Music is one of the things that has got a universal appeal and its use in the classroom will greatly motivate the learners of different learning types. Songs can be extensively used while practicing the four main skills. Apart from the main learning aims, they enable the learners to have fun and full involvement in the lesson. Through songs, the teacher can present the topic, introduce and practice lexis, encourage intensive listening and creativity, stimulate an exchange of opinions and feelings.
In this article, we will present a number of ways how songs can be used effectively in the classroom. The suggested activities can be implemented in any lesson. However, the teacher needs to take a closer look at the learners’ age, interests, culture, etc. With kids, more repetitive songs can be used ( find great songs here), with teenagers pop and rock music are the most popular ones, with adults different genres can be tried depending on their personality and interests.
- The teacher deletes some words and asks the students to guess the missing words then listen to fill in the gaps and see if they have guessed any words correctly.
- Another example is when the teacher focuses on some specific language (adjectives, nouns, verb tenses). Before listening, students speculate on what they think these words will be and then listen to check. While discussing they will use the target language and use language which is not in the song. So, this is a natural exposure to the language.
- For the gap-fill exercise, the teacher can choose some collocations to work on. Before listening, the students are given the list of collocations, they brainstorm on some possible plot of the song. Then they listen and fill in the gaps by the appropriate collocations. As an extension, the teacher can give them extra collocations which rhyme with the ones which really fit in the song. They need to find the rhyming pairs. For the next lesson, the teacher hands out the lyrics of the same song with the blank spaces of the collocations and the students need to write the collocations by memory. This can be managed as a group work competition as well.
Lyricstraining gives the opportunity to listen to very famous songs and play fill in the gaps game. By the way, the player can choose the difficulty level (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced).
Substituting the words
After a gap-fill exercise, the teacher prepares a list of words which are synonyms to the ones placed in the gaps. The students place them in the gaps and change any other word with its synonym to keep the rhythm of the song. This leads to an extensive language work. In addition, different groups will have different versions of the same song which they can compare in class.
Rhythm and stress
In many cases, songs can be used for pronunciation awareness.
- Students can listen to some songs and highlight the stressed words and explain why these words are stressed.
After finishing the task, students can sing the song but they join the singer only the stressed words are pronounced. This is really great since they need to listen very carefully to pitch in at the necessary moment.
- If you want to focus on rhyming words, before listening to the song teach a couple of words that rhyme and give students three or four words from the song and ask to listen out for the words that rhyme with them. You could also brainstorm possible rhymes before listening.
Here is an example of such a task for the song “Counting Stars” by One Republic.
Rhyming words :
Hard : ……………
Vine : …………. …………………
Bold : …………. …………………
Turn : …………
See the full lesson plan here.
Most of the songs quite naturally revolve around one or two tenses. Therefore, songs can be used a lot for this purpose. The website Sandraheyersongs.com is a great resources to find songs by theme and grammar.
Find a song with tenses you would like to review. It works best if you focus on two tenses.
Let the students listen to the song, write out any tense form they could hear. After that, hand out the lyrics. Students then identify the different tenses. They then listen again and explain to each other why each tense was used. This forces the students to really think about the rules in a fun way.
Here is an example of a gap-fill exercise on verb tenses for Elementary students based on the song “Last Night” by The Vamps.
I 1._____ my hands up high (hold)
And _2.____ my glass into the sky. (throw)
But when the morning 3.______, (come)
We’ll never see the sun. And if the walls 4. _____ in (close)
Then let’s just 5.____ it all again. (start)
That’s when the evening comes
Oh yeah the evening comes.
Whoa, oh oh oh oh oh
No we’re not 6._____ home tonight (go)
Wake up the stars are 7. _____ (shine)
We’ll do it all, we’ll do it all, we’ll do it again.
1-hold , 2-throw, 3-comes, 4-close 5-start, 6-going, 7-shining
After some language work with songs, students can do a number of creative activities to have a wider exposure to the material.
- Task: Write another verse of lyrics, maintaining the same mood and style as the original.
This works really well in groups. These new lyrics are then presented to the rest of the class to look for similarities and differences.
- Students work in pairs and write a short paragraph on behalf of a person to whom the song is devoted. The writing needs to be about this person’s emotions and feelings when he first listened to the song.
- Have the learners plan a music video for the song. In groups, they decide the location, the characters, and what happens. Then each group explains their idea to the rest of the class and the learners vote on the best one.
Songs are a great tool for an interactive and engaging lesson. Remember that the lesson must be well-planned to keep both the fun and usefulness. You can find great lesson plans on songs here.
Have you ever used songs in the classroom and how did it go?