Songs by Theme

Songs That Coordinate with True Stories Behind the Songs

Themes :
Sunshine Falling in Love | Memories | Taking Chances | Work
Being in Love | Happiness | U.S. Cities

Songs That Coordinate with More True Stories Behind the Songs

Themes:
Lost Love | Sports Friendship Living Simply | Peace
You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover | Freedom Survival

Updates on Facebook: Newly added songs are posted on Facebook.

YouTube video links: Videos designated “Recommended” meet two criteria: 1) They contain images and language that are appropriate for most classrooms. 2) They are legally licensed by the record companies or performers.

Audio recordings: Free audio recordings of the stories in the Songs textbooks are now on the Pearson catalog page, no password or registration required. The song titles that correspond to these stories are in red font.

Story suggestions. I sometimes pair the songs on this page not only with stories in the Songs textbooks but with other stories in the True Stories reading toy yoda, dreamstimeseries. For example, Bruce Springsteen’s “Pay Me My Money Down” works well with the story “The Last Laugh” in True Stories 2, about a waitress who is promised a Toyota as a prize for being the top employee and gets a toy Yoda instead. (When she takes her boss to court, she gets the last laugh.) Under “Teaching Tips” for some of the themes, you’ll find ideas for pairing songs with thematically related stories in the True Stories reading series.

1. Theme: Sunshine

The songs below coordinate with Unit 1, True Stories Behind the Songs. Unit theme: “The Power of the Sun.”

  • “Another Day of Sun” (the cast of La La Land, 2016) Recommended: the movie clip from the opening scene of the movie La La Land, which was filmed on a freeway ramp in Los Angeles, and the audio-only video. The Lesson Plan for this song includes annotated lyrics, a lyrics cloze exercise, spin-off grammar and discussion activities, and links to performances of the song from all over the world. The grammar worksheet (the meaning of would vs. used to) is also on the Grammar + Songs page.
  • “Good Day Sunshine” (The Beatles, 1966) Recommended: the audio-only video. A “successful lesson” that Taylor, a teacher in Japan, posted on his blog is recommended.
  • “Here Comes the Sun” (George Harrison) Recommended: the audio-only video and the 2019 official video. The song repeats the grammatical form it’s been four times. A worksheet contrasting the use of it’s been vs. it was is on the Grammar + Songs page. More teaching ideas are in the Lesson Plan for this song. The story behind the song is Story 1 in True Stories Behind the Songs. A free audio recording of the story, no password or registration required, is on the Pearson catalog page. Click on “Stories Behind Songs Audio.”
  • “I Can See Clearly Now” (Johnny Nash, 1972, or Jimmy Cliff, 1993) Recommended: the official video by Jimmy Cliff; the audio-only video by Jimmy Cliff; the audio-only video by Johnny Nash. This song repeats the phrase It’s gonna be a bright sunshiny day six times. For activities that give students practice using gonna in informal speech to talk about the weather forecast, please see the Grammar + Songs page.
  • “Pocketful of Sunshine” (Natasha Bedingfield, 2008) Recommended: the official video and the audio-only video. This song has an easy-to-speak chorus. Please see Activity #6: Singing or Speaking the Chorus. Scroll to the end of Activity #6 for a teaching suggestion and an audio clip from a high-beginning classroom.
  • “Sound of Sunshine” (Michael Franti & Spearhead, 2010) The official video is not appropriate for all classrooms, so previewing is advised. A live performance, without the beach scenes, is appropriate for all classrooms. The Lesson Plan for this song includes the story behind the song, annotated lyrics, and a worksheet for a Walking Dictation.
  • “Sunshine on My Shoulders” (John Denver, 1973) Recommended: the audio-only video

Teaching Tip: George Harrison wrote “Here Comes the Sun” when he was trying to cope with the impending breakup of the Beatles. (Please see Unit 1 in True Stories Behind the Songs for the whole story, titled “The Day Off.”) Paul McCartney’s “Let It Be” was also in response to the breakup. The story behind that song is under “Stories” on the menu bar.  It is titled “Words of Wisdom,” and it is at the beginning level. Permission is granted to reproduce for classroom use.

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2. Theme: Falling in Love

The songs below coordinate with Unit 2,  True Stories Behind the Songs. Unit theme: “Love Conquers All.”

The two stories in this unit are about couples that fell in love and stayed in love, despite formidable obstacles. So songs about falling in love are appropriate follow-ups.

  • “A Moment Like This” (Kelly Clarkson, 2002) Recommended: the official video. The video has flashback scenes of Clarkson’s appearances on American Idol, the talent show that made her famous, so it would be a good follow-up to the story about her in True Stories Behind the Songs. (Unit 4)
  • “A Thousand Years” (Christina Perri, 2011) The official video contains romantic scenes from one of the Twilight Saga movies and is not appropriate for all classrooms. Previewing is strongly advised. Recommended: the video by Boyce Avenue, which features only a singer and a guitar and is appropriate for all classrooms.
  • “Call Me Maybe” (Carly Rae Jepsen, 2012)  The phrase ripped jeans, skin was showing might make some learners uncomfortable.
  • “Fallin’” (Alicia Keys, 2001) Awards: Grammy Award for Song of the Year
  • “Fallin’ For You” (Colbie Caillat, 2009) Recommended: the audio-only video
  • “Falling Slowly” (Glen Hansard / Marketa Irglova, 2007) Recommended: the official video, which includes scenes from the movie Once. Awards: Academy Award for Best Original Song in a Movie
  • “I Can’t Help Falling in Love” (Elvis Presley) Recommended: the audio-only video
  • “If I Fell” (The Beatles) Recommended: the audio-only video
  • “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (The Beatles, 1963) Recommended: the live TV performance; the audio-only video; Himesh Patel’s 2019 video from the movie Yesterday. This song repeats the contraction wanna—a pronunciation of want to that is rarely included in grammar books or practiced in the classroom but is common in informal spoken English. An interactive activity that gives students practice using wanna is on the Grammar + Songs page.
  • “I Won’t Give Up On Us” (Jason Mraz) Recommended: the official video
  • “Lucky” (Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat) Recommended: the official video
  • “Make You Feel My Love” (Bob Dylan,1997; Adele, 2008) Recommended: Adele’s official video. The Lesson Plan for this song includes a reading about Dylan’s Nobel Prize in Literature, a lyrics cloze exercise, and several spin-off grammar activities.
  • “One Way or Another” (One Direction or Blondie) One Direction’s official video is appropriate for most classrooms, but previewing the entire video is recommended.
  • “Ring of Fire” (Johnny Cash) Recommended: the audio-only video and the live performance video. Teaching ideas are in the Lesson Plan for this song. The story behind the song is Story 3 in True Stories Behind the Songs. A free audio recording of the story, no password or registration required, is on the Pearson catalog page. Click on “Stories Behind Songs Audio.” The story is dramatized in the YouTube movie clip “June Says Yes” from the biographical film Walk the Line. (The movie clip shows a romantic kiss and may not be appropriate for all classes.)
  • “Rude” (MAGIC!) Recommended: the official lyric video. The song tells a story (please see Activity #2: Summarizing the Song’s Story), and it has an easy-to-sing chorus (please see Activity #6: Singing or Speaking the Chorus). In my class, I paired this song with the story “The 6,000 Steps,” Story 2 in True Stories Behind the Songs. It is about a Chinese couple whose marriage was opposed by the young man’s family. A free audio recording of the story, no password or registration required, is on the Pearson catalog page. Click on “Stories Behind Songs Audio.”
  • “Say Hey (I Love You)” (Michael Franti & Spearhead) Recommended: the official video
  • “She Will Be Loved” (Maroon 5) Recommended: the cover by Tiffany Alvord and Boyce Avenue
  • “Something Just Like This” (The Chainsmokers and Coldplay, 2017) There are two official videos. One is the official lyric video, and the other is a live performance. The video with lyrics is highly recommended. This song repeats the contraction wanna—a pronunciation of want to that is rarely included in grammar books or practiced in the classroom but is common in informal spoken English. You’ll find an interactive activity that gives students practice using wanna, a discussion activity, and annotated lyrics in the Lesson Plan for this song.
  • “Thinking Out Loud” (Ed Sheeran, 2014) Recommended: the acoustic video
  • “You and Me” (Lifehouse) Recommended: the official video
  • “We Danced” (Brad Paisley) Recommended: the audio-only video. This song tells a story. Please see Activity #2: Summarizing the Song’s Story. The story that the song tells begins in a bar, so it may not be suitable for all classrooms.
  • “When I Fall in Love” (Nat King Cole) Recommended: the video with Clive Griffin and Celine Dion singing, which shows scenes from the movie Sleepless in Seattle.
  • “Wonderful World” (Sam Cooke, 1960) Recommended: the 2015 official lyric video, in which iconic scenes in history flash behind the lyrics. The Lesson Plan for this song includes a lyrics gap-fill exercise focusing on the rhyming words and worksheets on noun clauses. (There are several in the song.)

Teaching Tip: In addition to the stories in Unit 2 of True Stories Behind the Songs, you could also pair songs about falling in love with these stories in the True Stories reading series: “The Love Letters” (Unit 4, True Stories 2, a high-beginning reader); “Love at First Sight” and “Love Under Siege” (Units 1 and 16, True Stories 4, an intermediate reader); “The Real Ronaldo” (Unit 4, True Stories 5, a high-intermediate reader)

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3. Theme: Memories

The songs below coordinate with Unit 3,  True Stories Behind the Songs. Unit theme: “Memories and Miracles.”

Both stories in this unit are about young men–one a soldier and the other motorbike racer–who suffered temporary memory loss. So songs about remembering are appropriate follow-ups.

  • “The Castle on the Hill” (Ed Sheeran, 2017) There are three official videos for this song. Two are suitable for most classrooms—one is a lyrics video, and the other is a live performance in a BBC studio. A third official video has many scenes of teenagers drinking alcohol and smoking; previewing this video is advised. The Lesson Plan for this song includes annotated lyrics, a lyrics cloze exercise targeting the past-tense verbs, and two discussion exercises. (A word of caution: The singer reminisces about smoking cigarettes and getting drunk with his friends when he was 15, so this song may not be appropriate for your class. Previewing the lyrics is advised.)
  • “Don’t You Worry, Child” (Swedish House Mafia) Recommended: the official acoustic video
  • “In My Life” (The Beatles) Recommended: the audio-only video. The four verb tenses in this song (simple present, simple past, present perfect, future) could be targeted for a cloze exercise. Please see Activity #1: The Targeted Cloze Exercise.
  • “I Remember You” (Skid Row) Recommended: the official video
  • “I Will Remember You” (Sarah McLachlan,1999) The official lyric video is recommended, although it ends with a romantic kiss and may not be appropriate for all classrooms; previewing is advised. The Lesson Plan for this song includes a lyrics cloze exercise, a worksheet to practice making promises with will, a worksheet to practice changing verbs in the simple present to the simple past, and activities on the “remembering” theme. The worksheets are also on the Grammar + Songs page.
  • “Memories” (Maroon 5, 2019) Recommended: the official audio-only video; the official video. Based on the melody of Pachelbel’s Canon, the song was written in memory of the band’s manager and close friend, who died in 2017. The song has a few grammatical mistakes (mainly dropping the final s in third person singular) that can be exploited for a grammar lesson. A lyrics worksheet is on the Grammar + Songs page under “Third Person Singular.” The song also works well as a springboard for a discussion about people that were important parts of our lives. Some ideas for structuring the discussion are in the Lesson Plan for the song. Note: The lyrics mention “drinks,” but not specifically alcoholic drinks. Teachers who avoid songs that refer to alcoholic beverages may find this reference vague enough to be acceptable, but only individual teachers can make this judgment.
  • “Photograph” (Nickelback) The official video is classroom friendly, but the song’s language may not be appropriate for your class; previewing the lyrics is advised.
  • “Remember When” (Alan Jackson) The official video shows a couple kissing; previewing is advised. This song tells a story. Please see Activity #2: Summarizing the Song’s Story.
  • “7 Years” (Lukas Graham, 2015) There are two official videos; the video with the montage of family photos is recommended. The Lesson Plan for this song includes annotated lyrics, a grammar worksheet, and many activities on the song’s themes. The song works particularly well as a springboard for discussion.
  • “This Is the Time” (Billy Joel) Recommended: the audio-only video
  • “Try to Remember” (The Brothers Four; Josh Groban) Recommended: Josh Groban’s audio-only video and The Brothers Four’s audio-ony video
  • “The Way We Were” (Barbra Streisand, 1973) Recommended: Beyonce’s live performance at the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony in honor of Barbra Streisand and Streisand’s audio-only video. Awards: Academy Award for Best Original Song in a Movie

Teaching Tip: As a follow-up activity on the theme “Memories,” you could ask students to draw a scene from their past that brings back happy memories and then write a few sentences about the scene under their drawing. They then share their drawing and their writing in small groups. (For examples of more activities like this one, Please see Activity #3: Class Discussion on a Song’s Theme.)

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4. Theme: Taking Chances

The songs below coordinate with Unit 4, True Stories Behind the Songs. Unit theme:“Taking Chances,” with the sub-theme of “Making Changes.” The songs below fit one or both categories.

5. Theme: Work

Songs below coordinate with: Unit 5, True Stories Behind the Songs. Unit theme: “Work and Pay”

Teaching Tip #1: If you teach adults, the Draw-Write-Share activity personalizing the theme “Work” is highly recommended. Please see Example 3 in Activity #3: Class Discussion on a Song’s Theme.

Teaching Tip #2: In addition to the stories in Unit 5 of True Stories Behind the Songs, you could also pair songs about work with this story in the True Stories reading series: “The Last Laugh” (Unit 21, True Stories 2, a high-beginning reader).

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6. Theme: Being in Love

The songs below coordinate with Unit 6,  True Stories Behind the Songs. Unit theme: “Love for Cats, Big and Small.”

  • “A Thousand Years” (Cristina Perri, 2011) The official video shows scenes from one of the Twilight movies and may not be appropriate for all classrooms. Previewing is advised. The cover by Boyce Avenue, with just a singer and his guitar, is appropriate for all classrooms.
  • “All of Me” (John Legend, 2013) The official video shows romantic scenes of the singer with his wife and is not appropriate for most classrooms. The live performance in a New York hotel bar is more appropriate for the classroom, although the setting might still make the video unsuitable; previewing is advised.
  • “As Long As You Love Me” (Backstreet Boys, 1997) Recommended: the audio-only video and the 2016 live performance video. The Lesson Plan for this song includes a worksheet on noun clauses for levels high beginning and up. The song’s chorus works great as a sing-along.
  • “Baby, I’m Yours” (Arctic Monkeys, 2006) Recommended: the audio-only video. If you teach Spanish speakers, there is a video with English lyrics and Spanish subtitles. This song has many adverb clauses beginning with the word until. A lyrics gap-fill exercise is on the Grammar + Songs page.
  • “Because You Loved Me” (Celine Dion, 1996) Recommended: the live-performance video. This song has 14 irregular verbs in the simple past tense. For a chart of the verbs and a lyrics cloze exercise, please see the Grammar + Songs page.
  • “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” (Elton John, 1994) Recommended: the official lyric video from “Disney on Broadway.”
  • “Chasing Cars” (Snow Patrol, 2006) Recommended: the official video
  • “Don’t Know Why” (Norah Jones) Recommended: the official video. (The phrase my heart is drenched in wine might make this song inappropriate for your class; previewing the lyrics is advised.) Awards: Grammy for Song of the Year
  • “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” (Bryan Adams, 1991) Recommended: the live-performance video
  • “I’m Gonna Love You” (Meghan Trainor with John Legend, 2015) The official video is suitable for most classrooms. It does, however, show romantic kisses, so previewing is advised. This song repeats the phrase I’m gonna 21 times. For an activity in which students practice using gonna in future-tense informal speech, please see the Grammar + Songs page.
  • “I Honestly Love You” (Olivia Newton-John, 1974) Recommended: the official video, which is a 2010 performance of this 1974 song. Also recommended: a video of a live performance from the Sydney Opera House in 2009.
  • “I’m Yours” (Jason Mraz, 2008) The official video is suitable for almost all classrooms. It does, however, show athletic women in bikini swimsuits, so some teachers may wish to preview it.
  • “Iris” (The Goo Goo Dolls) Recommended: the official video and a live performance video (in the pouring rain)
  • “I Will Always Love You” (Whitney Houston, 1992) The official video shows scenes from the movie The Bodyguard. It ends with a romantic kiss, so it may not be appropriate for your class; previewing is advised. Recommended: the audio-only video. This song repeats the promise I will always love you many times. For an interactive activity that gives students practice making promises with will, please see the Grammar + Songs page.
  • “Just the Way You Are” (Billy Joel, 1977) Recommended: the live-performance video and the audio-only video
  • “Longer” (Dan Fogelberg, 1979) Recommended: the audio-only video. This song has several comparative adjectives. Please see Activity #4: Building a Lesson Around a Repeated Phrase. Scroll to the end of Activity #4 for a teaching suggestion.
  • “Love Me Tender” (Elvis Presley, 1956) Recommended: the audio-only video
  • “Lucky” (Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat, 2009)
  • “Make You Feel My Love” (Bob Dylan,1997; Adele, 2008) Recommended: Adele’s official video. The Lesson Plan for this song includes a reading about Dylan’s Nobel Prize in Literature, a lyrics cloze exercise, and several spin-off grammar activities.
  • “Maybe I’m Amazed” (Paul McCartney, 1977) Recommended: the audio-only video and the live-performance video
  • “My Girl” (The Temptations, 1965) Recommended: the audio-only video. The song “My Girl” repeats the phrase I’ve got seven times. For an interactive worksheet that gives students practice saying I’ve got it and I’ve got ’em when going over a list of what they’ll take to a picnic, please see the Grammar + Songs page.
  • “My Guy” (Mary Wells, 1964) Recommended: the audio-only video. This song has many rhyming words, so it would be ideal for a gap-fill exercise. Please see Activity #1: The Targeted Cloze Exercise.
  • “One Call Away” (Charlie Puth, 2016) Recommended: the official video. This song repeats the line I’ll be there to save the day, which is both an offer to help and a promise. Interactive worksheets on using will when offering to help and when making a promise are on the Grammar + Songs page. The worksheets are also included in the complete Lesson Plan for this song. In my class, this song prompted a discussion about how to keep in touch with friends and family members far away. A reproducible worksheet to structure the discussion is in the Lesson Plan.
  • “Something” (George Harrison, 1969) Recommended: the audio-only video; the official video
  • “Time After Time” (Cyndi Lauper, 1984) Recommended: the audio-only video
  • “Truly, Madly, Deeply” (Savage Garden, 1997) The official video shows a romantic kiss, so it may not be appropriate for your classroom. Previewing the video, as well as the lyrics, is advised.
  • “Unchained Melody” (Righteous Brothers, 1965) Recommended: the audio-only video; the cover by Susan Boyle (goes well with the story about her in More True Stories Behind the Songs, Story 11); the cover by Boyce Avenue
  • “Up Where We Belong” (Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, 1982) Recommended: the audio-only video
  • “When You Say Nothing At All” (Keith Whitley, Ronan Keating, or Alison Krauss) There are several official videos of this song; one by Krauss, one by Keating, and one by Whitley. All three are classroom friendly.
  • “You Are So Beautiful” (Joe Cocker, 1975) Recommended: the audio-only video
  • “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” (Stevie Wonder, 1973) Recommended: the audio-only video
  • “You Got It” (Roy Orbison) Recommended: the live performance video; the montage of live performances; the audio-only video. In three verses, the singer pauses long enough between phrases to allow students to repeat after him. Please see Activity #6: Singing or Speaking the Chorus. Scroll to the end of the activity to hear an audio clip from a beginning class singing the chorus.
  • “You Make My Dreams Come True” (Hall and Oates, 1981) There is an official video, but the words are fairly difficult to understand. Students would need to read the lyrics while listening. Recommended: the video of British singer Billie Marten covering the song. The video is just the singer and her guitar, and in her version, the words are easier to understand.
  • “You Send Me” (Sam Cooke, 1957) Recommended: the audio-only video and the  live performance by Gregor Porter recorded for BBC Radio
  • “Your Song” (Elton John, 1970) Recommended: the 2005 live performance

Teaching Tip: In addition to the stories in Unit 6 of True Stories Behind the Songs, you could also pair songs about being in love with these stories in True Stories 3, a low-intermediate reader: “Puppy Love” (Unit 1) and “Surprise! It’s Your Wedding!” (Unit 2).

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7. Theme: Happiness

The songs below coordinate with Unit 7,  True Stories Behind the Songs. Unit theme: The  Great Depression and the importance of the song “Happy Days” during that time

  • “Best Day of My Life” (American Authors, 2013) Recommended: the audio-only video and the cover by the adolescent group Kidz Bop Kids. The official video, which shows a bar scene and alcohol consumption, is not appropriate for all classrooms; previewing is advised. This song repeats the line This is gonna be the best day of my life many times. Please see the Grammar + Songs page for worksheets and activities to practice this informal pronunciation of going to.
  • “Can’t Stop the Feeling” (Justin Timberlake, 2016) Recommended: the official video. This song is appropriate for most classes, but previewing the lyrics is advised. You’ll find annotated lyrics for this song, as well as companion activities, in the Lesson Plan. The song repeats the phrase I got many times. (In informal spoken English, people sometimes drop the ‘ve in I’ve got–they say I got.) In an interactive worksheet provided both in the Lesson Plan page on the Grammar + Songs page, students practice saying I’ve got it and I’ve got ’em when going over a list of what they’ll take to a picnic.
  • “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” (Bobby McFerrin) Recommended: the audio-only video and the performance by musicians around the world as part of Playing for Change project. Awards: Grammy Award for Song of the Year
  • “Feelin’ Good” (Nina Simone) Recommended: the audio-only video and Ed Sheeran’s cover of this song, performed at a radio station in Australia. Nina Simone’s recording of this song was on President Obama’s personal playlist.
  • “Happy” (Pharrell Williams) Recommended: the official video. This song has a chorus with a strong downbeat. Please see Activity #6: Singing or Speaking the Chorus.
  • “Happy Days” (Jack Hylton, 1932) Recommended: the original 1932 Jack Hylton audio-only video and Barbra Streisand’s audio-only video. This song has historical importance. The story behind the song is Story 13 in True Stories Behind the Songs. A free audio recording of the story, no password or registration required, is on the Pearson catalog page. Click on “Stories Behind Songs Audio.”
  • “I Got You (I Feel Good)” (James Brown) Recommended: the audio-only video and the 1989 live performance
  • “Up” (Shania Twain) Recommended: the official video

Teaching Tip: This topic is ideal for an upbeat Draw-Write-Share exercise. Please see Activity #3: Class Discussion on a Song’s Theme. Scroll to the end of the activity for specific teaching suggestions.

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8. Theme: U.S. Cities

The songs below coordinate with Unit 8, True Stories Behind the Songs. Unit theme: “All’s Well That Ends Well.” The stories in this unit focus on two U.S. cities, New Orleans and New York, so songs about U.S cities are a good thematic fit.

  • “Allentown” (Billy Joel, 1982) Recommended: the 2008 live performance video and the audio-only video
  • “Another Day of Sun” (the cast of La La Land, 2016) Recommended: the movie clip from the opening scene of the movie La La Land, which was filmed on a freeway ramp in Los Angeles, and the audio-only video. The Lesson Plan for this song includes annotated lyrics, a lyrics cloze exercise, spin-off grammar and discussion activities, and links to performances of the song from all over the world. The grammar worksheet is also on the Grammar + Songs page. The worksheet, for levels intermediate and up, contrasts the meaning of would vs. used to.
  • “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” (Dionne Warwick) Recommended: the audio-only video
  • “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?” (Louis Armstrong) Recommended: Louis Armstrong’s audio-only video
  • “Empire State of Mind,” Part II (Alicia Keys, 2009) Recommended: the live performance video. Part II is the chorus of the song. The whole song, with JayZ’s rap lyrics, would be difficult for most English language learners.
  • “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” (Tony Bennett) Recommended: the live performance video
  • “Lights” (Journey) This song is about San Francisco. Recommended: the official video
  • “My Kind of Town” (Frank Sinatra) This song is about Chicago. Recommended: the audio-only video
  • “New York, New York” (Frank Sinatra) Recommended: the audio-only video and the live performance video. This is the song played every year on New Year’s Eve in New York’s Times Square.
  • “New York City’s Killing Me” (Ray LaMontagne, 2010) Recommended: the live performance video
  • “New York State of Mind” (Billy Joel, 1976) Recommended: the 2013 live performance at Yankee stadium and the audio-only video
  • “Philadelphia Freedom” (Elton John, 1975) Recommended: the audio-only video
  • “Please Come to Boston” (Dave Loggins, 1974) Recommended: the 2012 cover by Rita Wilson and the audio-only video
  • “San Francisco (Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair) ” (Scott McKenzie) Recommended: the audio-only video
  • “Sweet Home Chicago” (Buddy Guy) Recommended: the audio-only video and the 2012 video of Bonnie Raitt performing the song at the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony for Buddy Guy.
  • “Under the Bridge” (Red Hot Chili Peppers) This song is about Los Angeles. Recommended: the official video
  • “Walking in Memphis” (Marc Cohn) Recommended: the audio-only video

Teaching Tip #1: If you want to follow up Story 15 in True Stories Behind the Songs with another Louis Armstrong song, rather than songs about U.S. cities, “What a Wonderful World” is a good choice for beginning students. The activities for this song on the site allatc are recommended. (Although the blog is for teachers of advanced learners, the lesson could easily be adapted for beginners.)

Teaching Tip #2: Students complete these two sentences: 1. The best thing about my hometown is _______. 2. The worst thing about my hometown is _______. (For example, one student wrote: The best thing about my hometown is the coffee. The worst thing about my hometown is that there are no big stores or movie theaters.) Students then share their writing in small groups. In my class, this activity prompted lively conversations and fostered a sense of community as students found common ground sharing the pros and cons of  their hometowns.

Teaching Tip #3: Friederike Kippel suggests this activity in the resource book Keep Talking (“One Day in London,” p. 106): 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. I have done this activity in my class several times. It never fails to engage students.

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Songs That Coordinate with More True Stories Behind the Songs

Themes:
Lost Love | Sports Friendship Living Simply | Peace
You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover | Freedom Survival

1. Theme: Lost Love

The songs below coordinate with Unit 1, More True Stories Behind the Songs. Unit theme: “Finding a Lost Love.” The songs below are in two categories: reconnecting with a lost love and the end of a romantic relationship.

A. Songs About Reconnecting with a Lost Love

B. Songs About the End of a Romantic Relationship

  • “Always on My Mind” (Willie Nelson, 1982) Recommended: the official live performance video. An interactive worksheet that gives students practice with the construction should have  + past participle is on the Grammar + Songs page. Awards: Grammy Hall of Fame
  • “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” (Elvis Presley 1960) Recommended: the audio-only video
  • “Be Alright” (Dean Lewis, 2018) Caution: The official licensed videos for this song contain language that is inappropriate for most classrooms. There are, however, clean versions on YouTube; search “Be Alright clean/radio edit.” Recommended: the live performance on the TV show Today and the cover by Jada Facer. The Lesson Plan contains punctuated, annotated clean lyrics.
  • “Bye Bye Love” (Everly Brothers 1958) Recommended: the audio-only video. This song has an easy-to-sing chorus. Please see Activity #6: Singing or Speaking the Chorus.
  • “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” (Neil Sedaka, 1962) Recommended: the audio-only video
  • “Crazy” (Willie Nelson, 1962) Recommended: Patsy Cline’s audio-only video; Willie Nelson’s audio-only video; the 2018 informal performance by Allison Young and Josh Turner. This song has many gerunds following the preposition for. A worksheet on using a gerund as the object of a preposition and a lyrics gap-fill exercise are on the Grammar + Songs page.
  • “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” (Bob Dylan, 1963) Recommended: the audio-only video and the 2011 informal cover by Josh Turner and Carson McKee
  • “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” (Paul Simon, 1975) Recommended: the live-performance video in New York’s Central Park and the audio-only video
  • “50 Ways to Say Goodbye” (Train, 2012) Recommended: the audio-only video
  • “Forget You” (Cee Lo Green, 2010) Use the clean version. Recommended: the official video
  • “Give Me One Reason” (Tracy Chapman, 1995) Recommended: the live performance with Eric Clapton and the official video
  • “Guess Who I Saw Today” (Nancy Wilson, 1960) Recommended: the audio-only video. This song is about marital infidelity, and there are references to alcohol, so it is not suitable for all classrooms. The song tells a story. For step-by-step instructions for structuring a summarizing activity, please see Activity #2: Summarizing the Song’s Story.
  • “Hello, Goodbye” (The Beatles, 1967) Recommended: the official video and the audio-only video
  • “It Ain’t Me” (Selena Gomez, 2017) Recommended: the lyric video and the audio-only video. An interactive grammar worksheet (“Future with Gonna”) and annotated lyrics are on the Grammar + Songs page. (This song is about a relationship ruined by alcoholism; previewing the lyrics is advised.)
  • “Love Yourself” (Justin Bieber, 2015) A word of caution: One line in the song–And now I know: I’m better sleeping on my own–might make this song inappropriate for some classrooms. The official video, which features dancers who are married in real life, is appropriate for most classrooms, but previewing is advised. The Lesson Plan includes lyrics and a worksheet on reflexive pronouns. The worksheet is also on the Grammar + Songs page.
  • “Let Her Go” (Passenger, 2012) Recommended: the official video
  • “Say Something” (A Great Big World, 2013) Recommended: the audio-only video by Great Big World; the cover by Pentatonix; the Boyce Avenue cover. In his book The Poetry of Pop, Adam Bradley points out that the song’s chorus is a poem written in dactylic trimeter—a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables, repeated three times in every line. That predictable stress pattern makes the chorus ideal for reading aloud. The chorus, with the accented syllables in bold, is at the end of Activity #6: Singing or Speaking the Chorus.
  • “Shoot the Moon” (Norah Jones, 2002) Recommended: the audio-only video
  • “Somebody That I Used To Know” (Gotye, 2011) This song has one line that might make it inappropriate for some classrooms: I think of all the times you screwed me over. The song repeats the phrase used to know many times. Please see Activity #4: Building a lesson around a repeated phrase. Scroll to the end of Activity #4 for a teaching suggestion.
  • “Someone You Loved” (Louis Capaldi, 2019) Recommended: the official video and the audio-only video. This song has repeated examples of infinitives and infinitive phrases used as adjectives (somebody to know, somebody to heal, no one to save me, etc.). Annotated lyrics highlighting that construction and a worksheet giving students practice using the construction are on the Grammar + Songs page. (Previewing the lyrics is recommended; some content may not be appropriate for your class.)
  • “That’s Another Song” (Bryan White, 1996) Recommended: the audio-only video. This song repeats the phrase used to. Please see Activity #4: Building a lesson around a repeated phrase. Scroll to the end of Activity #4 for a teaching suggestion under the song ““Somebody That I Used To Know.”
  • “The Way We Were” (Barbra Streisand, 1973) Recommended: Beyonce’s live performance at the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony in honor of Barbra Streisand and Streisand’s audio-only video. Awards: Academy Award for Best Original Song in a Movie
  • “This Town” (Niall Horan, 2016) Recommended: the studio performance. The official lyric video (which shows only some lyrics) depicts a romantic kiss and is therefore not appropriate for all classes; previewing is advised. The singer/songwriter Niall Horan says the song is about “that one individual you end up seeing when you go home.” This song repeats the phrase the words I never got to say—a perfect example of using got to meaning had the opportunity to. An activity that gives students practice using the construction “to get to do something” is at the end of Activity #4: Building a lesson around a repeated phrase. A annotated lyrics cloze exercise targeting the six past-tense verbs in the song is at the end of Activity #1: Targeted Cloze.
  • “When I’m Gone” (Anna Kendrick, 2012) Recommended: the official video. (A reference to whiskey in the lyrics may make this song inappropriate for some classes; previewing is advised.) The song repeats the phrase you’re gonna miss me 20 times. Activities that give students practice with this informal pronunciation of going to are on the Grammar + Songs page.
  • “Who Knew” (Pink, 2006)
  • “Yesterday” (Paul McCartney, 1965) Recommended: the audio-only video; the live performance video; the 2019 cover by Himesh Patel

Teaching Tip: In addition to the stories in Unit 1 of More True Stories Behind the Songs, you could also pair songs about lost love with these stories in the True Stories reading series: “The Love Letters,” “Love or Baseball?,”  Nicole’s Party” (True Stories 2, a high-beginning reader); “The Husband” (True Stories 3, a low-intermediate reader); “The Real Ronaldo” (True Stories 5, a high-intermediate reader)

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2. Theme: Sports

The songs below coordinate with Unit 2, More True Stories Behind the Songs. Unit theme: Baseball.” Songs often played at sporting events are:

Teaching Tip #1: To find out what your students know about baseball — the “national pastime” of the United States — try the One-Question Interview. (Substitute the questions about music with questions about baseball at the Internet TESL Journal.) This wonderful activity gets students moving around, works with many topics, and can be adjusted for almost any level. Students can use their own paper to do the survey, or they can use the form below.

survey form.doc          survey-form.pdf

Teaching Tip #2: Other stories in the True Stories reading series with a sports theme: “Love or Baseball?” and “The Champion”  (True Stories 2, a high-beginning reader).

Thanks to: Anna Silliman, who sent me the “one-question interview” idea many years ago. The activity was from the classroom of Fiona Armstrong, Adult Basic Education, New York City Schools.

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3. Theme: Friendship

The songs below coordinate with Unit 3, More True Stories Behind the Songs. Unit theme: “Someone to Lean On”

Teaching Tip: In addition to the stories in Unit 3 of More True Stories Behind the Songs, you could also pair songs about friendship and altruism with these stories in the True Stories reading series: “Old Friends” (True Stories 2, a high-beginning reader); “Pay It Forward,” “Margaret Patrick…Meet Ruth Eisenberg,” “The Auction,” “Money to Burn,” and “Two Strangers” ( True Stories 3, a low-intermediate reader)

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4. Theme: Living Simply

The songs below coordinate with Unit 4, More True Stories Behind the Songs. Unit theme: “A Simple Life”

Teaching Tip: In addition to the stories in Unit 4 of More True Stories Behind the Songs, you could pair songs about living simply with this story in the True Stories reading series: “The Plain People” (True  Stories 4, an intermediate reader).

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5. Theme: Peace

The songs below coordinate with Unit 5, More True Stories Behind the Songs. Unit theme: “The Way to Peace”

Teaching Tip: As a follow-up activity on the theme “Peace,” my colleague Brianna Deering asked her students to complete this sentence: When I need peace in my own life, I _____________________.  Students shared their writing in small groups.

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6. Theme: You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

The songs below coordinate with Unit 6, More True Stories Behind the Songs. Unit theme: “You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover.” Story 11 in this unit is about Susan Boyle’s debut performance–a surprise to everyone but Susan herself. A free audio recording of the story is in the Pearson online catalog. Click on “Stories Behind Songs Audio.” Recommended: Susan Boyle’s performance on Britain’s Got Talent

Teaching Tip: In addition to the stories in Unit 6 of More True Stories Behind the Songs, you could pair songs with the theme “you can’t judge a book by its cover” with these stories in the True Stories reading series: “The Runner” (True Stories 2, a high-beginning reader); “The Husband” (True Stories 3, a low-intermediate reader); “More Alike Than Different” and “Sucker Day”  (True  Stories 4, an intermediate reader); “The Real Ronaldo” (True Stories 5, a high-intermediate reader).

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7. Theme: Freedom

The songs below coordinate with Unit 7, More True Stories Behind the Songs. Unit theme: “Escape to Freedom”

Teaching Tip: In addition to the stories in Unit 7 of More True Stories Behind the Songs, you could also pair songs about freedom with these stories in the True Stories reading series: “Together Again” and “The Bottle” (True Stories 2, a high-beginning reader).

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8. Theme: Survival

The songs below, with their themes of persistence and resilience, coordinate with Unit 8, More True Stories Behind the Songs. Unit theme: “Survivors”

Teaching Tip: In addition to the stories in Unit 8 of More True Stories Behind the Songs, you could also pair songs about resilience and survival with these stories in the True Stories reading series: “Try, Try Again,” “Thank You,” “Saved by the Bell,” “A Strong Little Boy,” and “The Champion” (True Stories 2, a high-beginning reader); “Everybody’s Baby,” “A Long Fishing Trip,” and “The Surgeon,” (True Stories 3, a low-intermediate reader); “The Semong,” “How You Finish,” and  “Flight 5390” (True Stories 4, an intermediate reader); “The Chef” (True Stories 5, a high-intermediate reader).