Wednesday, 13 April 2011

A Day In The Life: One Song, Countless Activities: Simple Past Cloze, Phrasal verbs, Vocabulary, etc.

ELT EFL ESL CLIL TEFL Resources, Games, Activities: Simple Past gap-fill activity

In We Are The Champions, I wrote about several ideas you could do with songs in the classroom, so if you'd missed it, you ought to take a look now.


Play the video, freeze it when Paul McCartney can be seen. Ask if anyone knows him, what they know: the group he belonged to, the instrument he plays, the period the song was written, etc.


Play the video once, asking them to listen and, at the same time, watch the images carefully. Then, ask them what images they remember seeing, and if the images suggested anything to them.

Before playing a second time, get them to try the gap-fill activity, without asking for help. Remind them that each time they ask for help (?) or a hint, they lose points.

Phrasal Verbs

Once the gap-fill activity has been successfully completed, explain these phrasal verbs to them (after asking them to guess first):

blow out
turn away
turn on
wake up
get out
look up

As most phrasal verbs have multiple meanings, it's best to stick to what they mean in the context of the song, in order not to overly confuse the students.

blow out: the 'blow' here means to break into pieces and the 'out' gives a sense of outward direction.

   The gas explosion blew out all the windows of the house.

There may be no need to draw attention to the graphic imagery of 'he blew his mind out', but you could perhaps ask how he could have done this (answer: by shooting himself). However, if you want to go deeper, John could have been cheeky with his typical double entendre, and meant that the driver was stoned out of his head!

turn away: although 'turn away' is a phrasal verb meaning to refuse to allow someone into a place, here it isn't used as a phrasal verb as such. 'Away' is used as an adverb meaning towards a different direction.

'A crowd of people turned away' meaning if they were looking at the screen, they stopped looking at it by looking at a different direction.

turn on: mmm...this is a tricky one as one of the meanings has a sexual connotation, even a drug-related one perhaps. What was John thinking of when he wrote it? Depending on the age group of your students, you may wish to explain that it means 'getting someone interested in something'.

wake up: wake or wake up means to stop sleeping.

get out: to get out of bed is to leave the bed, especially after sleeping.

look up: As in 'turn away', the 'up' is used as an adverb to mean towards a higher direction.

'And looking up, I noticed I was late': remembering that he's gone downstairs to have a cup (of tea, probably) (you could also ask them about rooms in the house - he'd obviously went down to the kitchen from his bedroom upstairs), he could be looking back up the stairs, but more likely, he was looking up at a clock on the wall, and saw that he was late.

Analysis and interpretation

One could write a doctorate on this song, really! There are many aspects that can be discussed depending on the level and the age group of your students. You can analyse each line and draw multitudes of hidden layers behind John's irony and sarcasm. You can talk about subjects such as urban life, suicide, drug abuse, fame, politics, and so on. Whether he meant it intentionally or not, there is so much to be read behind John's words (and you could guess which were John's words and which were Paul's).

To put it in a nutshell, discuss the lyrics in class. Ask them for their personal interpretation (or work in groups). Compare interpretations. As homework, set a group webquest - ask them to find out interesting things about the song and prepare a presentation (leave the choice to them: could be PowerPoint, Prezi, Glogster, Vocaroo, Wallwisher, well, whatever tickles their fancy!)

You can also ask them to add another verse based on a piece of news they have read in the newspapers or heard on the TV.

I have also prepared a short quiz, testing rhymes, synonyms, antonyms and phrasal verbs. If you ask your students to enter your email, their results will be sent to you. Alternatively, if you make sure they enter valid references (such as class/school), ask me, and I'll forward their attempts to you.

ELT EFL ESL CLIL TEFL Resources, Games, Activities: Simple Past gap-fill activity

Related posts:

Index of all Material by Category
We are the champions: Present Perfect activities
Conditional Type II with Norah Jones
Conditional Type III with Keith Whitley

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