Taylor Swift vs. Apple Music

It seems to me that Taylor Swift has taken over the news this week, and not because she put Ed Sheeran in the friend zone. I have seen her being called both a saviour and a hypocrite and a lot of things in between.

I teach a pair of 18-year-old students (B2) who are really into pop music and this sounds exactly like a topic they would be interested in. However, I think this lesson would be well suited for a conversation classes in general.

I started by asking them the following questions:

  • What type of music do you listen to?
  • Does the type of music you listen to depend on your mood? Why?
  • Do you usually buy CDs or download the music you like?

The last question in particular is key, and I tried to use it to briefly talk about illegal downloads (which will come up again later on).

After that I asked the students if they had heard of the new Apple Music service. They had, but didn’t know much about it, so I decided to show them a video explaining what its features. The while-viewing questions are:

  • How is the way we listen to music changing?
  • How will Apple Music help new artists?
  • What will Apple Music offer?

After discussing the answers I asked them how much they thought the service would cost, and used that discussion as a link to the article about Taylor Swift. I asked students if they knew what the connection was between Taylor Swift and Apple Music and introduced the article.

You can find the adapted version below and the orignal article here.

Taylor Swift vs. Apple Music (The NY Times)

I used the following while-reading questions:

  • Why did Taylor Swift say she wouldn’t make her music available on Apple Music?
  • Do other musicians support her?
  • How did that change Apple’s plans?
  • How much will Apple Music cost?

At the end of the article Taylor Swift says “Valuable things should be paid for. It’s my opinion that music should not be free.” I discussed with students to what extent they agreed with it. The resulting discussion was quite rich.

Finally, I moved on to the vocabulary, which is in bold in the article. I asked my students to match them to definitions I had provided, courtesy of the Cambridge Online Dictionary. The final result looks like this:


One of the students has a hard time with separable and non-separable phrasal verbs, so I make it a point of always having the object in the middle to show him when a phrasal verb can be separated (e.g. hold something back).

The discussion questions are tailored to university students who go to São Paulo everyday, but could be easily adapted to be more general and cater for a wider range of backgrounds.


Thanks for reading.

One thought on “Taylor Swift vs. Apple Music

  1. Pingback: Some thoughts on Error Correction | ricardo barros elt

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