A lesson plan that I adapted from somewhere, but I can’t remember where exactly. This is an idea that can be adapted to any lesson on a song that has a music video. Students watch the music video first, without sound, and try to figure out what the song is about. Then they listen to the song together with the music. Finally, they get a chance to look at the lyrics. Great fun as their opinion on the song changes each time.
- Analyze a music video as a piece of art separate from the song
- Discuss the meaning of lyrics to a song
First of all, do not tell your students the name of the song or the artist, in case they know the song. Tell students that they will be watching a music video, but without the sound. As they watch, they should think about what the song is about.
Play the video of Don’t Give Up, with the volume off. I have embedded the video on a separate page on my site to make it easier to watch (make sure to watch it in full-screen mode). You’ll want to start at about 0:03 seconds to skip the title screen.
Once you have watched the video, ask students what they saw. What images or scenes do they remember? Eliciting small pieces of information first helps students to remember better and is also easier for lower-level students. So I always like to begin discussions with simple questions.
Once students have finished talking about what they remember, ask what they think the song is about. You can lead them by asking them how what others students said might relate to what they said. For example, in the first part of the discussion students will probably remember a car driving in the rain at the end. In the second part, if a student says they think the song is about two lovers, you might ask, “So how does the car driving in the rain fit in?” At this point, I wouldn’t confirm or reject any theories, just let them share their theories, and correct and critique each other.
Once they have exhausted their theories, ask them what kind of song they think it is. What genre is the song? Is it fast or slow? Loud or quiet? How many singers are there? (They should pick up that there are two, a man and a woman).
The Video and the Song
When the discussion dies down again, tell them that this time they will hear the song while they watch the video and play the video again, with the sound turned on.
Now ask if their opinion has changed about the meaning of the song. Prompt students by asking them again what words they remember from the song, and how the song and the film worked together.
Interestingly I find that when students watch the film, they think the song is about lovers who have broken up. But when they hear the song, they think it is about not committing suicide.
When discussion dies down again, hand out the lyric sheet. Give students some time to read them, and ask any questions about vocabulary. Now ask them again if their opinion about what the song is about has changed. Again make sure they cite specific lines from the song or give concrete reasons.
Of course, eventually they will ask you what the song is really about. You have a choice here. Personally, I like to tell them that songs are works of art and everyone has a right to interpret it as they see fit. Overall it is about how when life gets difficult, you shouldn’t give up because someone loves you and will help you. Of course, it could also be about how it feels when someone you love is depressed or in pain.
If you want to extend the discussion a bit, you can also tell them that the song is actually a reaction to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s policies in the UK in the 1980s. Specifically her economic policies led to a huge jump in unemployment and a lack of social care on the part of the government. So the hero has lost his job and can’t find another one. You might point out that the video showed the welfare office and men lined up to get their unemployment pay. This can lead to a discussion of economic policies and their effect on people.
A less serious follow-up would be to ask students what kind of music they like and why.
You could also get into an analysis of the song itself, especially the gospel-influenced bridge. I’ve also built a small vocab exercise into the lyrics sheet. You can ask students to identify the verse, stanza, chorus, and bridge.