Holidays, a song (“Brighton in the Rain”) and the good ol’ present perfect!

I first learnt about “Brighton in the Rain”, by Robert Campbell and Jonathan Dykes, from my CELTA tutor at Sheffield University, many moons ago.

When I first used this song, I struggled to find a recording – lots of googling led me to a discussion thread/feed where it had been mentioned and emailing the person who mentioned it finally scored me a copy. (Thank you, whoever you are! I can’t remember your name or where I found that obscure thread, but it was good to get my hands on the song at last!) Of course, nowadays it’s freely available on and various other websites – like so much else.

Anyway, faced with a grammar-heavy few pages of course book (present perfect central!), I dug it out – the first time in a while! – and used it with my pre-intermediate students to lighten it up for them a little. Topic-wise, it feeds nicely in to what comes next in the book, which is travelling-related (and a heap more present perfect information!).

Here is what I did with it:


1hr 20 minutes


a recording of the song (now available here); cut-up lyrics; a handout of the complete song lyrics; this powerpoint (shared here minus the photos I used, as those were copyrighted – but all you need to do is a Google images search for pictures of Brighton in the rain and a picture of Brighton on a map !); this handout (based on the powerpoint – for the learners to have a take-away record); this empty rubric, which is based on the song.


Review of the present perfect for life experiences, use with “ever“/”never“/”always“/”only“, asking and answering questions using the form, using the form to discuss their own experiences; listening, speaking, writing.



  • Put learners in pairs/small groups and give them these questions to discuss:
  1. Tell your partner about some of the places where you have been on holiday.

  2. Do you usually go somewhere different or do you go back to the same place every year?

  3. What are the pros and cons of going to the same place every year and going to a different place every year?

  • Do a quick whole class feedback phase.
  • Show learners the pictures of Brighton, in the rain, ask if they can guess where it is (Brighton) and then what the pictures have in common (it’s raining!).
  • Ask learners if they have ever been to/heard of Brighton before. (If they haven’t, would they like to go?)
  • Play the recording of the song (if using the version I linked to, don’t show the learners the video; hide it and get them to listen only) and have learners listen for the answers to these two questions:
  1. Does the singer visit different places every year? (No!)

  2. Where has he been? (Only Brighton and the Isle of Mann! – but of course the learners will hear lots of places that he hasn’t been to…)

  • Give learners the cut-up lyrics (I like to make the lyrics a large font size and get learners to work together, using the floor space, to do this activity – but I’ve only done it with small classes!) and have them listen and put them in the correct order. (This worked really nicely today, the learners were very in to it. I paused the recording periodically to give them time to catch up and fed in some prompting questions to get them using linguistic and logical skills.)
  • Play the song again and get learners to sing along! (Mine were silly-dancing too!)
  • Put learners in pairs or small groups to discuss the following questions: (This we did briefly as a whole class, because we were a small group anyway, while still stood up around the lyrics – it was more of a quick chat!)
  1. Do you think the singer is happy? (No!)
  2. How do his travel experiences compare with yours?
  3. Have you ever done any of the things that he hasn’t done? Which?
  4. Would you like to do any of the things he hasn’t done? Which? Why?

Brighton in the rain! (image taken from advanced Google images search, licensed for commercial reuse with modification, from

Language focus

  • Keep learners in pairs/smalls groups (you could change groupings if you want to), give them each a copy of the full song, and get them to look at and discuss the present perfect form and meaning focus questions:
  1. What tense do we use to talk about life experiences?

  2. How do we form it? (positive sentence, negative sentence, question, short answers)

  3. Do we know when the experience happened?

  4. Does it matter when the experience happened?

  • Do a whole class feedback phase and then move onto the next questions:
  1. Look at these lines from the song. What do the words in bold mean? How would you translate them into your language?

– I’ve never been to Athens and I’ve never been to Rome.

– I’ve only seen the pyramids in picture books at home.

– I’ve always spent my holidays in Brighton, in the rain!

  1. Look at these questions based on the song. What do the words in bold mean? (This should be “2” but WordPress won’t let it be!)

– Have you ever been to Athens?

– Have you ever been to Rome?

  • Check their answers in a whole class phase, and give them time/space to ask any questions, and then let them move on to the next activity: in their pairs, they should make, ask and answer some more questions like the above examples, based on ideas from the song.

Speaking and Writing

  • Put learners in pairs. Give each learner a copy of the blank rubric of the song.
  • Get them to interview their partner about his or her life experiences, and complete the blank rubric using their partner’s answers. (You could do an initial brainstorming stage for possible topic areas/questions to ask, to help get learners’ creative juices flowing! It also really helps to demonstrate this activity with one of the learners before setting them off.) Encourage learners to ask interesting questions.*
  • Put learners in groups so that the above-mentioned pairs are split up. Ask them to take it in turns to tell their group about their partner, using the rubric (they will need to convert the sentences into the third person for this). Their group should ask, say, five questions about each person, which the learner whose partner it is should note down.
  • Put learners back in their original pairs and let them find out the answers to their group’s questions.
  • Regroup them into the same groups as above, for them to give their group the answers to their questions.


If you run out of time (cough cough!) around the stage I marked with an asterisk, I recommend getting the learners to finish completing the rubric as their partner (so, as they have begun via interview but by guessing the information about their partners rather than doing it through questioning). At the beginning of next lesson, I plan to get them back in the same pairs again to see how near or far they were with their guesses!

Possible homework/follow-up

(If you use Edmodo) Get learners to write a few sentences about their experiences (encourage them to use experiences they have not yet discussed…) and send them directly to you (using that function on Edmodo!) and then you post all of their experiences onto the class page. They should then read and guess which experiences go with which classmates!


I think this lesson worked well, to give the learners a bit of extra time to get their mouths and minds around the present perfect. In the book, a lot of information comes at them in a short space of time – for, since, ever, never, contrasting with past simple and so on, so this broke it up a bit and gave them extra opportunities to hear it used and use it themselves – as well as being a bit of fun to break up a very grammar-heavy unit a bit! 🙂



12 thoughts on “Holidays, a song (“Brighton in the Rain”) and the good ol’ present perfect!

  1. Thanks, Lizzie! This is great. And the funny thing is I am doing a CELTA at Sheffield right now. Would definitely recommend it!

      • Thanks! I am having a great time and learning lots. More than I learnt on a PGCE I think. I am doing it online and part-time, definitely a good way to do this as you have more time to reflect and read around the subject than on the 4 week version.

  2. Pingback: Holidays, a song ("Brighton in the Rain&qu...

  3. Pingback: Holidays, a song (“Brighton in the Rain&r...

  4. Pingback: English Grammar Pill: How to use the present perfect tenses correctly | English with a Twist

  5. This is great! Thanks a lot. As soon I watched the video and heard the words Pyramids, I thought I could also use to run a guessing game. I lived in Brighton and also in Egypt, but I’ve never visited the Pyramids. 😉 I’ll definitely use your ideas. Thanks again.

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