Having heard the song ‘Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)‘ mentioned recently on Scott Mills’ Radio One show for the final episode of the ‘24 Years at the Tap End‘ feature I remembered that I had actually burned this song onto a CD a few years ago in anticipation of one day using the song in a lesson. I never thought for one moment that it would take me so long to get my act together and come up with a way of incorporating it into a lesson but time flies and all that!
The song is by Baz Luhrmann (an Australian director famous for his work on ‘Romeo + Juliet‘ and ‘Moulin Rouge‘) although the voice on it is not his. It’s spoken by Australian voice actor Lee Perry and was written in 1997 by Mary Schmich albeit originally in a Chicago Tribune newspaper column titled “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young.”
With no singing it is therefore much easier (supposedly) for students to make out what is being said which is why I thought it might be an interesting additional resource to bring into the classroom. The theme of the song is advice which is an ever-recurring theme in lessons across all levels but in my opinion it is rarely interesting to teach as, whatever the problem, Japanese students nearly always seem to advise going to hospital or taking medicine. On the other hand this spoken word song, which reached number one in the UK charts in 1999, consists of some much greater thought-provoking advice.
Beforehand I thought it would be quite adaptable to a wide range of levels due to its fairly slow speed and simple language. However, with the benefit of hindsight I now feel there are probably a few words too many which need to be pre-taught such as grasp, recall, dispense, apt, blind side, tip, basis, meandering, algebra equation and maybe even sunscreen itself! I trialled this lesson with a fair few classes (pre-intermediate to advanced levels) over the last couple of weeks, and as easy as the gap-fill part was for all of them, the ability to really get a good understanding other than the overall context was mixed.
In some ways though thats not important as long as they could pick out a few decent lines of advice which indeed was one of the follow-up questions after the listening task. The pre-listening included searching for good and bad examples of advice the students had been given throughout their life whether it be from family, friends or colleagues. This included a mix of standard, interesting and just down-right bizarre examples. Pre-teaching some of the unknown vocabulary via a match-up exercise on the board (or eliciting it from the higher levels) was also needed but to be honest I wasn’t that happy with these tasks but really couldn’t think up any better ideas on this occasion.
Overall though it was good to use my own choice of song in a lesson for the first time since a few years ago when I went through a phase of regularly using the medium of song to jazz up some of my lessons. I wonder what will be next!