Songs In The Key Of ELT – Alphabetical Genre Song

This man is to jazz what I am to synchronised swimming

Music often turns up in course books, and you’ll normally find a dry and somewhat out of date list of music genres listed in the book. Even though I think that you can know about something even if it’s not your favourite subject, it seems from my experience that most students have little interest in knowing that rock ‘n’ roll is a type of music that was popularised by Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Elvis Presley (“Oh yes, of course! I’ve heard of him”, cry the students).

So while I know that there isn’t any reason why they should be interested, and that it’s up to them what they take interest in, it still amazes me how often students know absolutely nothing about different types of music. I had this conversation with a class last week, and it went something like this:

Me: “Who can name any jazz musicians?”


Student: “Kenny G?”

Me, thinking: “Kenny G!!!! Kenny G!!!! Jazz is one of the great American art forms of the 20th Century, one that changed the world, and all you know is Kenny G, a musician so bland that it barely qualifies as sound let alone music!!!! Kenny G!!!! Can you hear that noise? That’s the sound of Charles Mingus spinning in his grave at 33 1/3 rpm!!!! Kenny G!!!! And I don’t even like jazz!!!!”

Me, speaking: “Yes! Now who knows any country singers?”

(repeat as above, but replace Kenny G with Shania Twain)

So the next time I’m in this position, I’m going to do it a different way. First, I’m going to ask them to tell each other, and then the whole class, about which types of music they like. I’ll collect as many genres as I can and put them on the board, discussing each one as we go along, talking about the different artists and discovering if anyone else in the class likes this genre too.

I’ll then write an a to z on the board and add their favourite genres to the list. Then I’ll ask them to add as many types of music as they can to the a-z.

Then I’m going to play them this video and ask them to write down as many types of music as they can, but I’m not going to let them see the bottom right corner of the screen where the genres are named.

Now obviously there are many they won’t know, and there are probably plenty that you don’t know too, but that’s fine, this isn’t a music lesson after all. After you’ve added the handful that they might recognise, you can talk about some of the ones that they’ve never heard of. If you want to give follow up homework, you could give out the new types of music, one per student, and ask them to do some research and report back next week with what they can find out about it. Or they could jump onto their smartphones and have a look there and then.

More engaging then just a boring list, I reckon.

But what is wonky?

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