Activity 3: Class Discussion on a Song’s Theme

Personalizing the Theme of a Song with Draw-Write-Share

Many popular songs have themes that are universal: love, resilience, friendship, and family, to name just a few. So it’s easy to see how a song can set the stage for a meaningful class discussion. What is perhaps not so easy is finding a way to structure the discussion, especially if you teach beginning level. A speaking activity that gives your students the opportunity to plan–in contrast to a spontaneous discussion–generally works best; it makes it more likely that every student will speak. (In The Art of Teaching Speaking Ken Folse makes a strong case for incorporating a “planning phase” into discussions at every level to ensure more successful student output.) One of my favorite discussion activities, Draw-Write-Share, has a two-part planning phase.

Create a Draw-Write-Share Activity in 4 Easy Steps:

photo_2Step 1: Students draw a sketch that personalizes the theme of the song.

Step 2: They write about their drawing beneath their sketch.

Step 3: They share their sketches and writing with a partner or in a small group.

Step 4 (optional): Students listen carefully as their partners talk about their drawings. They then share what they learned about their partner with the whole group.

The featured song in Unit 1 of True Stories Behind the Songs is George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun.” Harrison wrote his most famous piece (and the most downloaded of all the Beatles’ songs) on a gloomy February day when he impulsively took a day off work. (For the complete story behind the song, please see page 5 of the textbook.) The song and the story behind it invite discussions on two topics: weather and a day off.

The examples below are of completed worksheets.

Example 1: A Draw-Write-Share Activity Personalizing the Theme “February Weather”

How is the weather in your native city in February? Draw a picture. Answer the questions under your picture in complete sentences. Then share your picture and your writing with a partner.


Is it hot, warm, cool, or cold?     It is cold.                                        

Is it sunny or cloudy?     Sometimes it is sunny, and sometimes it is cloudy.

Is it foggy, rainy, or snowy?     It is often snowy.                                

Tip: The first time you ask students to draw, they might protest that they aren’t artists. It helps to model the activity by drawing your own sketch on the board. For example, to depict February weather in Wisconsin, I drew the picture above–a few clouds and some asterisks to represent snow. No need to draw more!

Example 2: A Draw-Write-Share Activity Personalizing the Theme “A Day Off”

Draw a picture in the box. In the picture, you are enjoying your day off. Answer the questions under your picture. Then share your picture and your writing with a partner.


Where are you? _______I am at the park.__________________________________

What are you doing? ________I am listening to music.________________________

The featured song in Unit 5 of True Stories Behind the Songs is Bruce Springsteen’s version of “Pay Me My Money Down,” and the theme of the unit is “Work and Pay.” (For the complete story behind the song, please see page 45 of the textbook.) An appropriate supplemental song is Jon Frommer’s “We Do the Work.” If you teach adults, a discussion around students’ past, present, and future work is a nice follow-up to both songs. Structure the discussion by giving students a worksheet like the one below.

Example 3: A Draw-Write-Share Activity Personalizing the Theme “Work”

What was your work before? What is your work now? What work do you want? Draw three pictures. Complete the sentences under your pictures. Then share your pictures and your writing with a partner.


my work before                   my work now                  the work I want

Before, I worked as a/an ____farmer_____________________.

Now I work as a/an ___waiter______________________.

I want to work as a/an ____chef_____________________.

Thanks to: Gabri Fontana for the illustrations in Examples 2 and 3

Thanks to: Sharron Bassano and Mary Ann Christison, the originators of the Draw-Write-Share technique. In their resource book Drawing Out (Alta English Publishers), you will find over thirty Draw-Write-Share activities on reproducible pages; most would be great follow-ups to a song. Several of the ideas here are from that book.

Looking for more ways to pair a song with a Draw-Write-Share activity? Try the songs below. (Remember to have students write a few lines beneath their pictures; low-beginners can write sentence completions.)

  • “7 Years” (Lukas Graham, 2015) This song, in which the songwriter reflects back on when he was 7, 11, and 20 years old, invites a discussion about “Important Years.” The interactive activity below works particularly well with adults. It is for levels high beginning and up. (Students need to be able to form questions in the past tense.) Permission is granted to reproduce for classroom use.

important years.docx           important years.pdf

  • “A Change Is Gonna Come” (Sam Cooke, 1964) In the activity below, students talk about a change they want to see–a change in themselves, in their communities, in their counties, or in the world. For levels beginning and up. Permission is granted to reproduce for classroom use.

change activity.docx          change activity.pdf

  • “Beg Steal or Borrow” (Ray LaMontagne) or “Breakaway” (Kelly Clarkson) Draw the place where you grew up. Under your drawing, make 2 lists: What I Liked / What I Didn’t Like.
  • “The Castle on the Hill” (Ed Sheeran, 2017) n the activity below, students draw a picture of their childhood home and talk about old friends. For levels high beginning and up. Permission is granted to reproduce for classroom use.

childhood-home.docx          castle-cloze-past.pdf

  • “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” (Bobby McFerrin) Draw something that you worry about, and something that makes you happy.
  • “Fight Song” (Rachel Platten) What are you fighting for? Draw something or someone you are fighting for. (Please see the examples of student writing under Activity #8: A Minimal-Prep Lesson.)
  • “Fly Away” (Lenny Kravitz) Draw a great place for a getaway.
  • “Happy” (Pharrell Williams) Draw a picture of what happiness is to you.
  • “I Wish I Could Fly” (Nina Simone) Where would you go if you could fly? Draw a line on the map.

if you could fly activity.docx          if you could fly activity.pdf

  • “Lost Boy” (Ruth B., 2016) Talk about the idea of Neverland—a person, hobby, sport, or anything that helps you feel at home. Structure the discussion with the Draw-Write-Share activity below. Permission is granted to reproduce for classroom use.

Who or What Helps You?.docx          Who or What Helps You?.pdf

  • “One Call Away” (Charlie Puth, 2016) Draw a person that you love but don’t see often. Describe how you keep in touch. Permission is granted to reproduce the worksheet below for classroom use. It is for levels beginning and above.

keeping in touch.docx          keeping in touch.pdf

  • “I Will Remember You” (Sarah McLachlan) / Draw a person you’ll never forget.
  • “See You Again: (Charlie Puth and Wiz Kahlifa) / Draw a picture of your best friend. Under your drawing, write your friend’s name, how you met your friend, what you like to do together, and why you like your friend. OR Imagine that you haven’t seen your best friend for a year. When you see each other again, what will you tell your friend? Draw four events that happened in your life in the past year. Structure the activity with the worksheet below, for levels high beginning and up. (Student need some familiarity with the simple past tense.) This classroom-tested activity is highly recommended. Permission is granted to reproduce for classroom use.

see you again wksheet.docx          see you again wksheet.pdf

  • “Somebody That I Used to Know” (Goyte, 2011)

used to,draw-write-share.pdf

  • “What a Wonderful World” (Louis Armstrong) / Draw what people are doing in a wonderful world. (Thanks to Juli for contributing this activity to the Idea Cookbook at
  • Any song with the “Friendship” theme in the List of Songs would pair well with the Draw-Write-Share activities on pages 3, 9, and 17 of the resource book Drawing Out (Alta English Publishers).