs. Half the pairs in the class will write down the part of Michael Jackson and the other half the part of the girlfriend.
  • I suggest you give students the beginning of the dialogue as M. Jackson’s first sentence might be difficult to understand.

Jackson: Honestly, we’re out of gas.

Girlfriend: So, what are we going to do now?

  • You might need to play it twice.
  • Students help each other complete the dialogue
  • Pair students once again, this time you want to pair a student with Michael’s part and a student with the girlfriend’s part.
  • Ask students to act it out.

TASK 2. The Song (from 4.40 until the end)

Write/display the following words on the board and ask students to guess meanings. Explain if necessary and drill pronunciation.

Download the pdf with the activity here

  • Play the video once.

Play the song and ask students to fill in the gaps with the words in the box. Words can be used more than once.

  • Play the video a second time

Students complete task 1 and try to fill in the blanks for the words in phonemic transcription.

  • Check and listen again to enjoy the video and maybe… sing along?

TASK 3. The homework

I am well aware that I won’t be able to check this homework and I am  also pretty sure  my students, which are all adults, won’t be volunteering to show how much they have learnt from doing this homework, but I guess that at home they will be having a  great time and that’s important too. Enjoy!

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Songs to Practise Listening

I am one of those you can see driving and tapping the steering wheel while singing at the top of their voices. I am also the kind who sings in the shower and while pedalling in the spinning class. Yes, I should probably say that music runs through my veins:)

Some students ,at the end of the course ,  have asked me for some extra listening practice .I guess they are worried they might become unskilled at an ability they have worked so hard to improve , and it is perfectly understandable.  You might not agree  with me here , and it obviously depends on the student,but to those who pass exams with flying colours I always recommend  that they listen to music ,  read the lyrics,sing along and have fun while still practising their listening and pronunciation skills.  It’s good practice and it is also good for your health. Come on! If you have passed , don’t you think you deserve a break?

Now,while  I am not trying to talk anybody into listening a certain kind of music, it is pretty obvious that some songs are less than adequate for this practise. This is my selection . Have a very happy summer! I’ll be back in October!








Happy!!! :)

Hey guys! I have a fun video to share with you and it is about my region ,Asturias ” natural paradise”.
I guess  by now, everybody has heard and maybe moved their head to the rhythm of the catchy tune of the song “Happy” from Pharrell Williams . It seems it is everywhere , on TV , on the radio… well, now this contagious song in on my blog , too.
The reason..? I couldn’t jut let the opportunity of showing you my capital city Oviedo pass up. The video from the song Happy that the singer recorded has generated spontaneous imitation all over the world . There are lots of cities around the world (over 900 right now, I think) copying the original and Oviedo had to contribute with its own four minutes and six seconds ‘ allegation of happiness.Hope you enjoy it!
Think Happy. Be Happy

Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

HAPPY EASTER!!

Using a Song to Revise Vocab Related to Fashion

This song will fit like a glove if you are learning/teaching a Fashion- and- Clothes related semantic field.
This song You Look Good on Me is performed by Natasha Bedingfield, one of my favourite singers, and though I don’t think she had English teachers on her mind when she wrote it, the thing is that it is just perfect for teaching fashion and clothes related vocabulary. So, this is how I am planning to use it with my intermediate students- nothing to write home about, really. I intend to play the song as a revision exercise, so my students will already be familiar with most of the words/expressions in the song.

First and Second Time– they listen to the song twice without seeing the lyrics and in pairs they will have to write down as many words as they identify, related to the above- mentioned semantic field. Students, in turns, say the words or expressions they’ve jotted down and explain them to the rest of the class while I write them on the board for everybody to see.

Once this is done, I’ll write on the board the words/expressions they‘ve missed and ask students to explain the meaning of them.

♥Finally I’ll give them the lyrics or display them with OHP ( we need to save the planet, don’t we? – even though it is a small drop in the ocean, it is still something)

Here’s the song

 

Here are the lyrics

Da da da da da da
Oo oo oo
Da da da da da da

Goin’ on a shopping spree
Pick something out to look good on me
I want quality
Not quantity
Want a classic
Not a trend
Casual yet still high end
I know what I want
and I’m not afraid to spend

So if you
Fit me tight but let me breathe
Let me wear your heart on my sleeve
Be the thread that winds the seams
You could look so good on me
Fit me like a second skin
My favourite jeans that I could live in
Wouldn’t need accessories
You would look so good on me

I’m checking out
Goods on display
Don’t play it safe or too risque
I’m done window shopping
I’m ready to pay
I’m going up
Fifth floor
The best stuff’s in store
Cos that’s where they keep
What every girl would die for

So if you
Fit me tight but let me breathe
Let me wear your heart on my sleeve
Be the thread that winds the seams
You could look so good on me
Fit me like a second skin
My favourite jeans that I could live in
Wouldn’t need accessories
You would look so good on me

ahh ahh ahhh
da da da da da da

ahh ahh ooo

Everything’s perfect
When you’re looking through the glass
The colours can fade as seasons pass
This time I wanna, wanna nail them to the mast

Fit me tight but let me breathe
Let me wear your heart on my sleeve
Be the thread that winds the seams
You could look so good on me
Fit me like a second skin
My favourite jeans that I could live in
Wouldn’t need accessories
You would look so good on me

Fit me tight but let me breathe
Let me wear your heart on my sleeve
Be the thread that winds the seams
You could look so good on me
Fit me like a second skin
My favourite jeans that I could live in
Wouldn’t need accessories
You would look so good on me

Typing Phonetic Symbols

It’s six o’clock in the morning and already awake. Bugger! Today is the day I don’t have to teach first period but my mind doesn’t seem to know and has already decided it’s time I get down to some serious work so I’ve decided to turn on my computer and listen to the amazing voice of this guy ,James Arthur , apparently the winner of the XFaxtor. I am not a follower of this programme but the truth be told I think he’s got that kind of voice I could fall in love with and, to top it all, I have just heard his version of the song “I’m sexy and I Know it” originally sung by Lmfao and I can’t hardly believe it’s the same song. Well, I just wanted you to know.

Anyway, I wanted to share with you this tool that can come quite handy when working with phonetics .You can find it in a blog called Random Idea English, which is worth a visit. Here’s what it looks like ; you just need to type and copy/paste. Here’s the link .Easy peasy!

Here’s the song and the guy I was telling you about. By the way, he is also the one singing the latest hit “Impossible”

A Five-Minute Activity to Bring Music into the Classroom

Wouldn’t you like to be listening  to the latest hit on the radio and find out that you are able to understand the lyrics? Wow!!! Don’t you, every now and then,  sing along even though you can only remember some  of the words from the chorus and you don’t have the slightest clue about what it means? I’m sure you do! We have all been there!

But time flies and the course is short  and even though I feel listening to a song can be as good as doing a traditional listening comprehension exercise  the truth is that dedicating 20 minutes to a song never seems to fit into my lesson plan .

The idea is to bring music into the class as often as possible but without this activity taking too much time off my lessons. My focus in this five- minute-maximun activity will be on teaching  vocabulary – a structure , an idiomatic expression, a phrasal verb or a certain word. The idea is to help students  improve their listening skills and pronunciation, as well as teaching vocabulary.

In this song, we focus on the verb “to try”.

STEPS

♥Orally introduce the word you want students to learn by giving examples and asking them to infer the meaning. In the case of the verb “to try” I might want to teach the structure: Try+inf

♥Choose a song that contains the word or words you want to teach

♥Crop the video with, for example, tubechop; remember you don’t want to play the whole song .

♥First time: Students listen to the cropped video and identify when, in the song, the highlighted word(s) has been used -they can raise their hand when they hear the target word(s) .

♥ Second time: students do a fill- in- the- gaps exercise or a spot- the -mistakes exercise with the lyrics.

♥ Third time: students sing along; yes, why not? It’s  a very good pronunciation exercise!!!

♥ HOMEWORK: Now, very important, students need to go home and write a sentence containing the highlighted word(s). Ask for volunteers to translate the cropped song .

My Fill in the Blanks

DESIRE,DIE,GET UP, SOMETIMES,SOMEONE’S, LIES,WONDER,JUST

Ever _____ about what he’s doing
How it all turned to ______
__________ I think that it’s better to never ask why

Where there is ____
There is gonna be a flame
Where there is a flame
____ bound to get burned
But ______ because it burns
Doesn’t mean you’re gonna _____
You’ve gotta _____ and try try try
Gotta ……

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A Word on Grammar: Think Of,About, On or In?

If you must ask, yes, it’s still raining in Asturias; raining and freezing cold but…I have to say that this is unusual weather for this time of the year. So, if you are considering holidaying in this part of the world, don’t cross it off just yet; the weather must definitely improve this week ( it can’t get any worse).

The idea for this post came while dozing off on the sofa watching the new (probably not so new now for some of you) James Bong film SkyFall. I suddenly came wide awake when , in the film, M’s computer is hacked and a THINK ON YOUR SINS is displayed on her computer. This single preposition got me thinking … how, in the name of God, are my students supposed to learn English prepositions? Thus, I decided to write this post, about the tricky English prepositions.

Think Of/ About. Most of the times you can use both when talking about people. So: I’m thinking of you and I am thinking about you mean pretty much the same.

But

-Think about. You use think about with the meaning “consider”:

I need to think about this problem

Think of. You use think of   with two meanings

  1. when you are “asking somebody’s opinion”.

What do you think of my sister’s boyfriend?

2. Or with the meaning “to imagine”

It is hot! I am thinking of lying on the beach eating a big ice-cream.

I also very often use the expression Come to think of it…

 

On the other hand, both Think On and Think In are less used.

♥Think On is a bit archaic and it is much close to the meaning of think about 

Think on your sins

Think in is very easy to differentiate as it is only used with the verb to speak

Do you think in Spanish when you speak in English?

I hope it is helpful! Now if you want to relax after this boring explanation, enjoy the soundtrack of this film, performed by the great Adele.

Love is in the Air!!!

Happy Valentine’s Day Week!  Love is in the air….and all that!

I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s day, maybe because I’m Spanish and well into my forties, and  in Spain, in a small village in the north  and in the 80’s, we never ever heard of a special day to celebrate love. But I don’t want to be a party pooper here  so I always get into my best mood to do an activity related to this special day in the Anglo culture.

On Monday , Gotye’s song “Somebody that I Used to Know” was awarded a Grammy for the record of the year. Needed a better excuse to play the song? Yes, but I’ve got it!! It contains irregular past verbs, something I am currently working with and also a great  opportunity to introduce “used to”. … the only catch is that the song is about breaking up and not about perfect love… but you can’t have it all guys! So, off we go!

Used to= Explanation here

Used to = Exercises here

Worksheet for the song  here

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