List of Songs

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: This site now has a companion Facebook page, where I’ll post newly added songs.

Story suggestions. I sometimes pair the songs on this page not only with stories in the True Stories Behind 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 in the News, about a waitress who is promised a Toyota as a prize for being the top employee and gets, ha, ha, 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 in True Stories Behind the SongsThe unit theme is “The Power of the Sun,” and the featured song is “Here Comes the Sun” (George Harrison). The song repeats the grammatical form it’s been four times. Please see Activity #4: Building a Lesson Around a Repeated Phrase for a worksheet contrasting the use of it’s been vs. it was. The worksheet, for levels high beginning and up, is at the end of the page. It is also on the Grammar + Songs page.

  • “Good Day Sunshine” (The Beatles) A “successful lesson” that Taylor, a teacher in Japan, posted on his blog is recommended.
  • “I Can See Clearly Now” (Johnny Nash, 1972, or Jimmy Cliff, 1993) This song repeats the phrase It’s gonna be a bright sunshiny day six times. Please see Activity #4: Building a Lesson Around a Repeated Phrase. Scroll to the end of the page for activities that give students practice using gonna in informal speech to talk about the weather forecast. The reproducible interactive exercise on gonna is also on the Grammar + Songs page. The official video by Johnny Nash is recommended. (It is audio only.)
  • “Pocketful of Sunshine” (Natasha Bedingfield) The official video is recommended. 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. Please see the Lesson Plans page for complete lesson plans for this song, including the story behind the song, annotated lyrics, and a worksheet for a Walking Dictation.
  • “Sunshine on My Shoulders” (John Denver) The official video is recommended. (It is audio only.)

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 “A 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.

Thanks to: Susan Huss-Lederman at the UW-Whitewater English Language Academy for recommending the song “Sound of Sunshine.”

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2. Theme: Falling in Love

The songs below coordinate with Unit 2 in True Stories Behind the SongsThe unit theme is “Love Conquers All,” and the featured song is “Ring of Fire” (Johnny Cash). Scene 34 in the movie Walk in the Line is recommended as a follow-up to the song “Ring of Fire” and the story behind it. A clip from that scene is on YouTube (“June Says Yes“). (Both videos show a romantic kiss and may not be appropriate for all classes.)

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) The official video is recommended. 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) The official video contains romantic scenes from one of the Twilight Saga movies and is not appropriate for all classrooms. Previewing is strongly advised. The video by Boyce Avenue, featuring only a singer and a guitar, is appropriate for all classrooms.
  • “Call Me Maybe” (Carly Rae Jepsen)  The phrase ripped jeans, skin was showing might make some learners uncomfortable.
  • “Fallin’” (Alicia Keys)
  • “Fallin’ For You” (Colbie Caillat)
  • “I Can’t Help Falling in Love” (Elvis Presley)
  • “If I Fell in Love with You” (The Beatles)
  • “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (The Beatles, 1963) The official music video, which is a TV performance, is 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 on the Grammar + Songs page.
  • “I Won’t Give Up On Us” (Jason Mraz) The official video is recommended.
  • “Lucky” (Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat) The official video is recommended.
  • “Make You Feel My Love” (Bob Dylan,1997; Adele, 2008) Adele’s official video is recommended. Lesson plan ideas for this song are under the “Lesson Plans” heading on the navigation bar.
  • “One Way or Another” (One Direction or Blondie)
  • “Rude” (MAGIC!) The official lyric video is highly recommended.
  • “Say Hey (I Love You)” (Michael Franti & Spearhead) The official video is recommended.
  • “She Will Be Loved” (Maroon 5)
  • “Something Just Like This” (The Chainsmokers and Coldplay, 2017) 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 under the “Lesson Plans” heading. 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.
  • “Thinking Out Loud” (Ed Sheeran, 2014) The official video might be suitable for some classrooms, but previewing is advised.
  • “You and Me” (Lifehouse) The official video is recommended.
  • “We Danced” (Brad Paisley) This song tells a story. Please see Activity #2: Summarizing the Song’s Story.
  • “When I Fall in Love” (Nat King Cole)

Teaching Tip #1: “The 6,000 Steps,” the second story in Unit 2 of True Stories Behind the Songs, is about a Chinese couple whose marriage was opposed by the young man’s family. The song “Rude” is a perfect follow-up. 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). The official lyric video is highly recommended. This lesson was a huge hit in my class.

Teaching Tip #2: 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 in the News, a beginning reader); “Love at First Sight” and “Love Under Siege” (Units 1 and 16, Even More True Stories, an intermediate reader).

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3. Theme: Memories

The songs below coordinate with Unit 3 in True Stories Behind the SongsThe unit theme is “Memories and Miracles,” and the featured song is “Melancholy Baby” (Ella Fitzgerald).

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. Under “Lesson Plans” on the navigation bar, you’ll find a complete lesson plan for this song, including 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)
  • “In My Life” (The Beatles) 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)
  • “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. Please see the Lesson Plans page for a complete lesson plan for this song, including 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.
  • “Photograph” (Nickelback)
  • “Remember When” (Alan Jackson) 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. Please see the Lesson Plans page for complete lesson plans for this song, including annotated lyrics and many activities on the song’s themes.
  • “The Time To Remember” (Billy Joel)
  • “Try to Remember” (The Brothers Four)
  • “The Way We Were” (Barbra Streisand)

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 in True Stories Behind the SongsThe unit theme is “Taking Chances,” with the sub-theme of “Making Changes.” The songs below fit one or both categories. The featured song is Breakaway” (Kelly Clarkson), an autobiographical song about a young woman who leaves her small town in hopes of finding a better future. The official video is recommended.

  • “Beg Steal or Borrow” (Ray LaMontagne, 2010) This song about growing up in a small town is very similar thematically to “Breakaway” and invites a Draw-Write-Share activity. Please see Activity #3: Class Discussion on a Song’s Theme. Scroll to the end of the activity for specific teaching suggestions.
  • “Brave” (Sara Bareilles) The official video is recommended.
  • “Don’t Stop Believin’” (Journey, 1981) This song has many participial phrases. You’ll find a grammar-focused lesson plan under “Lesson Plans.” Three music videos are recommended: Live in Houston (with Journey’s original lead singer, Steve Perry), Live in Manila (with Journey’s new lead singer, Arnel Pineda), and the performance by the cast of Glee.
  • “Down” (Marian Hill, 2017) In an interview, the singer, Samantha Gongol, said this song is about “about the possibility of this person that you’re meeting, of the evening and taking a chance.” In the song, a woman who wants to go dancing repeats the line “Are you down?” (meaning: Do you want to do this? or Do you agree with this plan?) The lesson plan includes a “Find Someone Who” activity that requires students to ask questions beginning Are you…? Also in the lesson plan is an annotated lyrics cloze exercise focusing on the rhyming words. The official music video is classroom-friendly, as is the Apple commercial that made the song famous.
  • “Let It Go” (Idina Menzel) The YouTube clip from the movie Frozen is recommended.
  • “Let’s Get It Started” (Black Eyed Peas) Language might make this song inappropriate for some classrooms. This rap song might be a bit of a stretch for the “Taking Chances” theme, but it was added because it of its popularity with younger students. It has an easy-to-sing chorus. Please see Activity #6: Singing or Speaking the Chorus.
  • “Renegades” (X Ambassadors, 2015) .The official video is highly recommended, as is the official lyric video. (Note: In the official lyric video, forth is misspelled as fourth.) Please see the Lesson Plans page for complete lesson plans for this song, including the story behind the song and an audio clip of a low-intermediate class singing their new lyrics for the chorus.
  • “Roots Before Branches” (Room for Two)
  • “Taking Chances” (Celine Dion)
  • “Unwritten” (Natasha Bedingfield)
  • “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” (The Animals, 1965) For an interactive worksheet that gives students practice using gotta in informal spoken English, please see the Grammar + Songs page.

5. Theme: Work

The songs below coordinate with Unit 5 in True Stories Behind the SongsThe unit theme is “Work and Pay,” and the featured song is “Pay Me My Money Down” (Bruce Springsteen).

  • “Too Old to Work” (Joe Glazer) This song has an easy-to-sing chorus. Please see Activity #6: Singing or Speaking the Chorus.
  • “We Do the Work” (Jon Fromer) This song has an easy-to-sing chorus. Please see Activity #6: Singing or Speaking the Chorus. If you teach adults, this song is highly recommended.
  • “We Just Come to Work Here, We Don’t Come to Die” (Anne Feeney)
  • “We Shall Not Be Moved” (Joe Glazer) This song has been an anthem of both the labor movement and the civil rights movement; people rewrote the changing line in each verse to fit their circumstances.  Please see Activity #5: Writing New Song Lyrics.
  • “Which Side Are You On?” (Natalie Merchant)

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 in the News, a beginning reader).

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6. Theme: Being in Love

The songs below coordinate with Unit 6 in True Stories Behind the SongsThe unit theme is “Love for Cats, Big and Small,” and the featured song is “I Will Always Love You” (Whitney Houston).

  • “A Thousand Years” (Cristina Perri, 2011)
  • “All of Me” (John Legend, 2013)
  • “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, 1967)
  • “And I Love Her” (The Beatles, 1964)
  • “Baby, I’m Yours” (Arctic Monkeys, 2006) This song has many adverb clauses beginning with the word until. Please see Activity #1: The Targeted Cloze Exercise for  a lyrics cloze exercise. Scroll to the end for the exercise. The exercise is also on the Grammar + Songs page.
  • “Because You Loved Me” (Celine Dion, 1996) This song has 14 irregular verbs in the simple past tense. Please see Activity #1: The Targeted Cloze Exercise for a chart of the verbs and a lyrics cloze exercise. The exercise is also on the Grammar + Songs page. The official video for this song is recommended.
  • “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” (Elton John, 1994) The video clip from the movie The Lion King is recommended.
  • “Chasing Cars” (Snow Patrol, 2006) The official video is recommended.
  • “Come Away With Me” (Norah Jones) The video with lyrics on the site eflclassroom is recommended.
  • “Do You Love Me?” The YouTube movie clip, with lyrics, from Fiddler on the Roof is recommended.
  • “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” (Bryan Adams, 1991)
  • “Falling Slowly” (Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova) The video clip from the movie Once is recommended.
  • “I’m Gonna Love You” (Meghan Trainor with John Legend, 2015) The official music 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. Please see Activity #4: Building a Lesson Around a Repeated Phrase. Scroll to the end for an activity in which students practice using gonna in future-tense informal speech. The activity is also on the Grammar + Songs page.
  • “I Honestly Love You” (Olivia Newton-John, 1974)
  • “I’m Yours” (Jason Mraz, 2008)
  • “In Your Eyes” (Peter Gabriel)
  • “Iris” (The Goo Goo Dolls) The video clip from the movie City of Angels is recommended.
  • “I Will Always Love You” (Whitney Houston, 1992) 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)
  • “Just the Way You Are” (Bruno Mars, 2010)
  • “Longer” (Dan Fogelberg, 1979) 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)
  • “Love Story” (Taylor Swift, 2008)
  • “Lucky” (Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat, 2009)
  • “Make You Feel My Love” (Adele, 2008) The official video is recommended.
  • “Maybe I’m Amazed” (Paul McCartney, 1977)
  • “My Girl” (The Temptations, 1965) The song “My Girl” repeats the phrase I’ve got seven times. Please see Activity #4: Building a Lesson Around a Repeated Phrase 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. Scroll to the end of the page for the worksheet. It is also on the Grammar + Songs page.
  • “My Guy” (Mary Wells, 1964) This song has many rhyming words. Please see Activity #1: The Targeted Cloze Exercise.
  • “One Call Away” (Charlie Puth, 2016) For lesson plan ideas, please see Lesson Plans for Recent Hits. 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.
  • “Something” (George Harrison, 1969)
  • “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” (Tony Orlando, 1973) This song tells a story. Please see Activity #2: Summarizing the Song’s Story.
  • “Time After Time” (Cyndi Lauper, 1984)
  • “Truly, Madly, Deeply” (Savage Garden, 1997)
  • “Unchained Melody” (Righteous Brothers, 1965)
  • “Up Where We Belong” (Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, 1982)
  • “When You Say Nothing At All” (Keith Whitley, Ronan Keating, or Alison Krause) The video clip from the movie Notting Hill is recommended, although the opening scene (a romantic kiss) may make it unsuitable for some classrooms.
  • “Wonderful World (Don’t Know Much About History”) (Sam Cooke, 1960) The dance scene from the movie Witness is recommended.
  • “You Are So Beautiful” (Joe Cocker, 1975)
  • “You Are the Sunshine Of My Life” (Stevie Wonder, 1973)
  • “You Got It” (Roy Orbison) 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.
  • “You Make My Dreams Come True” (Hall and Oates, 1981) The video clip from the movie 500 Days of Summer is recommended. The first 7 seconds of the clip are not suitable for most classrooms, so start the video after that point.
  • “You Send Me” (Sam Cooke, 1957)
  • “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” (Jackie Wilson, 1967)
  • “Your Song” (Elton John, 1970)

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 More True Stories, a high-beginning 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 in True Stories Behind the SongsThe unit theme is “The Great Depression,” and the featured song is “Happy Days” (Jack Hylton).

  • “Can’t Stop the Feeling” (Justin Timberlake, 2016) 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, on the Lesson Plans page. 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 on the Lesson Plans page and 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)
  • “Feelin’ Good” (Nina Simone)
  • “Happy” (Pharrell Williams) The official video is recommended. This song has a chorus with a strong downbeat. Please see Activity #6: Singing or Speaking the Chorus.
  • “Up” (Shania Twain)

Teaching Tip: This topic is ideal for an upbeat Draw-Write-Share exercise. Please see Activity #3: Class Discussion on a Song’s ThemeScroll 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 in True Stories Behind the SongsThe unit theme is “All’s Well That Ends Well,” and the featured song is “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?” (Louis Armstrong). 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.

  • “Abilene” (Les Brown)
  • “Allentown” (Billy Joel)
  • “Detroit Rock City” (Kiss) The lyrics I drink. Then I smoke might make this song unsuitable for some learners.
  • “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” (Dionne Warwick)
  • “Empire State of Mind,” Part II (Alicia Keys, 2009) 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’ll Take) Manhattan” (Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart)
  • “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” (Tony Bennett)
  • “Under the Bridge” (Red Hot Chili Peppers) This song is about Los Angeles.
  • “Lights” (Journey) This song is about San Francisco.
  • “Meet Me in Chicago” (Buddy Guy)
  • “Miami” (Will Smith) The phrase damn you look sexy might make this song unsuitable for some learners.
  • “My Kind of Town” (Frank Sinatra) This song is about Chicago.
  • “New York, New York” (Frank Sinatra)
  • “New York City’s Killing Me” (Ray LaMontagne, 2010)
  • “New York State of Mind” (Billy Joel)
  • “Philadelphia Freedom” (Elton John)
  • “Please Come to Boston” (Dave Loggins)
  • “San Francisco (Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair) ” (Scott McKenzie)
  • “Sweet Home Chicago” (Buddy Guy)
  • “Walking in Memphis” (Marc Cohn)
  • “Youngstown” (Bruce Springsteen)

Teaching Tip #1: If you want to follow up the first story in Unit 8 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.) The song also lends itself to a Draw-Write-Share activity. Please see Activity #3: Class Discussion on a Song’s Theme. Scroll to the end of the activity for specific teaching suggestions.

Teaching Tip #2: The second story in this unit, “Welcome to New York,” is about French tourists who have a negative experience in New York City followed by a positive experience. Songs presenting different views of New York would be appropriate follow-ups: Frank Sinatra’s “New York,” Ray LaMontagne’s “New York City’s Killing Me,” and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind” (Part II). My students listened to the Sinatra song and the LaMontagne song. Then they completed these two sentences: The best thing about my hometown is _______. / 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 shared their writing in small groups. The writing prompted lively conversations and fostered a sense of community as students found common ground sharing the pros and cons of living in their hometowns.

Teaching Tip #3: Friederike Kippel suggests a nice follow-up activity for this theme 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.

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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 in More True Stories Behind the SongsThe unit theme is “Finding a Lost Love,” and the featured song is “You’re Beautiful” (James Blunt). Songs about reconnecting with a lost love, as well as songs about the end of a romantic relationship, are appropriate follow-ups.

Songs About Reconnecting with a Lost Love:

  • “And Still” (Reba McEntire)
  • “And We Sang La Da” (Cynthia Chitko, 1996) This song uses 16 verbs in the simple past tense—6 regular and 10 irregular—to tell a story. (The irregular past-tense verbs are: werecouldn’tcaughtdrovefellheardsaidsawsang, and stood.) You’ll find a chart of the verb forms and a lyrics cloze exercise targeting the verbs in two places: at the end of Activity #1: Targeted Cloze and on the Grammar + Songs page.   The song tells a story, so it also works well as an introduction to summarizing. Ideas for using the song in that way are at the end of Activity #2: Summarizing. You can listen to the song at Reverbnation (click on “all songs”) and purchase it from iTunes.
  • “Hello” (Adele, 2015) Both the official video and the video of a live performance are recommended for the classroom. Please see the Lesson Plans page for complete lesson plans for this song, including the story behind the song and a worksheet on using a gerund as the object of a preposition. (Adele repeats the line I’m sorry for breaking your heart three times in the song–a perfect example of this construction.) The worksheet is also on the Grammar + Songs page.
  • “It’s All Coming Back to Me” (Celine Dion)
  • “Martha” (Tom Waits) This song tells a story. Please see Activity #2: Summarizing the Song’s Story.
  • “Mighty Ocean” (David Wilcox) This song tells a story. Please see Activity #2: Summarizing the Song’s Story.
  • “Reunited” (Peaches & Herbs)
  • “Same Old Lang Syne” (Dan Fogelberg).The singer mentions looking for an open bar and drinking beer, so the song may not be suitable for some classrooms. This song tells a story. Please see Activity #2: Summarizing the Song’s Story.
  • “She Loves You” (The Beatles)
  • “Someone Like You” (Adele) The official video is recommended. This song has many irregular past-tense verbs. Please see Activity #1: The Targeted Cloze Exercise.
  • “When We Were Young” (Adele, 2015) There is no official music video for this song, but the live studio performance on YouTube is recommended. Please see the Lesson Plans page for complete lesson plans for this song, including annotated lyrics and a worksheet on using the word like to make a comparison. (Adele uses like in this way 14 times in the song.) The worksheet on comparisons with like is also on the Grammar + Songs page.

Songs About the End of a Romantic Relationship:

  • “Always On My Mind” (Michael Buble, Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley) The YouTube video with lyrics crafted by Barry Pilling is recommended.
  • “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” (Elvis Presley) The video with lyrics on the web site eflclassroom.com is recommended.
  • “Bye Bye Love” (Everly Brothers) 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)
  • “Don’t Speak” (No Doubt)
  • “50 Ways to Say Goodbye” (Train)
  • “Forget You” (Cee Lo Green) Use the clean version.
  • “Give Me One Reason” (Tracy Chapman) The official video is recommended.
  • “Guess Who I Saw Today” (Nancy Wilson) This song is about marital infidelity and may not be suitable for some classrooms. The song tells a story. Please see Activity #2: Summarizing the Song’s Story.
  • “Hello, Goodbye” (The Beatles)
  • “Heart of Glass” (Blondie)
  • “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. Please see the Lesson Plans page for complete lesson plans for this song, including a worksheet on reflexive pronouns. (The phrase love yourself is repeated eight times in the song.) The worksheet is also on the Grammar + Songs page.
  • “If I Could Turn Back The Hands of Time” (R. Kelly)
  • “I’m the Only One” (Melissa Etheridge)
  • “Jar of Hearts” (Christina Perri)
  • “Let Her Go” (Passenger)
  • “Say Something” (A Great Big World, 2013) These three YouTube videos are recommended for the classroom: the cover by Pentatonix (the musicians are seated in chairs and simply perform); A Great Big World (audio only version); and the Boyce Avenue cover (as in the Pentatonix version, the two musicians are seated and simply perform). 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)
  • “Somebody That I Used To Know” (Gotye) 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.
  • “That’s Another Song” (Bryan White)
  • “This Town” (Niall Horan, 2016) The singer/songwriter Niall Horan says the song is about “that one individual you end up seeing when you go home.” The official lyrics video (which shows only some lyrics) depicts a romantic kiss and is therefore not appropriate for all classes; previewing is advised. The other official video shows only the singer in a studio. It is appropriate for all classes. This song repeats the phrase the words I never got to say—a perfect example of using got to meaning had the opportunity to. Please see Activity #4: Building a lesson around a repeated phrase for an interactive activity that gives students practice using the construction “to get to do something.” Scroll to the end of Activity #4 for the worksheet. 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) A reference to whiskey in the lyrics may make this song inappropriate for some classes; otherwise, both the song and its YouTube video are classroom-friendly. (The video is highly recommended.) The song repeats the phrase you’re gonna miss me 20 times. Please see the Grammar + Songs page for written and oral activities that give students practice with this informal pronunciation of going to.
  • “When I Was Your Man” (Bruno Mars) The song’s opening line, Same bed, but it feels just a little bit bigger now, might make it inappropriate for some classrooms.
  • “Who Knew” (Pink)
  • “Yesterday” (Paul McCartney)

Teaching Tip #1: The second story in this unit, “Return to Borovlyanka,” is about a Siberian couple who are reunited by chance after 60 years apart. The 2014 song “Thinking Out Loud,” which expresses hope for lasting love, would be an appropriate follow-up song for this story. The song is under the theme “Falling in Love.”

Teaching Tip #2: 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” and “Nicole’s Party,” (Units 4 and 17, True Stories in the News, a beginning reader); “The Husband” (Unit 13, More True Stories, a high-beginning reader).

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2. Theme: Sports

The songs below coordinate with Unit 2 in More True Stories Behind the SongsThe unit theme is “Baseball,” and the featured song is “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”  The sing-along version of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” on YouTube is recommended. It is suitable for all ages. Other songs often played at sporting events are:

  • “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” (C + c Music Factory)
  • “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (Rogers and Hammerstein) This is the theme song of the Liverpool (UK) football team. The YouTube video of Liverpool and Melbourne fans singing the song together before a match is recommended.
  • “We are the Champions” (Queen)
  • “We Will Rock You” (Queen)

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: In addition to the stories in Unit 2 of More True Stories Behind the Songs, you could also pair the  song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” with this story in the True Stories reading series: “Love or Baseball?” (Unit 19, True Stories in the News, a beginning reader).

Thanks to: Anna Silliman, editor of Hands-on-English (unfortunately no longer published), 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 in More True Stories Behind the SongsThe unit theme is “Someone to Lean On,” and the featured song is “Lean on Me” (Bill Withers).

  • “Because You Loved Me” (Celine Dion, 1996) This song has 14 irregular verbs in the simple past tense. Please see Activity #1: The Targeted Cloze Exercise for a chart of the verbs and a lyrics cloze exercise. Scroll to the end for the exercise. It is also on the Grammar + Songs page. The official video for this song is recommended.
  • “Bridge over Troubled Water” (Simon and Garfunkel)
  • “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. Under “Lesson Plans” on the navigation bar, you’ll find a complete lesson plan for this song, including 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.)
  • “Count on Me” (Bruno Mars)
  • “Friends Will Be Friends” (Queen)
  • “I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends” (The Beatles and Joe Cocker) The phrase I get high with a little help from my friends might make this song unsuitable for some classrooms.
  • “I’ll Stand By You” (The Pretenders)
  • “Keep Holding On” (Avril Lavigne, 2006) This song repeats the phrase Keep holding on nine times. Please see Activity #4: Building a Lesson Around a Repeated Phrase. Scroll to the end of the page for a suggested activity.
  • “Kind and Generous” (Natalie Merchant)
  • “Lost Boy” (Ruth B., 2016) The songwriter says this song is about being lonely and needing a friend. For lesson plan ideas, please see the Lesson Plans page. This song has 14 verbs in the simple past tense, 7 regular and 7 irregular. Please see Activity 1: Targeted Cloze for a lyrics cloze exercise. Scroll to the end of the page for the exercise. It is also on the Grammar + Songs page. The official video for this song is recommended.
  • “One Call Away” (Charlie Puth, 2016) For lesson plan ideas, please see Lesson Plans for Recent Hits. 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.
  • “See You Again” (Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth, 2015)  (Note: The word damn in the line Damn, who knew? might make this song inappropriate for some student populations.) Please see the Lesson Plans page for complete lesson plans for this song, including the story behind the song and a worksheet on the present perfect tense. (The song repeats the present-perfect sentence It’s been a long day without you, my friend three times.) The grammar worksheet is also on the Grammar + Songs page,
  • “Stand by Me” (Ben E. King)
  • “You’ll Be in My Heart” (Phil Collins)
  • “You’ve Got a Friend” (James Taylor) This song has many verbs that could be deleted for a cloze exercise. Please see Activity #1: The Targeted Cloze Exercise. (Scroll to the end of Activity#1 for a teaching suggestion.)
  • “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” (Randy Newman and Lyle Lovett) This song repeats the phrase you’ve got several times. Please see Activity #4: Building a Lesson Around a Repeated Phrase. It also has many rhyming words. Please see Activity #1: The Targeted Cloze Exercise.

Teaching Tip #1: A great follow-up on this theme (and especially to the second story in this unit, about a coffee shop barista who donates a kidney to a customer she barely knows) is a video from the CBS Evening News (12/12/2014) about a unique charitable act. This short, heartwarming video is accessible to beginning-level students if you first give them an oral and visual preview of the story. Below, in a Word document, is a suggested lesson plan. Permission is granted to reproduce the drawings in the document for classroom use.

Lesson Plan:evening news.doc

Teaching Tip #2: 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” (Unit 22, True Stories in the News, a beginning reader); “Pay It Forward,” “Margaret Patrick…Meet Ruth Eisenberg,” “The Auction,” “Money to Burn,” and “Two Strangers” (Units 9, 11, 14, 15, and 22, More True Stories, a high-beginning reader).

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4. Theme: Living Simply

The songs below coordinate with Unit 4 in More True Stories Behind the Songs. The unit theme is“A Simple Life,” and the featured song is “Simple Gifts.” (Alison Krauss and Yo-Yo Ma).

  • “A Simple Life” (John Farnham)
  • “Banana Pancakes” (Jack Johnson) Some suggestive lyrics (Mama made a baby, Really don’t mind the practice) might make this song unsuitable for some students.
  • “Can’t Buy Me Love” (The Beatles) This song uses the simple future tense (will + a verb in the simple form) to make promises (I’ll buy you a diamond ring, I’ll give you all I’ve got to give, etc.). For a lyrics cloze exercise focusing on this construction, please see Activity #1: Targeted Cloze. Scroll to the end for the worksheet. The worksheet is also on the Grammar + Songs page.
  • “Counting Stars” (OneRepublic)
  • “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” (Bobby McFerrin)
  • “Happy” (Pharrell Williams) The official video is recommended.
  • “If I Ain’t Got You” (Alicia Keys)
  • “I’ve Got the Sun in the Morning” (Doris Day)
  • “Money Can’t Buy Me Love” (The Beatles)
  • “Movin’ Out” (Billy Joel)
  • “Simple Life” (The Weepies)
  • “Stressed Out” (Twenty One Pilots, 2015) The music video is recommended. Please see the Lesson Plans page for complete lesson plans for this song, including the story behind the song, annotated lyrics, and a worksheet on the construction wish + simple past. (The song uses this construction ten times–I wish I had a better voice, Wish we could turn back time, etc.)
  • “Take It Easy” (The Eagles)The singer mentions drug use (women who want to stone me), so this song may not be suitable for some classrooms.
  • “Three Little Birds” (Bob Marley)
  • “The 59th Street Bridge Song” (Simon and Garfunkel)

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” (Unit 13, Even More True  Stories, an intermediate reader).

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5. Theme: Peace

The songs below coordinate with Unit 5 in More True Stories Behind the Songs. The unit theme is“The Way to Peace,” and the featured song is “Peace Train” (Cat Stevens).

  • “Blowin’ in the Wind” (Bob Dylan or Peter, Paul, and Mary) The lesson plan provided as a pdf at AzarGrammar.com is recommended.
  • “Down by the Riverside” (The Blind Boys of Alabama)
  • “For What It’s Worth” (Buffalo Springfield)
  • “From a Distance” (Bette Midler) This song has many verbs in the simple present. Please see Activity #1: The Targeted Cloze.
  • “Hey World–Don’t Give Up” (Michael Franti)
  • “Imagine” (John Lennon)
  • “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Avril Lavigne, or Guns N’ Roses)
  • “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream” (Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Johnny Cash, or Simon and Garfunkel) This song has many examples of regular verbs in the past tense. Please see Activity #1: The Targeted Cloze.
  • “Let There Be Peace on Earth” (Vince Gill)
  • “Life During Wartime” (Talking Heads)
  • “My Son, John” (Tom Paxton) This song tells a story. Please see Activity #2: Summarizing the Song’s Story.
  • (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” (Elvis Costello)
  • “Travelin’ Soldier” (Dixie Chicks) This song tells a story. Please see Activity #2: Summarizing the Song’s Story.
  • “Waiting on the World to Change” (John Meyer)
  • “We Shall Overcome” (Joan Baez, Pete Seeger)
  • “What a Wonderful World” (Louis Armstrong)
  • “What Are We Fighting For?” (Tyrone Wells)
  • “What the World Needs Now” (Steve Tyrell or Dionne Warwick)
  • “What’s Going On?” (Marvin Gaye)
  • “Where Is the Love?” (Black Eyed Peas and Justin Timberlake)
  • “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” (Kingston Trio, Pete Seeger, or Peter, Paul, and Mary)

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 in More True Stories Behind the SongsThe unit theme is “You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover,” and the featured song is “I Dreamed a Dream” (Susan Boyle). Susan Boyle’s performance on Britain’s Got Talent is recommended.

  • “Beautiful” (Christina Aguilera)
  • “Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover” (Will Stroet)
  • “Don’t Judge This Book” (The Moffatts)
  • “Lucky” (Britney Spears)
  • “Mister, You’re a Better Man Than I (The Yardbirds)
  • “Signs” (Five Man Elecrical Band)
  • “Sk8er Boi” (Avril Lavigne) This song tells a story. Please see Activity #2: Summarizing the Song’s Story.
  • “The Stranger” (Billy Joel)
  • “True Colors” (Cyndi Lauper)
  • “You Can’t Judge by Its Cover” (Stevie Wonder)
  • “You Can’t Judge a Book by the Cover” (Bo Diddley or The Strypes)
  • “The Way It Is” (Bruce Hornsby and the Range)
  • “What It’s Like” (Everlast) Use the clean version (although even the clean version may not be appropriate for some classrooms).
  • “When You Look at Me” (Christina Milian)

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” (Unit 3, True Stories in the News, a beginning reader); “The Husband” (Unit 13, More True Stories, a high-beginning reader); “More Alike Than Different” and “Sucker Day”  (Units 3 and 15, Even More True  Stories, an intermediate reader).

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7. Theme: Freedom

The songs below coordinate with Unit 7 in More True Stories Behind the SongsThe unit theme is “Escape to Freedom,” and the featured song is “Follow the Drinking Gourd” (Taj Mahal or Richie Havens).

  • “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round” (Sweet Honey in the Rock)
  • “A Change Is Gonna Come” (Sam Cooke, 1964) In 2007, the Library of Congress (the U.S. national library) chose this song for preservation because of its historical, cultural, and aesthetic importance. Please see the Lesson Plans page for complete lesson plans for this song, including annotated lyrics, a grammar worksheet on the present perfect tense (the song repeats the phrase it’s been a long time coming), and an activity on the song’s theme. The grammar worksheet is also on the Grammar + Songs page,
  • “Feeling Good” (Nina Simone)
  • “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” (Nina Simone) For companion exercises, please see the Lesson Plans page.
  • “Nelson Mandela” (The Special A.K.A)
  • “Oh Freedom!” (The Golden Gospel Singers)
  • “The Rising” (Bruce Springsteen)
  • “The Times They Are a-Changin” (Bob Dylan)
  • “We Shall Not Be Moved” (Mavis Staples) The lyrics lend themselves to rewriting. Please see Activity #5: Writing New Song Lyrics.
  • “We Shall Overcome” (Numerous Artists) The lyrics lend themselves to rewriting. Please see Activity #5: Writing New Song Lyrics. A story about Rosa Parks complements the song “We Shall Overcome.” You will find the story under “Stories” in the menu bar. Titled “I’m Not Moving,” it is written at the high-beginning level. Permission is granted to reproduce the story for classroom use. Below, for the teacher, is additional information about the story.

To the Teacher:I’m Not Moving.doc

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” (Units 14 and 20, True Stories in the News, a beginning reader).

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8. Theme: Survival

The songs below, with their themes of persistence and resilience, coordinate with Unit 8 in More True Stories Behind the SongsThe unit theme is “Survivors,” and the featured song is “My Heart Will Go On” (Celine Dion).

  • “Don’t Stop Believin’” (Journey, 1981) The story of Journey’s new lead singer, Arnel Pineda, is one of extraordinary resilience. You’ll find the low-intermediate story under “Stories.” This song has many participial phrases. For a grammar-based lesson plan, please see “Lesson Plans.” Three music videos are recommended: Live in Houston (with Journey’s original lead singer, Steve Perry), Live in Manila (with Journey’s new lead singer, Arnel Pineda), and the performance by the cast of Glee. The Manila performance is particularly powerful when paired with the story about Arnel Pineda.
  • “Eye of the Tiger” (Survivor)
  • “Fight Song” (Rachel Platten, 2015) There is a story behind this song. You will find it under “Stories” on the menu bar. Permission is granted to reproduce the story for classroom use. You will find additional lesson plan ideas for this song on the Lesson Plans page.
  • “Firework” (Katy Perry)
  • “Hero” (Mariah Carey)
  • “Keep Holding On” (Avril Lavigne, 2006) This song repeats the phrase Keep holding on nine times. Please see Activity #4: Building a Lesson Around a Repeated Phrase. Scroll to the end of the page for a suggested activity.
  • “Stronger” (Kelly Clarkson)
  • “I Will Survive” (Gloria Gaynor)
  • “We Are the Champions” (Queen) This song has several verbs in the present perfect tense. Please see Activity #1: The Targeted Cloze.
  • “Win” (Brian McKnight)
  • “You Are Loved–Don’t Give Up (Josh Groban) The official video is recommended.
  • “You Gotta Be” (Des’ree, 1994) This song repeats the title phrase 37 times. Follow up with an activity that gives students practice pronouncing “I’ve got to” as “I gotta.” Please see Activity #4: Building a Lesson Around a Repeated Phrase. Scroll to the end of the page for the reproducible worksheet. The worksheet is also on the Grammar + Songs page.

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: “A Little Traveler,” “Buried Alive,” “Thank You,” “Saved by the Bell,” “A Strong Little Boy,” and “The Champion” (Units 7, 11, 13, 15, 18 and 19, True Stories in the News, a beginning reader); “Everybody’s Baby,” “A Long Fishing Trip,” and “The Surgeon,” (Units 8, 17, and 18, More True Stories, a high-beginning reader); “The Semong” and  “Flight 5390” (Units 2 and 10, Even More True Stories, an intermediate reader).