Posted 22/3/11
In this activity, students are asked to draw scenes from a song before listening to it. This activates ideas, key vocabulary and grammatical structures contained withing the lyrics.
  • Language level: Intermediate (B1)
  • Learner type: Young learners; Teens; Adults
  • Time: 40 minutes
  • Activity: Drawing
  • Topic: Love
  • Language: Second conditional
  • Materials: Song
California dreaming pdf [downloaded 4625 times]

Lesson plan outline

  1. Tell students that you want them to draw two sketches. Tell them to listen to your complete instructions before they start. Give the following instructions:
  2. I want you to draw a scene from a winter’s day: the trees are bare; the leaves on the ground are brown; the sky is grey. There is a man going for a walk. There is a thought bubble coming from his head. I also want you to draw a second picture. In this one the man is in a church. He is down on his knees and he is praying. The preacher is beside him. There is another thought bubble coming from the man’s head.

    Note that to ensure students’ comprehension of the instructions you can:
    * Use gesture and body position: get down on your knees and put your hands together to communicate the second scene.
    * Demonstrate what a thought bubble is by using your finger to draw an imaginary one in the air coming from your own head.
    * Speak clearly and write any new language on the board.
    * Repeat the instructions 2 or 3 times.

  3. Ask students to repeat the instructions back to you before drawing. If possible, give access to colour pencils. Ask students not to write anything in the thought bubbles at this stage.
  4. Let students compare their work with each other.
  5. Ask students to consider what their man might be thinking about. Elicit as many possible thoughts as you can and write the best ideas on the board. For example:
    • “I wish it was warmer”
    • “I should get a dog”
    • “I hate winter”
  6. Note that you could restrict the task: ask students to think of second conditional sentences that could go in the man’s thought bubbles.
  7. Explain to students that the man would love to be somewhere else but that he can’t leave. Ask them to guess why (the answer is that he is involved with a woman that he can’t leave).
  8. Write the following second conditionals on the board and ask students to copy them in or beside the man’s thought bubbles:
  9. * Thought bubble one: I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A.
    * Thought bubble two: If I didn’t tell her, I could leave today.
  10. Teach students the full song lyrics to California Dreaming. The song lends itself perfectly to a drill-type chant because of its call and response format. Ask students to repeat after you. Note that you don’t have to tell students that they are dealing with a song. Let them work it out for themselves.
  11. All the leaves are brown
    And the sky is grey
    I’ve been for a walk
    On a winter’s day
    I’d be safe and warm
    If I was in LA
    California dreaming
    On such a winter’s day
    I stopped into a church
    I passed along the way
    Well, I got down on my knees
    And I pretend to pray
    You know the preacher likes the cold
    He knows I’m going to stay
    California dreaming
    On such a winter’s day
    All the leaves are brown
    And the sky is grey
    I’ve been for a walk
    On a winter’s day
    If I didn’t tell her
    I could leave today
    California dreaming
    On such a winter’s day
  12. Let students hear the song.


After eliciting possible thoughts (see step 4) ask students to write a short story about the man in the scene.

Follow up

Scan your students’ drawings and use video-editing software (Windows Movie Maker, iMovie, etc) to create a collage to accompany the song.

Posted 22/3/11

12 Responses to California dreaming

  1. Alan Tait says:

    Welcome back. A great idea from a favourite song. We have a gig on Friday and will be playing this :) Mama Cass and John Phillips RIP

  2. Jamie Keddie says:

    Good luck Alan!

  3. Rita Cerniauskaite says:

    A very nice lesson. Advantages for the students – interesting and motivating. Advantages for the teacher – fits the curriculum perfectly and takes only a few minutes to prepare. Thanks a lot ;)

  4. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Rita
    I’m glad you like it. If your students ever make the video, send it this way and I’ll link to it.
    Jamie :-)

  5. Elena says:

    I loved this lessons the first time I saw it. And I used it for a Christmas activity a couple of years ago, with a different song (Soul Cake, by Sting), and with a different language topic (present progressive). Kids enjoyed it, too, specially when they saw their drawings in the video!
    Thanks for sharing such useful ideas.

    (if you want to see the result …

  6. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Elena
    I went to your blog but couldn’t see the video. Is it on YouTube.
    Would love to see it
    Jamie :)

  7. Jamie Keddie says:

    Love it Elena!
    Great sketches and song choice.
    Thanks for sharing the clip. I have bookmarked it.

  8. Sonda says:

    What a creative lesson! I love it! As imitation is the highest form of flattery, I have every intention of flattering you! Thanks so much!

  9. Jamie Keddie says:

    I am flattered Sonda!
    If you make your own video, please share it here.
    Thank you for the nice comment
    Jamie :-)

  10. Olga Gualteros says:

    Such a great lesson!! I really love it, and the instructions are so clear and simple. Thanks!!

  11. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thank you Olga!
    Jamie :)