42. Lesson Plan: Soldier of Fortune

deep-purple

Lesson plan based on Deep Purple’s Soldier of Fortune

This is the first time I used a song in the classroom to teach English language. The first song I chose was Deep Purple’s “Soldier of Fortune” as this is a great rock ballad with very poetic yet simple words, easy enough for the students to understand. (I actually wanted to do this with a heavy metal song, but I quickly decided against it for obvious reasons.)

I did this with class 10 students and here’s how I went about:

Lesson Plan:

Level: secondary students (Class 9 and 10)
Time: around 80 mins
Activity: Listening to the song, discussion, writing
Grammar focus: past tense, present tense. Switching back and forth.
Literary focus: metaphor

1. Write the title of the song “Soldier of Fortune” on the board and ask the students to make a guess what the title means.

2. This is optional. Tell the students about classic rock genre and about Deep Purple as well.

3. Play the song. Ask the students to notice and write down the key words (content words) as they go listening to the song.

4. Show them the lyrics (or better, read out the lyrics) and ask them to tally it with the key words they’d written down.

The lyrics:

I have often told you stories
About the way
I lived the life of a drifter
Waiting for the day

When I’d take your hand
And sing you songs
Then maybe you would say
Come lay with me love me
And I would surely stay

But I feel I’m growing older
And the songs that I have sung
Echo in the distance
Like the sound
Of a windmill goin’ round
I guess I’ll always be
A soldier of fortune

Many times I’ve been a traveler
I looked for something new
In days of old
When nights were cold
I wandered without you
But those days I thought my eyes
Had seen you standing near
Though blindness is confusing
It shows that you’re not here

Now I feel I’m growing older
And the songs that I have sung
Echo in the distance
Like the sound
Of a windmill going round
I guess I’ll always be
A soldier of fortune
I can hear the sound
Of a windmill goin’ round
I guess I’ll always be
A soldier of fortune

5. So, that’s the fun part. Now ask a few students if they can sing the song while reading the lyrics from the notebook.

6. To make them familiar with the song, play it one more time.

7. Now comes the actual learning stage. Discuss with the students about the theme of the song. Naturally, they will come up with different themes. Tell them, one of the themes is “retrospection on life”.

8. Remind them about the literary tools like: metaphors, similes and images. Ask them to find such literary tools in the song.

9. Ask the students what sort of mental/visual image does the song portray?

Some answers could be like:
Music: a very sad song
Vocals: old, tired, filled with regret
About: a drifter, someone who lived life wandering, aimlessly, and now that he’s growing older, his heart is filled with regret and sadness

10. Finally, as a part of homework (assignment), ask them to interpret the song relating to the moments when they were sad and regretful of something they had done or had not done.

11. And, play the song one more time just to check if they can sing it without looking at their notebook.

Since a period means only 40 mins, I did this in two days. After I finished the lesson, I also talked about Ritchie Blackmore, Deep Purple and why the guitar solo in the middle of the song is one of the greatest solos ever. Talking about this song made me realize that I love this song even more.

Not surprisingly, the students told me that they wanted to do similar activity again. I wonder, which song would that be!

The lyrics and photo source – the internet 🙂

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8 thoughts on “42. Lesson Plan: Soldier of Fortune

  1. This sounds so much fun! What an awesome song this is.. I wish some of my teacher did that. How was the response dai? Turn the page – Bob Seger and Silent Lucidity can make a good subject too.

    • They loved it. This was their first experience as well as mine. The school doesn’t have its resources so I had to use my own laptop and a cheap Chinese speakers to do it. But it was all fun and they also learnt some expressions and technique to write songs/poems.

      Turn the page is definitely one of the songs I want to do now. Some Elvis too.

  2. Your English classes must be fun. Back in school all we did was DICTATION and WORD MEANINGS. Also, the govt. sponsored English textbook is terrible especially “the CHANKKE (the monkey) and his friends” part.

    • Yeah that Chankhey the monkey is quite horrible. It’s in the class eight text book and the book is littered with hundreds of typos and awkward stuffs for a Nepali student. The book even has a picture of electric trolley bus which has been dead for over 15 years.

      I’m trying to mix everything up in the classroom. I try to finish the government prescribed text book in around the first 3 or 4 months and then I sort of take my own route. There’s no divergent thinking at all in us – in the students and in us the teachers. Teaching them and trying to come up with new stuffs every time has made me realize that I generally lack creativity hahaha..

  3. oh how jealous i am, i would love to have a teacher like u. And i love this song. DP in Nepal, hopefully will have chance to hear it live..

  4. I’ve recently bought the album “Stormbringer” from i-tunes. I haven’t heard it for decades, since I had it on vinyl. I had forgotten how good many of the tracks are, including “Soldier of Fortune”. I think for many people, song lyrics are an accessible form of poetry. I would have enjoyed English Literature much more if we could have discussed lyrics by Led Zeppelin, The Who, Deep Purple, The Eagles etc! Thanks for this fascinating article.

    Steve

    • Thanks Steve for dropping by. I too wish my teachers had done that during my school days. All they did was to teach from the textbook only, with a strong emphasis on grammar-translation method.

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