The Cup Song: what is it?

The Cup Song: what is it?

A new school year is coming. It would be great to start it with something that will immediately bring your teenage students together and put everyone at their ease, wouldn’t it? A song seems a reasonable choice. But which one to choose?

Have you ever heard of ‘Cups’, or ‘The Cup Song’? It is a version of the old song ‘When I’m Gone’, which has been usually performed with a cup to provide percussion. The song became a real hit after it appeared in the 2012 film ‘Pitch Perfect’. It was sung by Anna Kendrick and, soon after the film appeared, started off an internet craze of ‘Cup Songs‘ and got viral.

The idea is that you sing ‘The Cup Song’ clapping and beating rhythmically. As your only instrument, you use a plastic cup. It can be done solo or in a group. The beat itself is quite easy, however, the whole thing requires a bit of patience.

Why might it be interesting for an English teacher?

Let’s start off academically – it helps us develop students’ listening skills. The ability to hear individual words, recognize connected speech, and, probably, most importantly, spot the rhythm and stress. Also, like every song, it can be used for teaching vocabulary, grammar, just as a warmer and in many other ways. There are some ideas for using songs in the lessons here. This kind of activity will appeal to kinaesthetic learners a lot and activate a number of multiple intelligences – bodily-kinaesthetic, musical, and interpersonal ones.

How can teenagers benefit from that?

Not all teens love singing, especially in the lesson, surrounded by peers and teachers. This variation of a song will let them practise listening skills without actually singing if they don’t feel like it. They can do the gap-fill tasks and then just beat the rhythm. Also, it is a great ice-breaking activity which can be used at the beginning of a school year or a summer camp. It promotes team building and collaboration as students need to work on the movements all together and decide on those responsible for further singing. If you move the focus from English to learning the rhythm for a while, even low-level students will feel much more relaxed. The last but not least, it’s just a bit of good fun which can energize teenagers on a tiring gloomy day. If you let students choose one of their favourite songs, it will personalize learning and establish better teacher-students rapport.

What can you do with this particular song?

  • Listen to it or watch the part of the film
  • Work with the lyrics and do all the vocabulary work: presenting and practising new vocab, gap-fills, comprehension checks. Mind it that the song contains the line about ‘two bottles of whiskey for the way’. If you don’t find it appropriate for your class (and you, most likely, don’t), think of a way to substitute it.

I’ve got my ticket for the long way ’round

Two bottles of whiskey for the way

And I sure would like some sweet company

And I’m leaving tomorrow. What’d you say?

When I’m gone, when I’m gone

You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone

You’re gonna miss me by my hair

You’re gonna miss me everywhere, oh

You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone

When I’m gone, when I’m gone

You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone

You’re gonna miss me by my walk

You’re gonna miss me by my talk, oh

You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone

I’ve got my ticket for the long way ’round

The one with the prettiest of views

It’s got mountains, it’s got rivers

It’s got sights to give you shivers

But it sure would be prettier with you

When I’m gone, when I’m gone

You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone

You’re gonna miss me by my walk

You’re gonna miss me by my talk, oh

You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone

When I’m gone, when I’m gone

You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone

You’re gonna miss me by my hair

You’re gonna miss me everywhere, oh

You’re sure gonna miss me when I’m gone

When I’m gone, when I’m gone

You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone

You’re gonna miss me by my walk

You’re gonna miss me by my talk, oh

You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone 

 

  • Introduce the idea of a ‘cup song’. Provide the cups. A hard plastic cup is best until you have perfected the Cup Song.
  • Watch a short tutorial on how to use cups for playing music. It can be something like this:

  • Practise the routine
  • Combine words and movements – voila!

What are other possible uses of the activity?

The best thing about the Cup Project is that you don’t have to use this particular song. For instance, you can ask students to come up with their own variation on the cup sequence. They can then perform their rhythm with any of their favourite songs. There are numerous examples of these on Youtube, so some research will help students to choose. You can turn it into a whole-group project and record a short video to add to all those which are already on the net. Also, it’s a great addition to any lesson covering the topic of music, especially for higher-level teens. 

In the end, I can’t help sharing my personal fave of all. He’s doing great, isn’t he?

Enjoy!


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