Have you ever used songs in your language classroom? They can be very memorable and enjoyable for students, especially those with good singing voices that like to sing along! (Unfortunately I’m not one of them as I sound a bit like a strangled cat when I try to sing!!)
Before I give you my top tips on using songs in the English classroom, here are two websites that will help you plan your lessons: tefltunes is a fantastic resource for worksheets and metrolyrics is the place to go to for song lyrics.
We discuss using songs and more creative techniques in our Methodology courses.
Here are my top tips for using songs to teach a language:
At the simplest level you can use songs to teach Vocabulary.
Songs such as ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ can be used to teach body parts.
Check out this Youtube channel for songs to use with your Young Learners.
Gap fill activities also known as cloze-fill activities, can be used in a number of ways.
- They can be used to encourage your students to listen carefully, so you would create worksheets that have certain words omitted and your students must listen attentively for the missing words.
- Gap-fill activities could also be used to focus on a particular English language point such as verb tenses or rhyming words.
Order the song
A fun and interesting way to use songs in the classroom is to cut up the lyrics of the song.
- Ask your students to listen carefully and order the slips of paper. Depending on your learner’s level, this activity can be done pre-listening or post listening to the song.
If done pre-listening, your students can then check that they have ordered the lyrics correctly while they listen to the song.
To increase student participation you can pair your students up, then get them to check their order in small groups and finally as a class.
- Here is another method that has the added bonus of getting your students moving. This technique will surely blow away those morning or end of day cobwebs.
After listening to the song, the students are given half a line from the song. The students must find the other half of their line and then as a class reorder the lyrics.
Change the song
- Add extra words to the song. Your students will have to listen out for the wrong words.
- Alternatively you could insert wrong words into the song. This method is a good way to practice synonyms or antonyms. Ask your students to listen out for the correct synonym or antonym
Listen to the Music.
- Play the song without the lyrics
Ask your students to listen carefully to the music and to explain to you how the music makes them feel. Get them to talk about the mood and the emotions the music evokes in them.
- Use the music as a basis for your students’ story telling?
Get them to work in groups or pairs and ask them to write a story based on how the music makes them feel.
- You could also ask your students to write a few verses to the music.
Imagine by John Lennon is a good song for this sort of activity. Once they have competed the task they could then compare their lyrics to the actual lyrics.
- Interview the singer or a character in the play.
Ask your students to write up 10 questions and answers for their interview. Get them to role-play the interview.
- The students after listening and discussing the song could write a letter from or to the singer or a character in the song.
- They could also write a few extra verses themselves. ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon is a good song for this activity.
- Give the students only half the song and ask them to predict and write what the other half would be.
- Get the students to plan a music video for the song.
If you are looking for more ways to introduce fun and creativity into your classroom,
join us on our Methodology courses.
- Act out the song.
- In pairs ask your students to listen out for adjectives, adverbs, ing words etc. The first pair to stand up wins that point.
- Play Charades with various song titles.
- Play Bingo
I have used this countless times to practise the Past Simple using songs such as Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye; Torn by Natalie Imbruglia and Paradise by ColdPlay.The students are given bingo sheets with the infinitive of the verb. When they hear the past simple of the infinitive on their sheet, they mark their card. The winner is that person who finished their card first.
Top Tip: Make sure you laminate your Bingo sheets so that you can reuse them.
- Besides getting your students to write out all or part of the lyrics of a song you could also use Wall dictation.
In a Wall Dictation the lyrics are cut up and the sheets of paper are then stuck all over the classroom walls.The students are paired up, student A and student B.
Each pair is given a sheet of paper and a pen. Student A runs around the classroom to find the pieces of text marked A. Every time they find a piece they run back to their partner (B) and dictates the lyrics to student B.
If the students forget the text they have read on the wall, they must go back to the wall and read the piece again.
Once student A has finished finding and dictating all the pieces to student B, the pair of students switch roles. So student B goes round the classroom finds a slip labelled B and dictates it to his partner.
Once all they have finished dictating all the slips they must then work together to put the parts of the song into the correct order to form the song.
Songs could be used to practise and consolidate a variety of English Language grammar points.
- You could use a simple cloze-gap activity where you blank out the grammar point to be practised and ask your students to fill in the gaps.
For example if it is verbs you are practising give your students the infinitive and which verb form they should be using. Get them to fill in the blanks before listening to the song.
- Give multiple-choice options for the target language point.
Ask the students to pick their answer then get them to listen to the song and correct their answers
- Give the students the wrong grammar point such as verb tenses and ask them to correct the mistakes.
- Use a matching exercise to introduce and consolidate vocabulary such as idioms
- Change the lyrics from active to passive form or from direct to reported speech.
Here are a few of our tried and tested favourite English songs:
|English Language Point||Song/Artist|
|Present Simple||She Loves You by The Beatles|
|Present Continuous||Tom’s Diner by Suzanne Vega|
|Past Simple||Yellow Submarine by The Beatles|
|Past Continuous||Champagne Supernova by Oasis|
|Present Perfect||I haven’t met you by Michael Buble|
|Present Perfect Continuous||Free Love by Depeche Mode|
|Past Perfect||Goodbye by Lover by James Blunt|
|Simple Future||I will Survive by Gloria Gaynor|
|First conditional||If you don’t know me by now by Simply Red|
|Second conditional||If I were a Boy by Beyonce|
|Modal verbs||Better together by Jack Johnson|
|Phrasal verbs||Hung up by Madonna|
|Reported Speech||Born to make you happy by Britney Spears|
|Adjectives||Alanis Morrisette’s ‘Hand in my pocket’|
|Character adjectives||You’re so vain by Carly Simon|
|Colour Idioms||Paint it Black by The Rolling Stones|
Poverty, body image, friendship, war, racism, death are powerful topics and are bound to get your students talking. What better way to introduce a topic then with a song.
Here are just a few English songs we recommend you use with your students.
‘Who you are’ by Jessie J. This can be used as a spring-board for a discussion about the pressures of living in a modern world. Rehab by Amy Winehouse could be used to talk about drug addiction. ‘Count on me’ by Bruno Mars can be used to introduce the discussion topic, friendship.
Read our lesson plan using David Bowie’s ‘Lazarus’ to discuss terminal illness and death.
Memorable (ADJ): worth remembering or easily remembered
Enjoyable (ADJ): giving or capable of giving joy or pleasure
Especially (ADV): in particular; specifically
Unfortunately (ADV): unluckily; regrettably
Strangled (ADJ): choked, stifled, or suffocated
Cloze-fill activity (NOUN): fill in the blanks activity
Encourage (VERB): to persuade and support someone to do or continue doing something
Pierre encouraged Steffi to finish t
Attentively (ADV): to pay close attention
The headmaster listened attentively to the student’s report.
Lyrics (NOUN): the words of a song
blow away the cobwebs (IDIOM): to do something which makes you feel less bored or tired
Rhyme (NOUN/VERB): a word that is identical to another in its terminal sound, e.g. ocean and motion
Alternatively (ADV): instead; or
Alternatively, you cold walk to school.
Participate (VERB): to take part in; to be actively involved in
Will you be participating in the marathon this year.
Synonyms: a word having the same or nearly the same meaning as another.
Boiling, sweltering and sizzling are synonyms of hot
Antonyms: a word opposite in meaning to another.
Hot is an antonym of cold.
Evoke (VERB): to call up or produce (memories, feelings, etc.):
To evoke a feeling.
Consolidate (VERB): to strengthen
You need to revise chapter 4, to consolidate your knowledge of modal verbs
Spring-board (NOUN): something that supplies the impetus or conditions for a
beginning, change, or progress; a point of departure
Terminal illness: an illness that cannot be cured.