What Makes a Tearjerker?

Does the song “Someone Like You” bring tears to your eyes?

Actions and Movements ESL FlashcardsApart from the Whitney Houston tribute, is there anything else that made you cry while watching the Grammys? What about hearing Adele confess that her music was inspired by “a rubbish relationship” that everyone has been through? The Boston Globe called Adele’s winning solo “Someone Like You” the “tearjerker of the year”. According to researchers, it’s not all about the lyrics. If you’re looking for an alternative to a Valentine’s Day lesson plan this week and you enjoy using authentic materials, watch this video with your students and discuss why you think Adele’s song is a tearjerker. Ask your students to raise their hands when they feel goosebumps coming on!  If you teach high level learners, share the Boston Globe article Why cry over “Someone”? Discuss the scientific findings. (More here.) Review some new adjectives, including “shallow,” “pragmatic,” “nostalgic,” and “somber”. You could also work together to put the lyrics of “Someone Like You” together.

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Here are a few questions to get your students talking after watching the video and reviewing the science.

  • What is a tearjerker? What songs are tearjerkers for you?
  • Did you get goosebumps when you listened to the music?
  • What other words do you know for the verb “to cry”?
  • What is the best way to heal after a break up? Is it tough to listen to love songs after a break up?

“I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited. But I couldn’t stay away, I couldn’t fight it. I’d hoped you’d see my face and that you’d be reminded. That for me, it isn’t over.” Adele, Someone Like You

Ask students: “Have you (or a “friend”) ever taken this approach after a break up? Did it work?”

Soul Mates Lesson PlanOur Discussion Starters section features a full-length lesson on Soul mates. If your students are interested in discussing this issue, be sure to print out this lesson. You can preview this lesson with our FREE podcast: Does each person have one true love?

Love Themed Lessons in the ESL-Library

Valentine’s Day (Low Intermediate)
Valentine’s Day (Intermediate-High)
Soulmates (Discussion Starters)
Gender Roles (Discussion Starters)
Online Dating (Discussion Starters)
The Cost of Weddings (Discussion Starters)
The Case of the Missing Ring (Detective Series)
10 Surprising Facts about the Heart (Heath Matters)
The Love Canal Famous Places
Going to a Movie Everyday Dialogues
At a Restaurant Everyday Dialogues
2nd Conditional Grammar Stories
Operation White Cake: Something to Talk About
Child Quick to Accept Gay Couple: Something to Talk About


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