from the movie La La Land, 2016
This song, with its themes of optimism and resilience, infuses a class with energy. That energy stems in part from the song’s fast tempo, which makes following the lyrics a challenge for language learners. For that reason, the song is best suited for levels intermediate and up.
Choose from the following activities:
- Listening Listen to the song while reading the annotated lyrics. The song (audio only) is on YouTube. The lyrics below are intended for nonprofit educational use only.
- Listening Notice the pronunciation of you in the line And when they let you down. (This line is repeated 3 times.) The t at the end of let combines with the y in you to make a J sound. This is an important observation, as the same phenomenon happens in past-tense questions beginning Did you–a construction that is used often in speaking.
- Post-Listening Complete the lyrics fill-in-the-gaps exercise. This exercise targets the rhyming words. It is intended for nonprofit educational use only. For more gap-fill exercises, please see Activity #1: Targeted Cloze.
- Post-Listening Watch a music video. This song is from the opening scene of the movie La La Land. There are currently no licensed versions of the scene on YouTube; the only way to watch the official version is to rent or buy the movie. There are, however, other performances of this song, from all over the world, on YouTube. The performances below are appropriate for most classrooms, although, as always, previewing is advised.
- The movie director’s official video of rehearsing this scene in a parking lot. He took the video on his iPhone.
- Performance in Belgrade, Serbia by the a cappella group Viva Vox. They perform a medley of 3 songs from the movie: “Another Day of Sun,” “City of Stars,” and “Someone in the Crowd.” This performance is highly recommended.
- Performance on the streets of Hong Kong
- Performance on the streets of Porto, Portugal
- Performance on the streets of New York City
- Performance by high school students in the parking lot of their school in New Jersey
- Performance by dancers at City Hall in Los Angeles (start at minute 7)
- Performance on the streets of Madrid, Spain (in Spanish) If you teach speakers of Spanish, you could ask your students how the Spanish version of the song differs from the English version.
- Post-Listening Summarize the song’s story. Students, working individually, in small groups, or as a whole class, write a short summary (5-6 sentences) of the story the song tells. For more information on this activity, please see Activity #2: Summarizing.
- Post-Listening Practice using the construction used to + the simple form of a verb. In the song, the singer imagines that she becomes a famous Hollywood actress and that her boyfriend from her hometown will see her face in a movie and “think of how he used to know me.” Below are several activities that focus on used to. The first three worksheets are based on a joke that repeats the phrase used to many times. (Recommended for students without much experience with used to.) The fourth worksheet is a Draw-Write-Share activity. (Please see Activity #3: Class Discussion on a Song’s Theme for more information on this type of activity.) Permission granted to duplicate for classroom use.
- Post-Listening Understand the difference between used to and would. The singer says that on summer nights, she and her boyfriend would go to a movie theater and “We’d sink into our seats.” Explain that we’d is a contraction for we would. Would is used to describe actions done repeatedly and regularly in the past. What is the difference between used to and would? Would + the simple form of a verb is used to emphasize that the action was done repeatedly. Used to + the simple form of a verb is used to emphasize that the activity was done in the past but is not done anymore. Here are three possibilities for practicing these two constructions:
- On the website of the British Council, there is an explanation that contrasts used to, would, and the simple past. It is followed by a short (5-item) quiz. (To fill in the quiz, students need to click twice for each answer–first on the answer, and then on the blank space the answer goes in.)
- If you use the Azar Grammar series, there is an exercise contrasting would and used to on p. 200 of the Fourth Edition.
- The straightforward exercise below also gives students practice with used to and would. Permission granted to duplicate for classroom use.
- Post-Listening Talk about sights to see in students’ hometowns. This song, which is about the city of Los Angeles, invites a discussion about other towns and cities. One idea for structuring the activity comes from Friederike Kippel’s resource book Keep Talking: Students interview a partner on what activities the partner likes to do while traveling. Students then plan a one-day sightseeing excursion in their native town or city and share the itinerary with their partners.
- Post-Listening Talk about weather in your native city. The city of Los Angeles is famous for its beautiful weather. Students read the weather forecast for Los Angeles on the Internet: Is it sunny today? Then they find the forecast for their native city and share the forecast with the class.
- Post-Listening Talk about weather and its effect on mood. One of the songwriters of “Another Day of Sun,” Justin Paul, described life in Los Angeles this way: “You pursue your dream, and you go to bed and get up the next day, and it’s a gorgeous day…But you just failed miserably. You wake up, and the weather doesn’t match your mood. It’s a bright and shiny day.” Ask students this question: “Does weather affect the way people feel?” (This question is from the Internet TESL Journal’s list of conversation questions on the topic of weather. The activity below gets students up and out of their seats. For more activities that get students moving, please see my article “Back to the Future: Low-Tech Activities for a High-Tech Classroom.” )
You could structure the activity this way:
- On opposite ends of the board, in big letters, write YES and NO.
- Ask students if they think weather affects people’s mood. Give students time to think about their answer or, better yet, to jot down the reason for their response, perhaps giving examples.
- Students walk to the front of the room and stand next to the answer that reflects their opinion. Ask volunteers to explain why they chose that answer.
- Post-Listening Read a story about the importance of sunshine. The story, titled “Victor’s Private Guatemala,” is in True Stories Behind the Songs, Story 2.