Alicia Keys, 2020

There are a number of reasons that make this song a good choice for the  classroom. 1) It has legally licensed lyric videos with subtitles in many languages besides English. 2) The first verse tells a story in the simple past tense, so a lesson could be built around that grammar topic, or around the grammar topic of participial phrases. (There are three examples in the third verse.) 3) The singer’s advice to “keep on keeping at what you love” invites a class discussion. 4) The song has an inspirational, upbeat message.

Choose from the following activities:

  • Listening Watch the official lyric video in your students’ native language/s, if available. (Search “Alicia Keys Underdog lyric video” + the language you’re looking for.)
  • Listening Watch the official lyric video in English.
  • Post-Listening Focus on the forms in the simple past tense with the gap-fill exercise below. Lyrics intended for nonprofit educational use only.

Underdog, simple past.docx          Underdog, simple past.pdf

  • Post-Listening Focus on the participial phrases in the third verse (hustlers trading at the bus stop, single mothers waiting on a check, sons on the frontline knowing they don’t get to run). Permission granted to duplicate the worksheets below for classroom use.

participial phrases.docx          participial phrases.pdf

participial phrases, part 2.docx          participial phrases, part 2.pdf

  • Post-Listening The singer advises to keep on doing what you love, and you will “rise up.” Structure a class discussion on that topic with the activity below. Permission granted to duplicate for classroom use.

do what you love.docx          do what you love.pdf

  • Post-Listening If you use the True Stories reading series, follow up with one of these stories about someone who persevered when faced with a challenge: “Try, Try Again” or “The Champion” (True Stories 2); “Margaret Patrick… Meet Ruth Eisenberg” or “The School and the Stamp” (True Stories 3); “How You Finish” or “Love Under Siege” (True Stories 4); “The Chef” (True Stories 5).