“The Castle on the Hill”

Ed Sheerhan, 2017

In this song, the singer reminisces about smoking cigarettes and getting drunk with his friends when he was 15, so the song may not be appropriate for your class. Previewing the lyrics is advised.

Choose from the following activities: 

  • Listening Listen to the song while reading the annotated lyrics below. Intended for nonprofit educational purposes only.

castle-on-the-hill-lyrics.docx          castle-on-the-hill-lyrics.pdf

  • Post-Listening Talk about childhood memories. Structure the conversation with the Draw-Write-Share activity below, in which students draw a picture of their childhood home and then answer questions about childhood friends. Permission is granted to reproduce for classroom use. For levels high beginning and up.

childhood home.docx          childhood home.pdf

  • Post-Listening Talk about childhood memories at “Conversation Stations.” Follow these steps for setting up Conversation Stations:
  1. Create Conversation Stations around the classroom by posting one or two questions on the topic “childhood” on the wall at each station. (Choose discussion questions that would work for your students’ level from the list on the website of the Internet TESL Journal.) You will need at least half as many stations as you have students. Number the stations so that students can keep track of where they’ve been.


2. In pairs, students move about the classroom, stopping at the stations to interact. (Students can stop at the stations in sequence, or they can move to any open station.) The activity ends when students have stopped at most of the stations.


(For more activities that get your students up and moving around, please see my series of articles “Back to the Future: Low-Tech Activities for a High-Tech Classroom.”)

  • Post-Listening Students compare the pros and cons of their hometowns in the “Moving Line” activity. This low-prep activity, which facilitates a lot of interaction in a short amount of time, gets the whole class out of their seats.

1. Ask students to complete the sentences below on their own paper. (Before students share personal information, it is always best to give them a short planning phase to write their responses.)

The best thing about my hometown is _____.
The worst thing about my hometown is ____.

2. Divide the class into two groups of equal numbers. (If you have an odd number of students, participate in the activity yourself to make the groups even.) Students form two lines facing one another.

3. Students exchange information about the pros and cons of their hometowns. Then one line shifts position so that each student has a new partner. (The person at the end of the moving line moves to the beginning of the line.)

4. Students exchange the same information with their new partners. (Having students recite the same lines with each partner, like actors in a play, keeps the activity—literally—moving along. The activity doesn’t get boring because students hear new information from each partner.) Then they shift positions again.

5. The students in the moving line continue to interact with new partners and then move on. The activity concludes when the students in the moving line are back in their original positions.

Variation: The Moving Circle. Students form two concentric circles. The inside circle faces out, and the outside circle faces in. After each exchange, the outside circle shifts position; the inside circle remains stationary.

  • Post-Listening Review the past-tense verbs in the song with a lyrics cloze exercise. (There are 13 past-tense verbs–5 regular and 8 irregular.)

castle-cloze-past.docx          castle-cloze-past.pdf

  • Post-Listening Watch an official music video. There are two that 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.
  • Post-Listening Read a related story, “The Way Home,” in True Stories 3, about a man who finds his way home to his family in India after being separated from them for decades.