How to use songs to teach English

GOHBOR By GOHBOR, 8th Jun 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Languages

Songs are an excellent resource for foreign language teachers. They can be used for a variety of activities. From my own experience I present a few tips of how to make use of songs during English lessons

Teaching English with Songs

When I was a student I loved when foreign language teachers used songs to introduce new vocabulary, phrases and grammar. As I noticed, not only for me but also for my friends, it was entertaining, relaxing and to a great extent motivating way of grasping new elements of the language. This is why I use this method in my work as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language as often as I can. I love to prepare exercises with the use of my favourite songs and, to my huge delight, it really works.

Songs provide a great material for foreign language teachers. Even if they might seem only a pleasant lesson break, they can be much more effective than any other exercises aimed at practicing different language skills. First of all, they provide a piece of authentic language and are excellent for improving listening skills. Second of all, you can use the same song for different levels, just changing the task according to your students’ abilities. Finally, you can use songs in different ways, not only to teach lexis and grammar, but also to introduce general theme of the lesson or to offer a subject for the discussion.

Here are some examples of what you can do with songs, when you teach teenagers or adults (younger children are a completely different story) , to make music an enjoyable part of your teaching plan:

1) Cutting out words
Depending on a level, you should decide which words you would like to make your students listen for. When you teach lower levels – you can choose either the words they already know or you can pre-teach them the vocabulary from the gaps before listening. For higher levels – you can make them listen for more advanced words, and also the ones that might be quite hard to hear. You can also ask them to predict the words and phrases from the gaps – this is something to capture their imagination and creativity.

2) Mixing up the lines
You can scatter the lines of the lyrics and then ask your students to put them in order while listening. Just be sure not to confuse them with too many lines – to avoid that you can divide the lyrics into segments and mix the lines within them.

3) Singing along
As repetition reinforces learning, ask your students to sing or just follow the lyrics after they’re done with all the gap filling, and other tasks you have prepared for them while listening. Some groups will sing loud, some will be quiet, don’t worry – they should enjoy it anyway!

As a final point, I would like to recommend to you a few songs I have used during my lessons:
“Black” by Pearl Jam (some interesting vocabulary and phrases for filling in the gaps; you can also discuss the lyrics with your students, talk about the emotions, meaning of colours, art, etc.)
“Last Kiss” by Pearl Jam (past tenses)
“Wishlist” by Pearl Jam (“wish” structure)
“Long December” by Counting Crows (perfect for the use in winter)
“One Last Breath” by Creed (practicing tenses, phrasal verbs, vocabulary)
“Runaway” by Del Shannon (vocabulary for lower levels)
“Every Breath You Take” by The Police (verbs)
“I’ll Be There For You” by The Rembrants (vocabulary, phrasal verbs, tenses, talking about friendship)
“In The Shadows” by The Rasmus (vocabulary, Present Perfect Continuous Tense)
“You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt (perfect for lower levels)
“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2 (Present Perfect Tense)


English, English Grammar, English Language, English Songs, Grammar, Grammar English, Grammar Present Perfect Continuous, Language, Language Learning, Language Matters, Language Tips, Languages, Lesson, Lessons, Lexis, Listen, Listening, Listening Skills, Listening To Music, Present Perfect, Resources, Song, Song Lyrics, Songs, Teach, Teacher, Teaching, Teaching English, Tense, Tenses, Using Songs, Vocabulary

Meet the author

author avatar GOHBOR
Freelance translator and interpreter, only starting in writing business. I'm very excited and hope it'll be a good fun. As I'm interested in travel, literature and psychology, my writing will focus on these.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
9th Jun 2011 (#)

this is a really good and easy way to learn english words

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author avatar PSRemeshChandra
9th Jun 2011 (#)

Music is the best means of instruction. The best method to learn a language is to learn the poems in that language and the best method to learn a poem is to sing it. From very ancient times, languages were learnt by studying the classic poems in that language. For centuries it had been the accepted practice in Sanskrit, French, English. Moreover poets are the persons who use the most refined language. Therefore songs and poems build language skills without applying any particular effects. The only problem with singing poems is that no standardisation has been done in the singing of world famous English songs. Many teachers don't know how to sing them, so they just read it or recite it their own way and finally the student begins to hate English. Even no good recordings are available. If we search for recordings of famous English songs in the Internet, what come across our way is cheap boring dull recitations, the renders of which think that they are doing a very fine service. Actually they are killing what interest one has remaining in poetry. That is the case with all famous and official web sites! What the author pointed out in the article is therefore a bold experiment of teachers, unsupported and often ridiculed and loathed by authorities, faculties and specialists in the academic world. Even British Councils in the former colonies have withdrawn such services which once were extended to teachers there.

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author avatar Lila Bangsawan
9th Jun 2011 (#)

Yes, I am agree 100% on the method. But, in my experience, teaching a language without giving a way to build sentences for the beginners will be nonsense. I've seen many institutions always gives an orthodox method to their students: reading articles and translating, questioning and answering continuously without giving the students "HOW" to construct sentences and "WHY" the sentences supposed to be like that. Singing is good as long as the students have already got the HOW and the WHY. Thanks for sharing it, GOHBOR.

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author avatar Jlyn11
19th Jun 2011 (#)

This is really a great way to teach ... using songs would be a good way to memorize the words. Thanks for sharing.

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author avatar Abdeen
15th Jul 2011 (#)

Fine and thanks a lot for collecting sugggestions on teaching second language through songs. It is really very interesting. Usually learners find it very difficult to grapse unseen words and theri pronounciation. Actually songs take the upper hand to help learners of a language as a second language. I like very much to keep on writing suggestion being an In-service adviser for English Language Teaching in the government schools.

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author avatar richellet
4th Mar 2012 (#)

This is a 101% relevant. I am glad to discover this page. I remembered my teachers used to let us sings and correct us with any mispronounced words, there were also times when she would ask us which element of speech does a particular word belong. I wish to read more about this from you GOHBOR.

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author avatar richellet
4th Mar 2012 (#)

*sing (w/o "s") sorry for the typo

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author avatar Denise O
4th Mar 2012 (#)

Great suggestion. Thank you for sharing.:)

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author avatar riverbui
8th Nov 2012 (#)

who can have me deal with research : Using songs in teaching grammar... i need to finish literature review... thanks alll.

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author avatar Val Mills
6th Mar 2013 (#)

I agree with you, songs help in the learning of any new language.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
25th May 2015 (#)

Music and songs keep the children riveted and no better way to get their attention, to repeat what they learn, thanks for the share - siva

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