“Driver’s License”

Olivia Rodrigo, 2021

In 2021, the song “Driver’s License” was a worldwide #1 hit. Olivia Rodrigo, who was 17 when she wrote the song, is the youngest songwriter to achieve that level of success with a debut song.

This song would work well for beginners. The lyrics are straightforward and contain irregular verbs in the simple past tense, and it would be a good starting point for a discussion about cars and driving.

A word of caution: There are two versions of this song: the “official” version and the “clean” version, which is the one played on radio stations. Add “clean” to your search terms to find classroom-friendly lyrics and videos.

Choose from the following activities:

  • Listening Listen to the song while watching a “clean” lyrics video.
  • Post-Listening The lyrics gap-fill worksheet below targets the simple past-tense forms in the song. Lyrics intended for nonprofit educational use only.

driver’s license, past tense.docx            driver’s license, past tense.pdf

  • Post-Listening Write a back-and-forth dictation. Students translate the sentences in the worksheet above into their native language and then translate their sentences back into English. They compare their English translation with the sentences in the worksheet to see how close they came to the original.
  • Post-Listening  Write a summary of the story in the song. Working as a class, students tell the story in 5-6 sentences as you write their summary on the board. The students’ summary could be used as the basis for one of these no-prep activities: Pair Dictation or Disappearing Summary. For the Pair Dictation, have half of your students turn their desks or chairs so that they can’t see the summary on the board. The remaining students find a partner and, facing the board, dictate about half the sentences to their partner. Then students switch roles. After the dictation, all students face the board and check their work. For the Disappearing Summary activity, you erase the summary line by line a few words at a time. After each erasure, ask students to read the line aloud (even though some words are missing). Ultimately, students will be reciting the entire summary from memory.
  • Post-Listening Olivia Rodrigo says that her song is based on a real-life experience. Talk about the best way to comfort a friend who is going through the breakup of a romance. Structure the discussion with the worksheet below.

What can you say?.docx          What can you say?.pdf

  • Post-Listening Olivia Rodrigo got her driver’s license when she was 17 years old. That information invites a discussion on the topic “What is a good age to begin driving?” You could open the discussion by writing “16” on one end of the board and “21″ on the other end. Students stand near the age they think it should be legal to get a driver’s license. (They can also stand somewhere between 16 and 21.) Students explain why they are standing where they are. The “Corners” technique would be another good way to begin the discussion. Write the numbers 16, 18, and 21 on separate pieces of paper and post the numbers in separate corners of the classroom. Students stand near the number they think should be the legal age to get a driver’s license.
  • Post-Listening Talk about cars and driving. Below are some possible discussion questions.
  1. Do you drive? If so, how old were you when you learned?
  2. Do you prefer to travel by car or to use public transportation?
  3. When you travel by car, do you like to be the driver or the passenger?
  4. Do you sometimes eat inside a car?
  5. Do you listen to music in a car?
  6. Do you know how to fix a car? If so, who taught you?
  7. Have you ever driven a car in a foreign country?
  8. Can you tell a lot about people by looking at the car they drive?
  9. Do people’s personalities change when they get behind the wheel of a car?
  10. Is it better to buy a new car or a used car?
  11. What is your dream car?

Questions about driving in your home country:

  1. Is there a lot of traffic?
  2. Is it easy to find a parking place?
  3. Are cars expensive?
  4. Is it OK to honk the horn?
  5. At what age can you get a driver’s license?
  6. Is the test to get a driver’s license difficult?
  7. Is drunk driving a problem?
  8. What is the penalty for drunk driving?
  9. Which side of the road do people drive on?
  10. Are most roads in good condition?
  11. What are the speed limits?
  12. Do people wear seatbelts?
  13. Are most people good drivers?
  14. Do cars get stolen often?

If you want to get your students moving around, you could use the questions above in one of these activities: the “One-Question Interview” or “Conversation Stations.”