Authentic Materials | UCT English Language Centre
Sometimes, teaching English as a foreign language can be hard, especially if you have not really got much to work with (no course book or access to resources). And, if it’s important for you as a teacher that your students enjoy your lesson as much as they actually learn something, then you will have to learn to make great lessons out of what you do have access to. Using authentic materials, the stuff that’s available to you online, in newspapers and on tv, can help you create great lessons!

We were recently tipped off about this great idea using a fairly common ‘song’ and how one of our teachers at the UCT English Language Centre adapted this to make a lesson.

Have you ever heard of the ‘song’ “Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)” by Baz Luhrmann?

This is arguably one of the most inspirational and popular pieces you can find on the internet. According to Wikipedia, it was originally written by a columnist called Mary Smich and published in 1997 in the Chicago Tribune. Baz Luhrman later added some music and turned it into a type of song that just went viral.

It’s an incredible piece which provides us with some advice on how to live happier lives, remember the moments, stay in the ‘now’, be grateful for what you have and be a good person.

Watch/listen to the video below.

So, what can you do with this?

Preparation: watch/listen to the song. Cut and paste the below lyrics into a word document and omit some language/vocab (depending on what you decide will be the target for the lesson. For example, you can remove vocabulary (and let them get creative and funny), or prepositions. It’s up to you!

1. Warm up: ask students if they were giving a speech to a group of graduates, what they would advise them about the future that lies ahead of them. You can pair them up, split them into groups or ask them to work individually and then write their ideas on the board.
2. Language input: play the recording to the students and then ask them if any of the advice they had given was the same as in the recording. Play it again.
3. Let them discuss what they heard and ask any questions.
4. Provide them with a copy of the ‘song’ and ask them to fill in the gaps. You can decide to ask them to do this in groups again, or alone.
5. Once they are done, let them share their answers with the whole class and then listen again to check for the correct answers.
This is one example of what you can do, and elaborate on for your class. The options are endless, and this can turn into a very amusing and fun class!

Lyrics to “Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)” by Baz Luhrmann

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2007, wear sunscreen
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it
The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists
Whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable
Than my own meandering experience, I will dispense this advice now

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth, oh, never mind
You will never understand the power
And the beauty of your youth until they’ve faded
But trust me, in twenty years
You will look back at photos of yourself

And recall in a way you can’t grasp now
How much possibility lay before you
And how fabulous you really looked
You are not as fat as you imagine

Don’t worry about the future or worry that know that worrying
Is as affective as trying to solve an algebra equation
By chewing bubble gum
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things
That never crossed your worried mind
The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday

Do one thing every day that scares you, sing
Don’t be reckless with other peoples’ hearts
Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours, floss
Don’t waste your time on jealousy
Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind
The race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself

Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults
If you succeed in doing this, tell me how
Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements, stretch
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what to do with your life

The most interesting people
I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives
Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t
Get plenty of calcium
Be kind to knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone
Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the “Funky Chicken”
On your 75th wedding anniversary
Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much
Or berate yourself either
Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s

Enjoy your body, use it every way you can
Don’t be afraid of it or what other people think of it
It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own, dance
Even if you have nowhere to do it but your own living room
Read the directions even if you don’t follow them
Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly

Brother and sister together will make it through
Someday a spirit will take you and guide you there
I know you’ve been hurting, but I’ve been waiting to be there for you
And I’ll be there just helping you out, whenever I can

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good
Be nice to your siblings, they are your best link to your past
And the people most likely to stick with you in the future
Understand that friends come and go
But a precious few, who should hold on

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle
For as the older you get, the more you need the people
You knew when you were young
Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard
Live in northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft

Travel, accept certain inalienable truths
Prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old
And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young
Prices were reasonable, politicians were noble
And children respected their elders

Respect your elders, don’t expect anyone else to support you
Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse
But you’ll never know when either one will run out
Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re forty
It will look eighty-five
Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it

Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of
Wishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off
Painting over the ugly parts and recycling for more than it’s worth
But trust me on the sunscreen

Brother and sister together will make it through, oh yeah
Someday a spirit will take you and guide you there
I know you’ve been hurting, but I’ve been waiting to be there for you
And I’ll be there just helping you out, whenever I can

Everybody’s free, oh yeah, everybody’s free, oh yeah, oh, to feel good
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