This is a fun activity which helps students listen out for key words in songs.

Marta J. Sabbadini

It's particularly useful for encouraging students to recognise familiar words even in difficult songs. This activity works well with all kinds of songs, and can be used to introduce a song, or simply as an enjoyable warmer or cooler.


Make copies of the lyrics or have one copy large enough for all to see.

Prepare a set of cards per group of four or five students. The set should be about 20 words, some words from the song for the students to listen for, and some words which are not from the song but are similar in meaning or sound. You can download example cards for The World's Greatest by R. Kelly below.


  • Put students in groups and tell them that you're giving them some words from a song. They have a few minutes to lay out the cards and decide what they think the song is about. If students need help brainstorming, ask a few questions:
    • Do you think it's sad or happy?
    • Is it a love song?
    • Which words make you think that?
  • Then tell students that in fact only some of the words are in the song, and that they'll listen to the song to find out which. Explain that if they hear one of the words, they should grab that card. At the end of the song, they'll check their cards and get +1 point for correct cards and -1 point for wrong cards, and the student with the most points in the group is the winner. 
  • Play the song once for students to listen and 'grab'.
  • Hand out or display the lyrics and ask students to find their words and calculate their points. Stress that they must be honest and take away one point for each word they took that's not in the song!
  • Each group announces the student with the highest number of points.
  • Following this activity, you can then go on to use the song for a variety of purposes, for example as a text for reading comprehension or language work, or for the class to sing together.

This activity can be used at all levels - it just depends on the words you put on the cards. More challenging songs can be made doable if the words chosen are simple and easy to pick out. Similarly, an easier song can be made more challenging for high-level students by choosing words that are difficult to hear, or making the extra words ones with very similar sounds.

Language level
Language Level: 
Pre-intermediate: A2

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