Surviving Through Song – The Sixties: It’s My Party by Lesley Gore / Part One for Students

5 06 2012

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.

It’s My Party by Lesley Gore

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:

IHTOC50 NM HO Lesley Gore – It’s My Party Handout 1

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?

IHTOC50 NM HO Lesley Gore – It’s My Party Handout 2

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

It’s My Party by Lesley Gore

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!

IHTOC50 NM HO Lesley Gore – It’s My Party Handout 3

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!

Running away with it…

3 06 2012

Funny that this 5km easy was only a minute slower than my 5km fast on the previous run.  I guess that’s where I’m at at the moment, just trying to get the body used to the kilometres again and trying to find a good running form that will minimise injury risks.

First time I’ve run for an hour in the comeback.  Was very pleased to get to 9km and am confident I have ten kilometres in me, although not got any races on the horizon.  Although this did make me wonder for a minute or two if I shouldn’t be running Fiestas Mayas instead of organising #IHTOC50, but only for a minute mind.

Just a muscle loosener and a keeping in the rhythm after the long run the other day.

No run this weekend.  A week between runs, not the best!  But I still managed an easy five km, although one of the calves was tightening up towards the end – need to be careful and remember the number one goal is not get injured!

My first ten kilometre run of this comeback period.  I’m managing not to overdo things, at least running wise.

Weaving the magic of literature circles

1 06 2012

Last Wednesday evening I was standing in for my Director, who has a Post-Proficiency literature class once a week here at IH Buenos Aires Teacher Training.

He asked me to do so last Thursday and low and behold on Friday morning I was moderating Ratna Ragunathan from IH Malaysia’s Live Online Workshop ‘Weaving the magic of literature circles’ and I quickly found my standby lesson staring me in the face.

The idea of literature circles is that each learner takes a different angle towards the book / story they are reading and leads a discussion of that angle when the circle meets in class.

The different roles:







The story we read:

The Story of An Hour – Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin

Since I didn’t know the learners it was difficult for me to assign them roles I thought they would get into, so I asked who would like to be the Illustrators and then gave out the other roles at random.  In the end there were eight students, so I ended up giving out the first four roles to pairs, who then helped each other prepare the role in relation to the story and then the class split up into two circles to discuss the story.

To be honest I was expecting more discussion to come out of the roles, I felt students at this level (post-proficiency) should have been able to mine the text for more ideas and have more interesting responses to it.  Perhaps a combination of things played against my expectations for the activity being fulfilled:

  • the students not knowing me and therefore being a little hesitant as we got to know each other
  • the students not finding the story so inspiring – I’m sure there are many better stories out there that could be used with the literature circle roles
  • it being the end of a long day for most of them and they simply weren’t fully-focused on English
  • my expectations were simply too high in the first place after Ratna’s fantastic workshop

Actually, by the time they had got through the four roles about an hour of the lesson had passed, so the circles had taken a good 30minutes, which is actually an excellent amount of continuous speaking in a normal kind of class – it just didn’t seem that fluent and engaging as they were doing it.

Then I gave out the last two roles and each circle discussed one role in preparation fro swapping over and, in pairs, leading the discussion of their new role with a new pair of partners.  This lead to more good conversation, and as before I had trouble finding anything to give them constructive feedback on language-wise, so I didn’t.

And then finally I gave each of them a part of Kate Chopin’s biography and they had to discuss the story in light of her life, thus sharing with each other more details about the author and the time she lived in.  It would have been good to have more time for this stage of the lesson, since it ended up being the most interesting discussion for them.

So, all in all, a successful first attempt at using literature classes and I will definitely go back and use them again, although perhaps with more concrete texts, particularly at lower levels.