Friday, 30 November 2018

Talk to the Stars, Class Idea


Image result for whitney houstonNot so long ago I was driving along, at my usual pedestrian pace, singing as if I were the star of diva. It soon occured to me that perhaps I wasn't Whitney Houston reincarnated. I was, and am, in fact a 34 year old bearded English teacher whose range when it comes to singing isn't even close to that of the late great songstress. Anyway, I decided instead of singing along I'd simply ask Whitney some question, which she could then answer from beyond the grave. 
Between the point of laughter and annoyance my wonderful lady wife told me that what I was doing would be a good activity for the students in my class. From that moment on it crept into my classroom. First as a filler and later I developed it into a full hour long (or longer) class. I've since presented the idea at a couple of conferences and a nuimber of language academies. Each time the feedback has been great, upon using it with their classes a number of teachers have got back to me and told me it has been very motivating for their students. 

It is particularly good for question formation but it's also great for using more natural language.

The way I've developed the class is as follows. I'll give instructions and examples.


  • Split the class into 2 groups. 

Get each group to come up with as many different musical genres as possible in 2 minutes.
Next students come up with as many artists as they can.  (Encourage students to use language of disappointment at this stage "ohh yeah, of course" or "I can't believe I didn't get that one." It's a great opportunity to work on their tone)

  • Now split the class into pairs. 

Students then come up with a list of their favourite songs of all time. Allow 3 or for minutes.
Ask each group for a top 3 songs and get them to expalin to another pair as to why they like those songs and what they are about.

These two warmer activities should take between 10 and 15 minutes.


  • When everyone has finished discussing their favourite songs get each pair to choose one of their top 3 and write it on the board.   
Have a vote amonst the students as to which song they want to work on throughout the next section of the class.  

  • I'm going to pretend my class voted for  I have nothing  by Whitney Houston. I have nothing They usually go for something like Perfect by Ed Sheeran, or Happier, by Ed Sheeran. And sometimes Photograph...... by Ed Sheeran.
  • The next step depends on whether you have a multilingual class or a mono lingual class. I teach in Spain and thus the class is monolingual.  I next get the students to take the first (or any) 5 or six lines and translate them one by one. SO they can fully understand the meaning of the song. 

Share my life
Compartir mi vida
Take me for what I am
Tomame por lo que soy
'cuase I'll ne ver change
Porque nunca voy a cambiar 
All My coulours for you
Todos mis colores para ti



The translation may not be 100% accuate and there may be phrasal verbs or phrases that don't always work in the students´given tongue but it does give them a general idea of what the song is about and what the singer is trying to say. 

  • The fun really begins now as you tell them they're going to interview the celebrity. They have to (as a group) come up with questions that will be answered by each line of the song. This is a wonderful place to introduce some more natural language and make the activity more exciting. 
Here is a quick example. You need to be ready with your youtube link queued to pause and un pause giving the celebrity a chance to answer. 

"Hi, Whitney, thanks for joining us today. I've got a few little questions for you. Firstly, what would you like me to do?"

(Unpause) Share my life

"Wow, we've only just met that's very forward. What should I take you for?"

(unpause) Take me for what I am.

"I'll bear that in mind, Is there something you'll never do?"

(unpause) 'Cause I'll never change

"Change what exactly, and for whom?"

(unpause) All my colours for you.

You get the gist. Rather than simply working on the questions it really helps students become more natural. I also did it with Adele's hit Hello, in the form of a phone call. 

  • When you've gone through the activity with the class, the next step is to let the students go off on their own and work on their own song. I f you have time remaining in the class do it then and work with them on corrections, or simply send it as homework and check it in the following class. Ther interviews only tend to last between 10 and 30 seconds. Those students who want to do more let them do more. 
To close the class I use Lyrics Training to see how much they've learnt from the song and to give them a chance to hear the whole thing again.   

In the following months this activity can be used as a simple 10 minute filler and is great for students struggling with quesiton formation. 

I hope this comes in handy over these cold winter months. 

I'll leave you with my phone call to Adele, Let's see if I have time to upload a video in future. 


"Hi, Who's calling?"

Hello, it's me 

"Ohhhh, Adele, Long time no speak. What have you been up to lately?"

I was wondering if after all these years you'd like to meet

"Ok, no problem my dear, why do you want to meet?"
To go over everything

"Wow, everything, that is an awful lot of things. You know they say time is money. Will we have time for that? 
They say that time's supposed to heal ya But I ain't done much healing

"Ok so they say more than just time being money they also say it heals. Well get well soon Adele". 


So there you have it a nice class based on music, revolving around questions and ending in fun.