“Writing poems? No, this wouldn’t work with my students!” If you feel skeptical about getting your students to try their hand at composing poems or songs in class, try this activity.

It is inspired by a song and has always worked for me no matter what level the students were at.

Activity type: writing/groups

Level: A2+

Age: teenagers or adults

Aims: creative collaborative writing (poems), phonetic development (rhymes), listening

Preparation

  • You will need the song “Spark” by Scottish singer Amy MacDonald from her debut album This Is the Life (2007). It is also available on the singer’s official YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huMThY0mCiA&ob=av2e
  • Print out the worksheet below and cut it up – you will need one set per group of 3-4 students.

Procedure

  • Tell students that you are going to listen to a song but before they listen you will look at some words taken from it. Give each group a set of cut-up words. Clarify that a match here means a wooden stick used to produce a flame and it collocates with the verb “to strike”: strike a match. Spaceman either means the same as astronaut or somebody from another planet. NB. The word sun appears twice.
  • Ask students to work in groups and put the words into pairs based on associations. For example, they can match astronaut and spaceman, hurt and pain, sun and moon or moon and in the sky – there are no correct answers here and students should use their imagination.
  • After students have 10 pairs based on associations, ask them to match each pair with another pair so that they rhyme. For example:

     spaceman – flying high
     moon – in the sky

     or

     sun - rain
     love - pain

  • They should also try to stick to the original associated pairs, if possible, but can switch the words in a pair if necessary in order to make them rhyme. Ideally, they should end up with five combinations of four cards.
  • Now ask students to combine the words into verses and write them down. For example,

     After the sun again comes the rain
     My love is gone; I’m left with the pain

     or

     Strike a match – can you see the spark?
     That is love shining in my heart

  • Circulate and help as necessary. Do not expect students to produce poetic masterpieces, but rather encourage them to experiment with the language reminding them of correct grammar and collocation / meaning when necessary.
  • Ask each group to read aloud their poems for the whole class.
  • Now play the song. Ask the students to listen carefully and arrange the cards in the order they appear in the song as follows:

     stars – moon
     sun – too soon
     etc

  • NB. “Oh the afternoon, it feels about right” was not represented in the cards. Both “light” and “dark”    appear twice

Post-activity

  • Optional questions for discussion:
  • Is the mood / theme of the song the same as you anticipated from the words given?
  • Did the order these words appear in the song surprise you?
  • Do you think your own verses were better / worse? Why?
  • Do you necessarily have to write complicated lyrics to make a good pop song?

For other ideas on exploring songs in class see:

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/activities/using-songs-classroom
http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/activities/listening-activities-songs

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Author: 
Leo Selivan
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