Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Illustrating a song with photos made by the students

I have revisited this old post, written two years ago, with some new stuff about illustrating songs by the students. I hope you like it 


Songs and music are great resources for English language classes, especially when teaching English as a second or third language.

Songs are the best way to practice the rhythm and phonics,but also by reading the lyrics you are improving in vocabulary and grammar. Some of my posts are full of different ways to exploit songs.

Every year I like to warm up the course with songs. Some of them are very appropriated for the beginning of the course. This year I wanted to exploit them by matching the sentences and the vocabulary of the lyrics with images.

In grade 5 (10 year olds) we develop a full project with the song “We’re going to be friends” by Jack Johnson (Originally from The White Stripes). It is a wonderful song to start the year because the lyrics are a full revision of school objects, rooms, feelings...

We did a review of the already known vocabulary and we introduced some new one.I prepared a filling the gaps activity just to work the song in deep.

Then, we translated, with the help of the dictionary (I use weather paper dictionaries or on line ones like some difficult word and sentences.

After that, when students understood all the grammar, they imagined images they could photograph in the school, in the class, in the hall, in the playground, objects, attitudes, feelings…. They made a complete “lay out” of the project.

Finally, with the photo camera they shot all the images and uploaded in Windows Movie Maker. And we uploaded the song in mp3, too.

With a little help of the teacher, they typed the lyrics, added titles and credits and changed the timing in the slides to match music-lyrics-images… and produced the video to be embeded in the school blog.

And this was the result. Hope you like it!

I did the same activity in grade 3 (7-8 year olds), taking advantage of a photography workshop the students made during the first quarter of the school year. The song is from a Year 3 Heinemann book Bugs called "It's School Again". 

And here it is the result.

Its school again from Enric Calvet on Vimeo.

And finally, another similar activity with grade 1 students (6 year olds). The song is an old one from the textbook Bingo! 1 (Longman Publisher) called "Knock, Knock!"

The process was pretty different. They only had to imagine and do the movements of each situation and I did the photos. But the result was good enough.

Hope I bring to you some new ideas!


  1. Hey there Enric!

    Some food for thought about the activity of fill-in the gaps.

    I always tell my students to be very, very carefully before using this type of activity. If we stop and analyze the process that a student needs for having a good understanding of what she hears, the main thing they need is to understand the context (their brain will fill the missing information if the context is comprehensible).

    If we use (or overuse) the fill-in the gaps activity with the listenings, what are we subconsciously transmitting our students? That the important thing when they listen to something in English is to understand EVERY WORD. They're not trying to get the idea of the song but trying to understand that very specific word they need to successfully do the activity.

    I am not saying that we should never the fill-in the gaps, but that we have to be aware of what subconscious techniques and beliefs are transmitting to our students. I would probably substitute the fill-in the gaps by "sort out the pictures" or "sort out the paragraphs" where there's more general understanding of the context.

    I would like to support these ideas with some bibliography, but I don't have anything here on listening, so I cannot do it. I do remember, though, that I once read that "when you listen for the general idea, paradoxically, you end up getting much more detail".

    In case you want to see a presentation about this that I prepared some (lots of) years ago, please check:



  2. Thank you very much Edward for your comment! I really appreciate your reflection on these type of activities.

    Today, I have been invited by the Departament to the "Converses Pedagògiques" about teaching English "Aprendre anglès, parlant anglès" and I will use one of your arguments in my short talk, if you don’t mind (only 7 minutes!).

    I think that we overused the "filling the gaps" activities, too. Most teachers think that using these activities we "educate" hearing to discriminate sounds, and to catch some specific vocabulary. I agree with you that it is probably better to do a general comprehension activity in context. I also think that modern songs are quite difficult for primary level students and we must avoid some "explicit" language.

    If one of my students bring a modern song into the class, I always use it to warm up or for a rounding up at the end the class, never as a part of my lesson. But, you will agree with me that few songs are brilliant for especific ESLT purposes!

    I will have a kind look to your presentation(I will think about it for a newcoming post!).

    Una abraçada. Enric