Developing Emotional Literacy Through Music

Emotional Literacy was a massive focus on the 'Improving Reading and Writing Through Popular Children's Movies and Media' conference I led with John Murray recently. We explored using a variety of materials to help develop this in your classroom. As I was driving down to Cardiff tonight, I found another little gem linked to emotional literacy in the form of a song. In fact, the current UK number one - Wasn't Expecting That by Jamie Lawson.

The lyrics say so little but mean so much and something that could be used to help draw lots of inference and deduction in class. There is one lyric that isn't appropriate for the Primary classroom, in the same way, some scenes from the brilliant music video aren't appropriate. Therefore, I have created an edited lyric video so it can be used as I think the song as a whole is fantastic. Both John and myself have created a series of questions that can be asked with this song. I would aim this at Year 5/6 and make the following links to the curriculum:

"En5/2.2b    understand what they read by
-checking that the book makes sense to them, discussing their understanding and exploring the meaning of words in context
-asking questions to improve their understanding
-drawing inferences such as inferring characters' feelings, thoughts and motives from their actions, and justifying inferences with evidence 
En5/2.2c    discuss and evaluate how authors use language, including figurative language, considering the impact on the reade 
En5/2.2e    retrieve, record and present information from non-fiction 
En5/2.2f    participate in discussions about books that are read to them and those they can read for themselves, building on their own and others’ ideas and challenging views courteously"


Before watching the video, play the song to the children all the way through listening to just the audio. Ask the children -
  • What type of song is it? 
  • Who are the characters in the song? 
  • Who is singing it? 
  • Who is he singing to?
Then play the first 20 seconds -

Lyrics -

It was only a smile
But my heart it went wild
I wasn't expecting that
  • Who smiled? 
  • What type of smile do you think she first gave him? Show your teacher.
  • What effect did it have on the singer? How do you know? (Heart it went wild)
  • Where do you think this has happened? Why?
  • Why wasn't he expecting that? What feeling does this phrase portray?
  • How old are the characters?
Listen to the next part up to 42 seconds -

Lyrics -

Just a delicate kiss
Anyone could've missed 
I wasn't expecting that 

Did I misread the sign?
Your hand slipped into mine 
I wasn't expecting that 
  • What has happened between the two? How do you know?
  • Why do you think the singer uses the adjective 'delicate' to describe the kiss? What does this tell us about the girl?
  • Why do you think the singer is shocked by this?
  • Is the singer confident? Modest? How do you know?
  • Why does the singer use the verb 'slipped' to describe how the couple came to hold hands? Did you like this idea? Why? Why not?
  • Does it surprise you that it is the girl who takes the lead and not the man? Why? Why not?
The next couple of lines have been edited as they are not appropriate.

You spent the night in my bed
You woke up and you said 
"Well, I wasn't expecting that!" 

Then discuss the following lines - 

I thought love wasn't meant to last
I thought you were just passing through 
If I ever get the nerve to ask 
What did I get right to deserve somebody like you? 
I wasn't expecting that 
  • Why did he think love wasn't meant to last? 
  • Do you think the man has been hurt in love before? Why?
  • Why might this help us understand why he keeps on repeating the phrase 'I wasn't expecting that'?
  • What question do you think he wants to 'get the nerve to ask' is? 
  • What do you think her answer will be? Why?
Continue to play the song up to this point -

It was only a word
It was almost misheard 
I wasn't expecting that 
But it came without fear
A month turned into a year 
I wasn't expecting that 

I thought love wasn't meant to last
Honey, I thought you were just passing through 
If I ever get the nerve to ask 
What did I get right to deserve somebody like you? 
I wasn't expecting that 
  • What was the word? If it was an answer what was the question?
  • Why was it almost misheard?
  • Why did it come without fear?
  • What sweet term of affection does they man call the woman? On a scale of 1-5, how warm and loving is this term? 
  • Why is he using this term now but not at the start?
Study the next verse -

Oh and isn't it strange
How a life can be changed
In the flicker of the sweetest smile
We were married in spring
You know I wouldn't change a thing
Without that innocent kiss
What a life I'd have missed
  • Why has his life changed?
  • In which season were they married? Why is this symbolic? What do we associate with spring?
  • What word shows he is fond of her smile?
  • What word shows they were young when they met?
  • How old is he now when he sings this song?
Next verse - 
If you'd not took a chance
On a little romance
When I wasn't expecting that
Time doesn't take long
Three kids up and gone
I wasn't expecting that
  • Who was the decision maker in the relationship?
  • What effect does the line 'time doesn't take long' have?
  • How many children have they had and how old are they now? Why do you think this?
  • How much time has passed?
  • How old is the singer now? Why do you think this? 
Last verse - 
When the nurses they came
Said, "It's come back again"
I wasn't expecting that
Then you closed your eyes
You took my heart by surprise 
I wasn't expecting that
  • What do you think has come back again? Why do you think this?
  • What has happened when she closed her eyes? 
  • How does the singer feel? How do you know?
  • Why has the singer finished talking about his heart? 
  • What does the fact that he wasn't expecting this to happen and his heart has also been taken, tell us about [a] the man and [b] their relationship?
After discussing the lyrics ask the children the following questions -
  • Do you think this is based on a true story? Do you think it is the singer's story?
  • Do you like the fact that this song is written in first person? Why? Why not?
  • What effect does this have on the listener? Why?
  • Why do you think there is so much repetition in this song? Do you think this was a good thing or not? Why?
  • Where do you think he is when he is singing this song? To who is he singing it to? Why is he singing it to her? 
  • Can you think of any other stories or films with a similar message? This can easily be linked to the 'Married Life' Clip from Up, (this is something John discusses on our conference.)
  • What is the message the song is trying to demonstrate?
  • Why do you think this song is so popular?
  • What different emotions and feelings are felt through the song?
  • Do you like it? Why?

Writing activities -

Although the music video linked to the song is brilliant it isn't appropriate for the classroom as certain scenes are rude. However using some screenshots, the children could create a timeline based on the song or even a comic strip to sequence the story. 

Ask the children to imagine that the singer/husband finds a letter from his late wife, what do you think it would say? Could the children write this letter?

If this blog post is something you have enjoyed and would like to see more, please join us on our next conference in York, Peterborough and South Wales -

John Murray can deliver a full training INSET for schools focusing on developing emotional literacy. For more details visit his website -

Remember -

Updated - 30th October -

Thank you so much to Mr Beedie from Kinson Primary School in Bournemouth for sharing an example of the writing created from this lesson. This was Dante's example, a massive well done, it is a fantastic effort! -

Update - 12th February -

Thank you to Miss Marie and her Year 5 class from Caedmon Community Primary School for sharing some of their fantastic writing based on the ideas and song - 


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