Songs In The Key Of ELT: Don’t Worry About The Government

Here’s a funny thing. Despite music being my number one passion and hobby in life, I’ve never once written about it here on my blog. In fact, I don’t tend to make a big thing out of it in my teaching either. Well, I plan on changing both those things, starting here with a new strand on my blog, Songs In The Key of ELT.

But as is my way, I won’t be using the most obvious songs and artists. They are obviously so many songs and types of music to choose from, so I’m going to find tracks by artists that are not as obvious as the ones you normally find in ELT materials. First up, appropriately enough, are my favourite band Talking Heads.

Artist: Talking Heads
Song: Don’t Worry About The Government
Written by: David Byrne
Lyrics (taken from here):

I see the clouds that move across the sky

I see the wind that moves the clouds away

It moves the clouds over by the building

I pick the building that I want to live in

I smell the pine trees and the peaches in the woods

I see the pinecones that fall by the highway

That’s the highway that goes to the building

I pick the building that I want to live in

It’s over there, it’s over there

My building has every convenience

It’s gonna make life easy for me

It’s gonna be easy to get things done

I will relax along with my loved ones

Loved ones, loved ones visit the building,

Take the highway, park and come up and see me

I’ll be working, working but if you come visit

I’ll put down what I’m doing, my friends are important

Don’t you worry ’bout me

I wouldn’t worry about me

Don’t you worry ’bout me

Don’t you worry ’bout me

I see the states, across this big nation

I see the laws made in Washington, D.C.

I think of the ones I consider my favorites

I think of the people that are working for me

Some civil servants are just like my loved ones

They work so hard and they try to be strong

I’m a lucky guy to live in my building

They own the buildings to help them along

It’s over there, it’s over there

My building has every convenience

It’s gonna make life easy for me

It’s gonna be easy to get things done

I will relax along with my loved ones

Loved ones, loved ones visit the building

Take the highway, park and come up and see me

I’ll be working, working but if you come visit

I’ll put down what I’m doing, my friends are important

I wouldn’t worry ’bout

I wouldn’t worry about me

Don’t you worry ’bout me

Don’t you worry ’bout me…

Handout: here
Level: Beginner
Lesson Plan:

1) Ask students to complete these sentences in anyway they want:

They visit…
I live…
I smell…
I think…
They own…
It moves…
They work…
I see…
I pick…
They try…

Check their answers as they work. Group feedback.

2) Give out the handouts. Ask the students to place the verbs in lyrics. Play the song more than once if necessary.

3) Ask students to make a note of any new vocabulary in the box. Discuss it with their partner. Collect the vocabulary as a class, put it on the board and give it meaning and context.

4) Ask them to discuss the song. The chances are they they won’t pick up on the double meaning of the song. On one hand the song is a mundane description of a man’s life and the choices he has made, but on the other it represents how the modern world has been shaped to his needs. If they only pick up on the first meaning, that’s fine, but it would be interesting to try and give them a deeper understanding if possible.

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4 thoughts on “Songs In The Key Of ELT: Don’t Worry About The Government

  1. In my first comment that didn't get through I just wrote that I'm SO in for this idea!! Even though music is not as important in my life as it apparently is in yours, I try to spice up my classes with some interesting song once in a while.

    However, one question bothers me: should there be a border line to separate unconventional from unacceptable? I'm thinking “London Underground” (you must know the song, right?). The song is interesting but quite rude.

    What do you think? 🙂

    Anyway, I'm eagerly looking forward to posts in this strand!

    Ann

  2. I used this lesson and worksheet in class this week. Students enjoyed the song and it generated a lot of discussion trying to work out what it was about. One student suggested the narrator/singer was 'The US President' and that seemed to be the most popular idea. Worked in well with a revision of use of the simple present too 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!
    Lesley

  3. I think you could also use this song to introduce the Present Simple. It's used all over the song so pupils can indicate them. I think it's difficult to search for songs that have a typical grammatical structure. Do you have any tips for searching useful songs for introducing grammar?

  4. Thanks Jasmien. Yes, practising the present simple is the main thing I think the students can get out of the song, apart from an increased knowledge of great music, of course 😉 As for finding more songs, I can't recommend any particular way, just keep your ears open! I will be doing the same and sharing a few more ideas here on my blog.

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