How to teach English using music

If have you ever wanted to teach using songs, here are few ideas how to organize a lesson. When it comes to teaching English (or any other language for that matter) you have to plan your lesson carefully so that you avoid any problems that might come up along the way.  zznote

The first thing you should do is to choose the song. Although this might sound quite easy, from my personal experience, it may be the most difficult part when preparing a “music lesson”.

zznoteYou have to pay attention to:

  • What do you want to teach?

Setting up the goal of your lesson will help you decide which song to use. You should choose the song depending on the topic you are about to teach. For example, if you want to teach conditionals you should choose a song with a lot of “if”s in the song lyrics. If your goal is to teach adjectives, choose a song that has a lot of adjectives in the lyrics (check out one of the previous articles for some ideas: Five cool songs to teach adjectives in English.)

  • Who are your students?                                                        zznote

After you have set up your goal, and narrowed down the list of potential songs, now it is the time to narrow it down even more. The age and the cultural surrounding can have a tremendous impact on the outcome of your lesson. Don’t try to teach adults using some children songs, as it is doomed to fail. On the other hand, if you are teaching beginner level students, you should choose a song with a lot repetition. Have in mind that if the students don’t like the song, or if they feel uncomfortable in some way, they will be reluctant to participate in any activity, and let alone to join discussion.

zznotezNow that you have chosen the song, here is how to make the lesson based on the lyrics:

Warm up – get students involved by discussing the title or performer. Have they already heard of that song? If yes, what did they think of it? If not, can they guess what the song is about?

Gap fill – leave out some of the words and give the lyrics to students to fill in. If the words are relatively familiar to your students you don’t have to provide the words that are to be used. On the other hand, if you believe that the words are too difficult for them, you should write all the missing words in a box for students to choose from.           zznote

Vocabulary in use – students have to use the words from the song in the sentences. You can use the missing words from the previous exercise, or you can add other words from the lyrics. This type of exercise is also good for practicing expressions.

Matching – you can set up two columns of words and ask students to match, for example antonyms, synonyms, words that go together, etc.

Table – this is a good way to visually represent some patterns or rules. For example, if you are teaching conditionals, ask your students to fill in the two columns, main clause and subordinate clause.

zznoteAdding missing elements – write the words or sentences and ask your students to fill in the missing letters or the missing element of the phrases, for example phrasal verbs missing prepositions.

True or false – write the sentences about the song lyrics and ask the students to decide if they are true or false. You can also add another option – we don’t know, it doesn’t say.

Answer the questions and start up a discussion – think of some questions about the lyrics and then the students can continue talking about the topic.

Have you got some more ideas for the exercises?  zznotez
What’s your experience with teaching English with music?


16 thoughts on “How to teach English using music

  1. Hello, I have stumbled upon your blog in google community of english teachers.
    I also like using songs in my classes. I usually choose a song that fits a current discussion topic. We talk about the meaning of a song, do a gap-fill exercise and use new words in a story or discussion. Recently I started creating my own lesson plans based on songs. I hope that it can also be useful for other esl teachers.

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  4. you have forgotten to sing the song, a sentence, one or several verse or sing all the song. Almost always, there are several students can sing, choose them. do the contest in the classroom, it can be ” the best singer”……

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  6. One thing I find a challenge is when you have students who REALLY are not into singing. The girls are often into it and the boys not so much, maybe it’s not cool, they are too shy, think they can’t sing, or it’s too girly…?

    Getting them to do the percussion on the table, with pencils and clapping can be a good way to have them joining in without going through the PAIN of singing or doing actions !

    My songs for younger kids, with matching stories and games:)

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  8. Hi,
    I would like to share some ideas I got in a workshop of Paul Seligson. He suggested using some parts of the songs, not the whole for some kind of activities.
    I will try to summarize a few of them.
    1 Show or give students lyrics of different songs which you change or add some extra words ,or make some grammatical mistakes. Ask Ss to find them before listening activity. (I tried this one, and it was. It’s really difficult to find the song they could enjoy, but when I didn’t make them listen to whole song, they got curious. They tried to guess who the singer was)
    2 They can be used for dictation activities.
    3 Pause the song and ask them to guess the next word or sentence.
    4 Pause and ask them to repeat last five words, or last sentence. (It’s really working, especially teaching grammar)
    5 Translation. I did this activity today by giving my students short sentences from some popular Turkish songs. They transleted them to Turkish, then we wrote te on the board and my students tried to understand which song it was. I was teaching Perfect Cont. 🙂 It was great fun.

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