Next week I begin teaching a class that I designed called the History of English Language Popular Music Elective (HELP ME). It’s a five-week class that will feature a decade of popular music each week. The class meets every day and each day will feature a different song. We will listen to the song, review and analyze the lyrics, and then listen to the song again and sing along.
There are many goals for this class. First, it will expose students to songs that everybody knows to give them a foundation in popular cultural. When a song comes on the radio, I’d like students to be able to say, “Isn’t that the Beatles?” just like a native speaker might. The class will also include some linguistic content from each of the songs. It could be a specific verb tense, idioms, pronunciation or whatever, but this will be an English class. Finally, through the changing periods and genres of music, we’ll be able to talk about history. Many changes in our culture are reflected in popular music.
Here are a few songs that I’ve identified for inclusion in the class:
All Shook Up by Elvis Presley – This song has lots of good metaphors and is a good example of an early rock song.
A Hard Day’s Night by The Beatles – There are some good examples of the present perfect in the chorus.
Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones – A Stones song has to be included, but many have very repetitive lyrics. Paint It Black has lots of English to work with including colorful metaphors that students could be asked to interpret. It could also be contrasted with What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong, which also has colorful metaphors.
I have a few others, but that’s a start. Do you use music to teach ESL or EFL? What songs do you use? Share them in the comments below. I’d like to know. If there is enough interest, I’ll share my final set list once the class is finished.