Academic Words in A Capella

Music can easily inject an uplifting quality into a lesson. You may not be familiar with Da Vinci’s Notebook, and to tell you the truth I don’t know much about them either! However, I do know this was an amazing a capella group that formed in the ‘90s and stayed together long enough to create and perform some memorable songs. My favorite is called Title of the Song.

 Take a look at the lyrics and you’ll soon grasp the humor. The song is also full of academic words. It has a lot of instructional potential for advanced students studying English for academic purposes. I recall using the lyrics with a group of advanced students, and we used a gapped text to work on listening skills and then we used the completed text to study the vocabulary. Possibilities go beyond this.

  • Set the stage with discussion questions:
  1. Love is a common theme in art. Do you have a favorite love story? (Book, movie, song, etc.)
  2. Romances or romantic comedies are popular genres in films and books. What do many of these works have in common? Do you think the plots are predictable?
  3. Many songs are about love. What are some common messages found in songs? For example, “I need you” or “Do you love me?”
  4. Listen to the first 1-2 minutes of this song (play Title of the Song by Da Vinci’s Notebook). Can you figure out what the title is?
  • Focus on word forms. Write a number of key words from the lyrics on the board. Have students identify the parts of speech and then recall whole word families. Choose more familiar and more frequent words. Examples:
  1. Perfection (noun) >> perfect (adjective), perfect (verb), perfectly (adverb)
  2. Motivation (noun) >> motivate (verb), motivated (adjective)
  3. Realization (noun) >> realize (verb)
  4. Expression (noun) >> express (verb), expressive (adjective)
  5. Lateness (noun) >> late (adjective/ adverb), lately (adverb)
  6. Reassurance (noun) >> reassure (verb), reassuring (adjective)

Identify the noun suffixes used. Tell them that the song has many nouns with these endings.

  • Listen and identify the missing words. Hand out a gapped text. This copy should have key nouns omitted since students are now sensitive to common noun endings. Play the song once and pause frequently to allow students to write down what they hear. Allow them to compare their work with a partner, and then do a second hearing. At this point, you may share the lyrics. Online you may be able to find a copy of the music accompanied by a slide show displaying the lyics.
  • Focus on understanding the meaning. You can discuss the song line by line or verse by verse. To really test their understanding and make the vocabulary more memorable, have them create real lyrics for each line. In other words, the song is a series of descriptions about the usual format used in the love songs sung by boy groups. The class must supply actual words to fit each description.  It can help to post big magazine photos of a man and a woman. Put a big speech bubble above the man. Tell the students that the man is trying to find words to tell the woman how sorry he is and how much he loves her. They are going to supply the words. You can do the chorus as a class and then assign verses to small groups of students. Example:

Naïve expression of love = “I’m crazy about you.”
Reluctance to accept that you are gone = “Are you really gone?”/ “Have you really left me?”
Request to turn back time = “Can we go back in time?”
And rectify my wrongs = “Can I make it up to you?”

  • Do additional vocabulary study and practice.  Additional work can follow depending on which words you wish to target. One option would be to use the nouns that also have verb forms. Assign sets of 2-3 words to pairs of students. Each pair must used their assigned words to create a short text about a couple in a troubled love relationship. Possible sets:
  1. Declaration, elaborate, perfection
  2. Description, repetition, reformation
  3. Admission, expression, compensation
  4. Realization, reconciliation, motivation
  5. Reminiscence, reassurance, recounting
  6. Enumeration, discovery, acknowledgment
  7. Departure, renunciation, dissolution

2 Comments Add yours

  1. englishwithjennifer says:

    By the way, more possibilities exist on YouTube. One of the links above (music with no lyrics shown) has a lot of comments posted in the style in which the lyrics were written. It would be an interesting challenge for students to read some of the public comments and try to compose one in the requested style. This would be a lesson in understanding and reproducing a certain tone.

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