Imagine: Task-Based Affective Learning for the English Language Classroom Dwayne Engh, uk

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Imagine: Task-Based Affective Learning for the English Language Classroom

Dwayne Engh, UK
Dwayne Engh was born in Vancouver, Canada and currently lives in London, England where he works as an English teacher and musician. He completed an MA in ELT & Applied Linguistics at King's College London in 2010. He has taught in Canada, China and the U.K. E-mail:



Pre-listening discussion activities

Listening activity

Post-listening discussion

Singing (optional)

Written production response

Creative writing

Written reflection wrap-up activities

Singing performance (optional)

Possible extension activities

Extension - choral rehearsal suggestions (optional)

The Main Focus of this lesson outline is to affectively explore the authentic text of Lennon’s (1971) Imagine. Stated Learning Outcomes include: Students will engage on an emotional and sociocultural level with Imagine text though listening, speaking, reading and writing; Students will infer core themes; express personal reactions and opinion to Imagine and its themes; Students will critically compare and contrast multiple sociocultural and historical song texts; Students will collaboratively interact and explore universal themes through creative writing; and Students will participate in individual reflection and self-evaluation. The intended Context and Level was intermediate to advanced teen or adult learners and has been used numerous times in Canada, China and in the U.K. by multiple educators.



Task Focus

1. Warm-Up Pre-Listening

‘Word Cloud’

5-10 min.

Schema activation, Predicting


5-10 min.

Schema activation, Build vocabulary,

Categorise and justify decisions

2. Listening Activity

20-25 min.

Listening, Problem solving, Analysing, Reasoning

3. Post-Listening Activity

10 min.

Solicit and share personal opinions, Infer core themes

4. Singing (Optional)

10 min.

Re-creation through performance, Pronunciation

5. Written Production

10-15 min.

Synthesise information and transfer to different medium, Compare and Contrast cultural universal themes

6. Creative Writing

20-30 min.

Engage with text as new text is created, Creative writing

7. Reflection

‘Journal Reflection’

30-40 min.

Wrap-Up Reflection, Challenge preconceptions

‘Emotion Reflection’

30-40 min.

Opportunity for personal emotional discovery and growth

8. Singing (Optional)

10 min.

Performance of Imagine

Pre-listening discussion activities

  1. Word Cloud’

(est. 5-10 minutes)
Note with Thanks: Word Cloud Activities are from Hania Kryszewska’s article “Ideas from the Corpora” from Humanising Language Teaching Magazine for teachers and teacher trainers Year 12/Issue 3/June 2010
Create a ‘Word Cloud’ of Imagine. Copy and hand out to the class in pairs. As a class or in pairs, ask students to guess if they recognise the song based on the words used. If they do, try to remember as much of the lyrics as they can. If you wish, this could be done in pairs at computers in a lab or with an LCD projector/overhead as a full class.

B. Vocabulary and Schema Activation

(est. 5-10 minutes)
Drawing from the Imagine ‘Word Cloud’ handout, write the following words on the board and elicit discussion to confirm student’s understanding of vocabulary: Heaven, Countries, World, Brotherhood, Hell, Religion, Peace, Greed, Dreamer, Imagine, Possession and Hunger.
In pairs, have the students put all of the words in the Imagine ‘Word Cloud’ into two columns, one listing Positive Words and one listing Negative Words. Which ones are important to keep or to eliminate and why? After the students listen to the song, do they still have the same opinions? Perhaps Lennon’s perspective was different than their perspective? Why do the students think that is?
Listening activity

(est. 20-25 minutes)
Create a handout of the lyrics from Image
that contains multiple mistakes that alter the meaning of the text. For example, here is a possible verse two (with incorrect words underlined).
Imagine there's no munchies,

It is card to do.

Nothing to fill or buy for,

And no real gin too.

Imagine all the people,

Living rife in peace.

Ask students to correct while listening. Play multiple times if required. After individual listening, place students in pairs to compare answers and listen again while in pairs until consensus is reached. Discuss as full class. Ask students to come up and write correct text on blackboard/whiteboard. Once that has been done, handout original Imagine lyrics. Play the song again for the entire class while students read the original lyrics. If you are comfortable leading singing, or have a student with a strong voice who is comfortable, sing the song (either with or without the recording). Perhaps sing without words as well - choose a consonant that is challenging for learners and put that with an open vowel sound.

Post-listening discussion

(est. 10 minutes)
Use the topic as a springboard for discussion (as a class or small groups). If students are stuck, here are some more concrete questions you might use: Do you think the song is happy or sad? Why do you think that? What were some events that happened in the world that year? What was the specific context that this song was written in? Was John Lennon popular in your country? What is the song about? Do you believe in what John Lennon is suggesting? Do you agree or disagree with those ideas? Do you think it is possible (theoretically or practically)? Are there any other English songs that have similar ideas or themes? Are there any songs from your home country that have similar themes? Are there any songs that have the opposite themes? This discussion flows well into chart activity below.
Singing ( optional)

(est. 10 minutes)
Singing is repetitive while remaining engaging. Besides being good pronunciation practise, it builds community and lifts people’s spirits. If you are comfortable leading singing yourself, then go for it! If you are not 100% comfortable, but would still like the students to sing, consider searching for a student who enjoys singing and would be confident enough to lead the class in this portion of the activity.

I would recommend (either with a recording or with one person leading) that you start with the “You may say” stanza, as it repeats with nearly exactly the same melody and words both times. Sing that two or three times until all students are comfortable. They now have something to latch on to if they start to feel lost in the other stanzas. After the “You may say” stanza is solid, sing just the first stanza a few times. Then sing through entire piece once or twice, accepting the fact that not all students will be producing all the words accurately. If you have time and the class is still engaged, go through each stanza to confirm everyone is able to produce the words so that they are clear and understandable (matching to a British specific accent is not necessary, but would be your decision as teacher if you want all phonemes produced in exactly the same manner).

Written production activity

(est. 10-15 minutes)
After the Post-Listening Discussion, assign the students homework to find other songs with similar or contrasting themes. Specifically, students should look for: (a) Lyrics and a recording of another English song that has a similar or contrasting theme; (b) Lyrics and a recording of a song from the student’s home country that shares a similar or contrasting theme. The next day, draw a graph on the board with three columns: Imagine, another song in English, and a song from their home country. Now, discuss the similarities and differences between those three songs. As you contrast and compare, you could include specific questions such as: important words or phrases, meaning, themes, which phrases the student agrees/disagrees with most.
Creative writing activity

(est. 20-30 minutes)
This is a chance for creative writing. Create a handout so that students will find only the first sentence of each verse. Ask them to complete the verse with their own ideas, deliberately attempting to change the context to suit their own perspectives or background while following the lyric’s rhyme and metre. For example: ‘Imagine there's no Heaven, It's easy if you try. (Student writes her/his own lyrics to complete stanza.)’

After each student has completed their creative writing, place into pairs and have them read their work to each other. Students will then work together in pairs to combine what they feel is best of each other’s work and Lennon’s work. One stanza in its final form may therefore have portions of Lennon, Student 1 and Student 2 or only portions of Student 1 and Student 2 (or any other variation). Share these with the class either in written form or by singing.

Written reflection wrap-up activities
A. ‘Journal reflection’

(est. 30-40 minutes)
This is a chance for the students to reflect and share some personal thoughts. There is no right or wrong answer. Simply ask the students to think a little about the question they choose before they start and then write whatever they feel or think about the topic. Ask the students to choose one of the following questions and to write their personal opinions and feelings: (a) What was your personal reaction to the song Imagine? Did you like it? Why or why not? How did it make you feel? (b) What was your personal reaction to one of the other songs you or a classmate used? Did you like it? Why or why not? How did it make you feel? (c) Choose another song that you really like and describe what your personal reaction is to that song. Why do you like it? How does it make you feel?

  1. Emotion reflection’

(est. 30-40 minutes)
Write the following Mahatma Gandhi quotation paraphrase on the board: You must be the change you wish to see in the world. As you may know, John Lennon wrote Imagine as a protest against America’s military presence in Vietnam during the years of 1961-1973. He also meant it as a protest against war and fighting in general throughout the world. Discuss this context of Imagine with the students.

Then ask how they think Gandhi’s quotation and the lyrics from Lennon’s Imagine relate to each other? Let them know they are going to do something that may be emotionally challenging for them as we reflect on how change in the world begins with us.

Of course, remind them that they are in a safe community in the classroom but also give the option that they do not have to share anything that they don’t want to – and could choose the ‘Alternative Question’.

Ask students to think about the following questions and write a short response (one or two sentences) for each: (a) Imagine when you were younger. What emotions were allowed or not allowed? How acceptable were those emotions in your family and culture? Examples of emotions might be: Joy, Neglect, Grief, Fear, Passion, Love, Sadness or Anger. (b) Now, chose one of those emotions that were unacceptable. Try to choose one that you feel strongly about. (c) Was there a particular moment or event that made you aware of this? (d) Do you think there are any left over feelings of ‘unfinished business’ about the event and that emotion now? (e) How might this affect your life? How might it affect your relationships (with friends or family or romantically)? How might it affect how you deal with conflict in your life today? (f) “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Do you agree that? Why or why not? How does the reflection activity we just did help us understand ourselves and how we can help change the world?
Alternative question
Choose one of the following emotions (or add your own to the list): Joy, Neglect, Grief, Fear, Passion, Love, Sadness or Anger. Take that word as a starting point and write freely about that word. What personal memories in your life are connected to that word? Relate the word to your life in any way you wish.
Singing performance ( optional)

(est. 10 minutes)
Review what was accomplished in the last musical rehearsal. Build their confidence! Perform the piece! Invite an audience to your classroom (perhaps another class, friends, family members or other administrative and teaching staff). Or, go to another teacher’s classroom to perform. Enjoy!
Possible extension activities

  1. Song ‘Word Cloud’: Hania Kryszewska has excellent extension activities in her “Ideas from the Corpora” from Humanising Language Teaching Magazine for teachers and teacher trainers Year 12/Issue 3/June 2010

  1. If you chose to do Reflection Wrap-Up Activity, consider playing Ben Harper’s With My Own Two Hands from the album “Diamonds on the Inside” and discuss connections to both Lennon’s song and the Ghandi quotation.

  1. Singing: If the teacher and a majority of the class have a level of musical literacy that would involve reading sheet music and singing in harmony, feel free to use rough outline entitled Imagine: Choral Rehearsal Suggestions below. I would recommend learning in a classroom that has access to a piano or guitar for pitch reference. If you wish to sing and your class does not read sheet music, then follow suggestions above within the Teacher Instructions.

Extension - choral rehearsal suggestions (optional)
This lesson outline is to prepare for a performance of the piece (either at a concert or for another class) and assumes a certain level of musical literacy.
Choral rehearsal 1

(est. 10 minutes)
Hand out sheet music for Imagine. Learn the melody without words. Use a neutral syllable with a soft consonant sound at the beginning such as “bah” (/bə/) or “bee” (/bi:/). This allows for good tone to be developed on a consistent syllable while still having enough articulation from the consonant to hear the rhythm. Alternatively, use a consonant onset that the students often have a challenge producing. Pair with a neutral vowel sound. This allows your students to practice sounds that they may not feel comfortable producing in a safe environment.
Choral rehearsal 2

(est. 15 minutes)

Review what was accomplished in the last rehearsal. Ensure melodic and rhythmic accuracy before words are added. After everyone is comfortable with the melody and rhythm, then add words one verse at a time with everyone singing melody.
Choral rehearsal 3

(est. 15-20 minutes)
Review what was accomplished in the last rehearsal. Add multiple voice parts. Arrangements are available for two (SA or TB), three (SAB) and four part (SATB) voicings. Rehearse harmony slowly to ensure everyone understands where her or his part fits in the chord.
Choral rehearsal 4 and performance

(est. 15-20 minutes) and (est. 5 minutes)
Review what was accomplished in the last rehearsal. Build their confidence! Perform the piece! Invite an audience to your classroom (perhaps another class, friends, family members or other administrative and teaching staff). Or, go to another teacher’s classroom to perform. Enjoy!

Kryszewska, H, (2010) Ideas from the Corpora, Humanising Language Teaching Magazine for teachers and teacher trainers, Year 12/Issue 3/June 2010.
Lennon, J, (1971) Imagine, Lenono Music, All rights controlled and administered by EMI Blackwood Music INC.
Potts, M, (2002) Arun Gandhi Shares the Mahatma’s Message, India-West, San Leandro, Vol. XXVII/No. 13/ pp A34.
Please check the Creative Methodology for the Classroom course at Pilgrims website.

Please check the Methodology and Language for Secondary Teachers course at Pilgrims website.

Please check the Teaching Advanced Students course at Pilgrims website.

Please check the ICT - Using Technology in the Classroom – Level 1 course at Pilgrims website.

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