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Space Oddity – David Bowie

A lesson plan to help students develop critical thinking skills in English.

Context Setting
Draw a basic picture of the moon on the board or show a picture. Ask the
students what they know about the moon. Answers could include it’s big, white,
a sphere, it goes round the earth, it has no (or very little) oxygen, gravity is
weaker (so things weigh less). Feed the students any of the specific vocabulary
they need to describe these things as and when they need it. Move the topic onto
the moon landing.

- What they know about the moon landing?


- When did it occur? (1969).
- What was the name of the mission? (Apollo 11)
- Who was the first man to walk
on the moon? (Neil Armstrong)

Listening
Tell the class that they’re going to listen to a song about space travel, and that
it was released in 1969, to coincide with the launch of the Apollo 11 mission.
Give the students the lyrics sheet and when they listen to the song, tell them to
underline any words they don’t know.

Next, in pairs or small groups, they have two tasks;

1. Work out the meaning of any words they don’t know from the context.
Be ready with the dictionary just in case there’re any problems!
2. Work out the story of the song – what happens in each verse. Is it positive about space travel or not? Is it
realistic?

Discussion Activity– Moon Survival


Tell the students that they’ve travelled to the moon, but there is a problem; they landed 200km away from the moon
base, and their spaceship is now broken. They must choose which items to take from their ship when they walk to the
base. They must be careful! If they choose the wrong things, they may die.

Divide the class into small groups for the discussion. Give each group the ‘Item List’ and ask them to rank the items in
order of importance. Go through the vocabulary to make sure the students understand. Monitor, provide hints to
weaker groups and play devil’s advocate if you have to.

After a suitable amount of time, swap the papers round so different groups can mark each other’s work. Talk through
the answers, using the board to help you establish the ranking, and talk through the reasoning behind the choices. The
ranking of the list comes from NASA’s website, so it’s pretty authoritative!
Item Rank NASA’s Reasoning
Virtually worthless – there’s no
Box of Matches 15
oxygen on the moon to enable fire.
Concentrated food 4 Efficient means of supplying energy.
Useful for climbing and tying things
20metres of rope 6
together.
Parachute silk 8 Protection from the sun’s rays.
Not needed unless on the dark side of
Portable heating unit 13
the moon.
Could possibly be used to help move
2 pistols 11
you.
Case of dehydrated Bigger than the concentrated food,
12
milk and for the same purpose.
2 100lb tanks of Needed to breathe!
1
oxygen
Star map 3 Need to know where you’re going!
The C02 unit could be used to help
Self-inflating life raft 9
move you.
Wouldn’t work on the moon, the
Magnetic Compass 14 moon’s magnetic field isn’t
‘polarised’.
5 gallons of water 2 Needed to drink and survive!
Could use to signal the base when
Signal Flares 10
you’re close enough.
Medicines, vitamins, in case of
First aid kit 7
illness, can be used with a space suit.
Solar-powered FM For communication with base, but
5
radio transmitter only over short distances.
Lyrics
Ground control to Major Tom
Ground control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on

Ground control to Major Tom


Commencing countdown, engines on
Check ignition and may god’s love be with you

Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five,


Four, three, two, one, liftoff

This is ground control to Major Tom


You’ve really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare

This is Major Tom to ground control


I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today

For here
Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do

Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles


I’m feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell me wife I love her very much she knows

Ground control to Major Tom


Your circuits dead, there’s something wrong
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you....

Here am I floating round my tin can


Far above the moon
Planet earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do
Item List
Item Rank
Box of Matches
Concentrated food
20metres of rope
Parachute silk
Portable heating unit
2 pistols
Case of dehydrated milk
2 100lb tanks of oxygen
Star map
Self-inflating life raft
Magnetic Compass
5 gallons of water
Signal Flares
First aid kit
Solar-powered FM radio
transmitter