Bob Dylan, 1997
Sometimes teachers hesitate to bring Bob Dylan songs into the classroom because his lyrics can be complex and difficult for all but the most advanced learners to understand. But the Dylan song “Make You Feel My Love” has worked really well with my students (mixed levels, high-beginning to intermediate), perhaps because many of them were familiar with Adele’s cover of the song.
Choose from the following activities:
- Pre-Listening (or Post-Listening) Read about Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize in Literature. The one-page reading titled “Lyrics or Literature?” is for levels high beginning and up. It is based on Dylan’s thank-you speech at the Nobel Prize ceremony. (The entire speech is at nobelprize.org.)
- Pre-Listening Fill in the missing rhyming words in the lyrics worksheet for “Make You Feel My Love.”
- Listening Listen to the song while reading the lyrics. (Lyrics are at bobdylan.com.)
- Post-Listening Practice using the word could to express possibility. Call students’ attention to the three lines beginning I could (for example, I could make you happy). Explain that the songwriter is not referring to the past but to a possible future. Practice the construction this way: Pass around a gift-wrapped box that contains gifts for your students. (For example, the gifts could be small pieces of wrapped candy or ballpoint pens that you obtained free from a bank or business.) Encourage students to feel the box, shake it, and smell it, and then guess what its contents are. Each guess has to begin with the words It could be. After everyone has made a guess, students open the box. Alternately, you could have students take turns closing their eyes and reaching inside a box in which you’ve placed an oddly shaped item. They guess what the item could be.
- Post-Listening Practice using I’d to talk about possible plans. Explain that I’d is a contraction for I would and call students’ attention to the sentences in the song beginning I’d and its negative I wouldn’t. Then ask students, “If you wanted to make someone fall in love with you, what would you do?” Women go to one corner of the room, the men to another corner, and each group makes a list of ideas beginning with I’d. Then the groups read their lists aloud to the class. Finally, the men tell the women what they thought the women’s best idea was, and the women tell the men what the men’s best idea was. Note: I noticed that my students, all in their early 20s, were engaged in this activity from start to finish. But if you think the personal nature of the question might make your students uncomfortable, you would, of course, want to forgo it.
- Post-Listening Watch Adele’s official music video for “Make You Feel My Love.”
- Post-Listening Listen to another Bob Dylan song, “Blowin’ in the Wind.” The lesson plan provided as a pdf by AzarGrammar is recommended. Lyrics for this song are at bobdylan.com. The Peter, Paul, and Mary cover is also recommended.
- Post-Listening If you want to follow up on the “make you feel my love” theme, a related story is in the beginning-level reader True Stories in the News. The story, titled “The Love Letters,” is about a young man who tries to convince his girlfriend to marry him by sending her more than 700 letters. (Although his letters don’t succeed in winning her hand in marriage, they do succeed in acquainting her with the mail carrier who delivered them.)