Marian Hill, 2017

It’s not easy to find a contemporary song that works for beginners. The song “Down,” about a woman who wants to go dancing, worked well in my class of adult learners. I told my students not to worry about understanding every word of the song. Instead, we focused on the grammatical structure of the line “Are you down?” (meaning: “Do you want to do this?”) I invited two higher-level classes to join us for this song-based lesson, and it worked well as a multilevel activity.

Choose from the following activities:

  • Pre-Listening Complete the lyrics cloze exercise, which targets the rhyming words. Intended for nonprofit educational purposes only.

down, cloze.docx          down, cloze.pdf

  • Listening Listen to the song while reading the lyrics above.
  • Post-Listening Practice forming questions beginning Are you… Structure the activity with the Find Someone Who worksheet below. (For more advanced learners, you could make the activity more challenging by mixing in items that require students to ask questions beginning Do you–for example, _____________ has a pet.) Permission granted to duplicate for classroom use.

find someone who, are you.docx          find someone who, are you.pdf

  • Post-Listening Watch the official music video.
  • Post-Listening Watch the first two minutes of the “behind the scenes” video. Some students might be interested in knowing that the official video wasn’t shot in a real elevator, but in a studio in Los Angeles. The set, including a working elevator, was built just for this video.
  • Post-Listening Talk about whether success is the result of talent or of good luck. (This discussion activity is for more advanced learners.) Tell students that the song “Down” was not popular until Apple chose it for a commercial. After the ad, the song became popular, sales increased immediately, and the two performers became well known. In big letters, write the word TALENT at one end of the board and the word LUCK at the other end. Ask students, “When people are successful, is it because of talent, luck, or both talent and luck?” Students stand near the word that reflects their opinion. (Or they can stand somewhere between the two words.) Students volunteer to explain their answer.