This is the first of a series of blogposts focusing on some of the best songs of the last fifty years and looking at how we can use them in the classroom and how they can help us as teachers to remember how we can survive in the classroom and reflect on our practice.
You can read the introduction to this series here.
One of my fave songs of the sixties (just as International House Teacher Training was getting in to the swing of things) was ‘It’s My Party’ by Leslie Gore.
First of all, let’s have a look at how we can use this song with students.
I suggest a straightforward Text-Based Guided Discovery lesson in order to compare and contrast real and unreal conditionals, which both come up in the chorus. This means you can use the song as a straightforward listening lesson and then come back and do the language lesson another time (or not at all) if you want to.
So the lesson starts with a lead-in about parties you can find some suggested speaking tasks here in the first handout:
Then we have a gist listening about why the singer is crying and then more detailed listening about the facts of the party and the situation the singer finds herself in. You could just follow this up with a speaking task about when people cry, the last time they cried or perhaps write a letter from the singer to Johnny breaking up with him or form Johnny to the singer asking for forgiveness. However, both of these writing tasks might also include conditions and results, so why not have a look at the language of the song first?
Our guided discovery focuses on the meaning of the two structures in the chorus which are made up of conditions and results:
‘I’ll cry if I want to’
‘You would cry too if it happened to you’.
What I really like about this song is the context gives us a clear difference between real conditions and results in the present and unreal conditions and results in the present.
The singer is clearly singing about now (rather than the past) when she imposes her condition ‘if I want to’ and her result is also clearly
in the present ‘I’ll cry’. The context also makes it crystal clear that it is very likely that the singer is in the crying mood and tears are on the way.
Which contrasts really nicely with the second condition she puts when she addresses her listener ‘…if it happened to you’. This is clearly again based in the now but this time is an unreal (imaginary or hypothetical) event. And once more, the same clarity goes for the result of this condition and the fact that it is unlikely to happen.
All of this clarity can be used to let the students discover for themselves the different forms used to express the conditions and results by asking them the questions in the guided discovery handout. There’s no overt pronunciation discovery here though, so don’t forget to drill the structures and other similar ones before you feedback on the form-focused questions (which begin with In real present conditions we use…). And then of course it’s time to practice!
These two practice activities are fun, challenging and involve lots of personalisation. They also challenge the students to use the correct conditions and the correct results in the correct contexts. The learners always have a choice between real and unreal and that’s where the success of a practice activity and its focus on meaning and use as well as form really lies. I particularly like the freer practice since it’s simply a little different to what students are used to and at the same time clearly shows then how and when they might use conditions and results in their own lives. It also isn;t so free that they can avoid the structures all together. Just beware that the students might need lots of examples to understand how to arrive at conditions they are under (hence my multiple examples!).
I really hope your students enjoy the song, the guided discovery and the practice activities. If you do use the song with your classes, please do let us know how it went down and whether you added anything or your students had any trouble with anything. And if you have any questions about how I’ve presented the language and created the guided discovery do let me know and I’ll get straight back to you.
Next time out we’ll look at the message Lesley has for us as teachers and how we can look at our teaching through the message of the song. See you there!