This is from a song workshop I gave some time ago. Take care with the copyright!


Songs can be exploited in many ways.

1. The cloze or gap fill

This is the most familiar and popular activity, and for that reason is probably overused. However, there are many important things to bear in mind when using them, and there are many different ways to use them.

  • Have a point, be it vocabulary or prepositions or whatever.
  • Don't cloze three or more in a row.
  • For lower levels: give the first letter, miss out word endings, give dashes for letters, or give a glossary.
  • Give vocabulary clues or synonyms for the missing words.
  • Get students to work in pairs to predict words before you play the song.
  • Insert extra words which students then cross out as they listen.
  • Change the words, as in 'Careful Shouts' or 'Countless Whiskies'.
  • Cloze unstressed, then stressed words in the same song, and have students discuss why one is easier than the other.
  • Cloze several words in a row and students have to guess not only form (adj., adv., n., vb, prep.) but words, rhythm and rhyme.

2. A-B activities

Students match beginnings and ends of lines, try 'Another Day in Paradise' (simple) or 'Private Investigations' and 'If Only ...' (more complicated).

3. Mixed-up activities

Generally, have the lines of the song on separate strips of paper.

  • Students put down strips as they hear them.
  • Mix up lines/verses.
  • Students try to organize in advance (use prompts).

4. Dictation

  • Wall dictation
  • Self-dictation (whole song blanked)
  • Part dictation

5. Translation

  • Class chooses a song from their own language.
  • Groups translate.
  • Check with other groups.
  • Combine the best. Then work on rhyme and rhythm.

6. Jigsaw-listening

  • Groups listen to different songs with the same (Luka/Behind the Wall) or different themes (Easy Street/Money for Nothing) and peer teach vocabulary, compare.

7. Composing

Listen to the song.

  • Students add verses of their own. Good songs for this are 'Imagine' and 'Man Gave Names to All the Animals' by Bob Dylan.
  • Students finish the line in each verse, then listen to check.
  • In groups, students then write their own verse.

8. Writing

Put random words from the song on the board. Students try and write the 'tale of the song'.

  • Students paraphrase the song.
  • Cut the song in half. Students predict the other half.

9. Pronunciation

  • He's got the whole world ... /h/ sound.
  • Do I speak double Dutch to a real double duchess ... /d/ sound.

10. Vocabulary

  • Miming verbs
  • Dictionary work
  • Matching

11. Listening

  • Give students a word list. Students number as they hear them.
  • Sound discrimination, e.g. tempted/tended.

12. Posters

Arrange lyrics and pictures, or just lyrics, or translate.


Music and Song (1992) Murphey, T. Oxford University Press



is there any information available regarding the speed of learning for various age groups please?

I find this activity very interesting, my students like songs,like everyone. I think that the students learn in a more natural way while singing their favorite songs.

There's no better way of teaching as well as learning new vocabulary than songs. Student learn by enjoying themselves, songs are popular among kids and teens, everyone loves music. Their brain assimilates new knowledge automatically. Love this way of teaching!!! 

Songs are fun, more interesting than plain text, encourage correct pronunciation and are easy to remember.

  • "You Can't Always Get What You Want" is another good song to have students write verses to. It also teaches them to distinguish between things they want and things they really need.
  • Following text - Go around the room with each student singing one word.
  • Listening - Students are each given a different word. When each student hears their word they have to stand up.
  • Print out a picture for each line or phrase and have students try to put them in order.
  • Children are creative. Put them on stage and let them perform!

I like the activities, but I always find it difficult to select the songs. Any suggestions for 2nd or 3rd years?

Which songs you choose depends on the level of your class and your local culture. Here are a few of my favorites for 2-3rd grade:

  • Sing a Song
  • Free to Be You and Me
  • Do Your Ears Hang Low?
  • I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly...
  • Wonderful World
  • The Wheels on the Bus

The possibilities are varied and endless. See what works for you.

I love songs. I listen to music everyday. I remember when I was at high school my english teacher brought in the classroom a song sheet. It was one of celin dion's songs. we liked it very much. Now I am a teacher myself and I think that through songs the pupils can learn much more vocabulary in a very natural way than from textbooks. Thank you

Wow, what a great lesson. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I hope that it will inspire many songs from the students and anyone who uses it really. I hope to see what else you know soon.

Teaching is an art. Using songs in the classroom breaks the routine and injects variety into the classroom. It's great. Thank you!


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