The Beatles, 1967
June 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. “She’s Leaving Home,” one of the songs on that album, works well as a teaching tool for reinforcing listening, speaking, writing, and grammar skills (it has 8 participial phrases).
Classic songs like this one can seem less dated than many songs that were big hits just a short time ago. As a result, lesson plans devised from them have a big advantage–they can be used more than once.
Choose from the following activities.
- Pre-Listening Practice reducing adjective clauses to participial phrases. Permission granted to reproduce Worksheet 1 for classroom use.
Follow up by asking students to describe one another based on where they’re sitting. For example:
Who’s Eric? He’s the guy sitting next to Alberto.
Who’s Jenny? She’s the woman sitting behind Eric.
- Pre-Listening Practice combining two sentences to make one sentence with a participial phrase. Permission granted to reproduce Worksheet 2 for classroom use.
- Listening Complete the lyrics cloze exercise below. First students listen to the song while reading the lyrics, which are missing the participles in each participial phrase. (Students do not fill in the missing words the first time they listen.) Next, students complete the lyrics cloze exercise using their memory of the lyrics they heard, as well as contextual clues. Finally, students listen to the song a second time to check their answers. The lyrics cloze exercise below is intended for nonprofit educational purposes only.
- Post-Listening Watch Paul McCartney’s 2005 live performance of this song in Moscow, Russia. (He omits the second verse.)
- Post-Listening Improvise conversations based on the song. On the website of the British Council, teacher trainer Clare Lavery suggests structuring the activity for “She’s Leaving Home” this way:
Give pairs roles (the girl, the mother/father, the boyfriend) and give situations to try out (the night before she left, the parents talking on finding her leaving note, the boyfriend asking her to run away, the telephone call home after a week away).
On that same web page, you will find an explanation of how improvisation differs from role play, a rationale for using improvisation in the classroom, and many helpful teaching tips.
- Post-Listening Write a summary of the story that the song tells. This can be an individual, small-group, or whole-group activity. For more on the summarizing activity, please see Activity #2: Summarizing.
- Post-Listening Write the letter the young woman left for her parents. What does the letter say? Individually, in pairs, or in small groups, students compose a possible letter.
- Post-Listening Talk about leaving home. If you teach adults, ask them to answer these questions on their own paper: How old were you when you left your parents’ home? Why did you leave? If you teach adolescents or young adults, ask them to answer these questions on their own paper: When do you think you will leave your parents’ home? Why will you leave? Students share their writing in small groups or with the whole class.
- Post-Listening Read a related story. The song “She’s Leaving Home” is based on a real-life story that Paul McCartney happened to see in the newspaper, about a 17-year-old girl who had run away from home. Students might be interested in reading the stories behind other Beatles songs: the story behind McCartney’s “Let It Be,” or the story behind George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun.” (Unit 1, True Stories Behind the Songs). A thematically related story is “This Is the Place for Me,” about a Ukrainian boy who runs away from home when his parents want to leave the U.S. and return to Ukraine. (True Stories 2, Unit 16)