Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) was released on the 9th March 1999 and based on a newspaper essay in the Chicago Tribune by Mary Schmich named ‘Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young’. The song features a spoken-word track narrated by Australian voice actor Lee Perry. Australian film director Baz Luhrmann remixed the essay and released a song, which became a big hit and was a number one in the UK.
Put simply: I love this song. Back when it was released, I remember hearing it on the radio as a young boy and going as far as writing as many of the lyrics down as I could each time I heard it (pre-internet days, you see!).
I created this activity for two reasons (as well as simply having an opportunity to hear the song again!). Firstly, to have an enjoyable listening activity that I could use with both teens and adults that has the potential to develop students’ listening skills as well as providing some great new vocabulary. Secondly, to hopefully catch the ear of some students who hadn’t heard it before and raise a big smile!
You can download my pdf lesson HERE. It consists of four pages:
- The first page is a series of images which represents some of the trickier words in the song that can be pre-taught.
2. The second and third pages contain the lyrics of the songs. I have marked some new vocabulary in bold (this can be used as an expansion activity if you wish) and placed numbers in brackets next to phrases that link to questions on page four.
3. The final page contains some questions about some different pieces of vocabulary and grammar, which can be used at the end.
- Cut up the lyrics on pages 2 and 3 by cutting around the solid lines.
- You will need a copy of the song / access to the YouTube video.
- Warmer: Put the following question on the board: “What is the best advice you have ever been given?” Students discuss for at least three minutes in groups and follow up with a whole class discussion. It may be a good idea to place some of the best ideas on the board if you wish to do the extra follow-up part at the end.
- Pre-teach vocabulary: Hand out the first page of the worksheet. In small groups, students discuss what they can see in the picture and choose what they believe to be the best match from the vocabulary in the box. (Optional extra: fold the bottom of the page under before handing it out to make it even more difficult!) Provide examples during feedback, check understanding and explain how common these words or phrases are. All of this vocabulary will appear in the coming song.
- With students in groups of at least four, hand out the cut up lyrics of the song. Explain that they are going to have to work together to put these lyrics in the correct order as they hear the song. Emphasise to students that this song is based on an essay and therefore the language will not be simple; however, this is not something that need cause any difficulty at this point. This step will involve teamwork, scanning for the words they hear, listening for particular words. Some students may also notice the numbers next to certain words, which can be used as a help! In my experience, students usually get at least 80% of the lyrics in the correct order if they work together!
- Before the students hear the song for a second time, give out the questions (page four). With reference to the lyrics in front of them, students try to answer as many questions as they can in approximately ten minutes.
- Check answers (noting any difficulties for future lessons, of course!), discuss questions 2, 3, 5 and 10 as much or as little as you wish as a class. (For more possible uses of Question 10, see the optional extra below.)
- Listen to the song one final time, giving the students an opportunity to a) rearrange any lyrics that they did not place during the first listening, and b) a chance to enjoy the song in a more relaxed way!
At this point, there are various possible ways to follow up the listening. Aside from the vast amounts of potential vocabulary and discussion within the song, here are a couple of suggestions:
Optional Extra 1): Question 10 could be used to refer back to the warmer at the start of this lesson where the students discussed their own favourite pieces of advice. As a follow up, the students could write a new verse to the song, all leading to a small class rendition of their extra verses at the end of the lesson!
Optional Extra 2): As this lesson is about advice, this song is a great gateway / practice opportunity for advice structures such as ‘should’, ‘if I were you’, ‘really ought to’ etc. The lyrics of this song could be used as a stimulus for such an activity, or perhaps younger students can produce an advice poster for young people with such phrases adapted from the song.
I hope you and your students enjoy experiencing this song from a slightly different perspective!