“L-is for the way you look at me”.

I heard Michael Bublé serenading our adult beginner ESL class the other night and I thought to myself “what is up?” When I went in, I discovered that our creative and adventuresome teacher had decided to work with a Valentine’s theme and bring in songs for students to learn the lyrics to. The whole class was singing along to L.O.V.E. and the theme song to Titanic, sung by Céline Dion.

Her lesson was a hit. Since one of her students is a Michael Bublé fan, it seemed natural for her to find a song of his that fit the theme. The students were singing alone to the youtube clip of the song and when I approached, the student who was a fan held up the lyrics and said “I am happy. I understand all of this”. He was referring not just to his familiarity with the singer, but with the choice of song which was written at a level that he could understand.

The teacher had prepared a sheet of lyrics in which she had removed one word per line. As the students listened they guessed or sang the word that fit in the line, scribbling it in quickly during musical interludes. The lyrics were relatively simple and when there was a problem, she stopped the recording and started over, so the students could look at the words and figure out what was logical or listen as she sang the word and they wrote it in.

Once the students had sung the two songs the teacher had prepared, one student grabbed the smart phone and looked up another favorite singer – a rapper, whose fast paced lyrics left the class laughing and gasping at how anyone could be expected to sing English that fast!

The lesson seemed so simple and yet so successful. Some of the best lessons are. What is the secret? The secret is certain elements that can be seen in this lesson:

Coherence: the teacher picked a current topic, Valentine’s Day, and organized her lesson around that theme. She brought samples of Valentines so that the students could see “typical” expressions of love and found songs that were at the right language level and sing-able.

Engagement: the teacher picked up on the interests of the students, going out of her way to find a Michael Bublé song

Preparation: the teacher spent a lot of time finding the lyrics to love songs that she felt were appropriate to sing in our church-run ESL class and were simple enough for the students to figure out the words for. She then typed them out and created holes where some words were left out. (This is called a cloze text). All this happened before the class began.

Spontaneity: the teacher was open to deviating from her lesson plan. At first the phone she brought wouldn’t connect to the Internet, so she was ready to sing the songs acapella until one of the students had more success with his phone. Later, when the rap song came up, she laughed and sang along with the students, even trying to rap the words of the L.O.V.E. song.

Feel free to take a page from this teacher’s book. Consider how you might improve your lessons through coherence, engagement, preparation and spontaneity.