Studying English through songs – ‘Cat’s in the Cradle’ by Harry Chapin

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Od dawna nie wrzuciłam tu żadnego pomysłu na lekcję z piosenką. nadeszła więc pora, bo znowu pouczyć się angielskiego śpiewająco. Wbrew pozorom, nie jest łatwo znaleźć  utwór, który naprawdę nadaję się do wykorzystania na całej lekcji. Ten, chociaż stary i zapomniany, a raczej w ogóle nieznany, powinien się sprawdzić. Muzyka łatwo wpadająca w ucho, a słowa to właściwie historia z życia wzięta.

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Lesson plan

Cards with lyrics


Student Worksheet


Students will…
– learn new words and phrases and revise the ones they already know
– develop their ability to listen for specific information
– develop their ability to write a story
– develop their ability to work in groups
– have fun and feel motivated


– set of cards with the lyrics (one for each group)
– worksheets (one for each student)
– set of pictures (one for each group)


Tell the Students today they are going to listen to ‘Cat’s in the Cradle’, a song by Harry Chapin, an American singer and songwriter best known for his folk rock songs. Then write the following sentence on the board: “Frankly, this song scares me to death” and say that this is what Harry once said about his song. Encourage your students to predict what the song is about and take notes of the most interesting ideas.

Main procedure:

Ex. 1

Put your students in small groups (3-4 persons). Give each group one set of cards with the lyrics. Tell them to listen to the song and put the cards in the correct order. At this stage students should ignore the gaps in the text.

Cats In The Cradle-Harry Chapin

Ex. 2

Students should stay in the same groups. Give out the worksheets (one worksheet for each person). First they are supposed to work individually – they listen to the song again and complete the lyrics with the missing words. Then they should compare their answers with other students in their groups.

1. way 2. do 3. have 4. mind 5. grown

Ex. 3

Students should go back to the lyrics again and find sentences which have the same or similar meaning to the meaning of the sentences below. In the sentences there are words in a bold print.
This way students can both learn the meaning of the phrases in a bold print and see them in context.

My child was ten a few days ago.
My son turned ten just the other day.

My kid appeared not long ago.
My child arrived just the other day.

I’m getting through some trouble at work.
You see my new job’s a hassle.

He returned home from school.
He came home from college.

He was sad and disappointed.
Little boy blue.

Ex. 4

Ask the students to match the words with the definitions provided.

  1. college                       a) a few days ago, not long ago
  2. hassle                        b) finish a telephone conversation
  3. hang up                    c) sad, depressed
  4. blue                           d) become a particular age (here: become ten)
  5. turn ten                    e) a situation causing difficulty or trouble
  6. the other day           f) a university where you can study for an undergraduate degree

1. f   2. e   3. b   4. c   5. d   6. a

Ex. 5

Tell the students they should write a story about a son and his dad and their relationship which has never been good enough. Give each group one set of pictures which can help them to create the story. Students are supposed to use at least three of the new words/phrases they studied in Ex. 4.


Go back to the quotation you began the lesson with and ask your students why Harry said these words.

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