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This post, first of a series I’m planning, is inspired in part by an #ELTchat back in January on the use of music and songs in the language classroom. The summary was written by Vicky Saumell, an EFL teacher, teacher trainer, materials writer and webhead based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her summary can be read on her blog here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. An amalgamated version of the summary is also on the #ELTchat website here. You can find the transcript on the #ELTchat wiki here.

What is #ELTchat?, I hear you ask – take a look at the frontpage for a detailed explanation.

In music, a concept album is an album that is “unified by a theme, which can be instrumental, compositional, narrative, or lyrical”. Commonly, concept albums tend to incorporate preconceived musical or lyrical ideas rather than being improvised or composed in the studio, with all songs contributing to a single overall theme or unified story

Wikipedia: (accessed 3 August 2011, 10.10am)


The key words above for me that make concept albums an interesting resource for teaching in general, and teaching language in particular, are that they are ‘unified by a theme, which can be […] narrative, or lyrical’. I believe that teaching (and teaching language in particular) is very much tied up in story telling. By this I don’t just mean recounting works of fiction, but being able to articulate our lives and interpret those of other people around us. Any material that makes some link between ourselves and the world is a rich resource, as far as I am concerned.

This is an introduction to a number of posts I want to write about my ideas for using concept albums in the classroom, in particular A Grand Don’t Come For Free by The Streets and The Defamation of Strickland Banks by Plan B. I’m going to post general discussion topics and questions around the albums, their songs and issues that they raise, as well as activities that directly engage with the lyrical texts and the language they contain ready to be unlocked with our learners. I’ll be looking at both the songs and related videos that I have found (for example, official videos on YouTube), so to make the most of these activities, I would recommend purchasing these albums (links to iTunes are below). However, you will be able to see the videos on YouTube for as long as they are kept there by the artists, so you can try out those activities without having to spend any money! Having said that, I would recommend getting the albums anyway, as they are great works =)

Looking forward to seeing what you think about the activities.

Useful links:

A Grand Don’t Come For Free (iTunes web)

The Defamation of Strickland Banks (iTunes web)

The Streets on Wikipedia

Plan B on Wikipedia

The return of concept album, Independent 2 October 2009

Image credits:

A Grand Don’t Come For Free, by Walt Jabsco on Flickr

Plan B at the Café de Paris, by The-E on Flickr