Using songs in the classroom

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

Author
Andy

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.

Bibliography

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

Language Level

Comments

Submitted by James Halpin on Wed, 03/30/2011 - 21:00

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

Submitted by besa furxhi on Fri, 04/01/2011 - 09:59

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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.

Submitted by elsasanka on Sun, 04/03/2011 - 13:47

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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!!!

 

Submitted by KaraAharon on Sun, 04/03/2011 - 19:36

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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!

Submitted by MrsVig on Wed, 04/06/2011 - 13:07

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

Submitted by KaraAharon on Fri, 04/08/2011 - 00:44

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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.

Submitted by edushi on Wed, 04/13/2011 - 11:12

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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

Submitted by MaryjaneP on Fri, 04/22/2011 - 11:16

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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.

Submitted by tobni on Wed, 04/27/2011 - 18:30

In reply to by MaryjaneP

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

Submitted by Tural Veliyev on Thu, 04/28/2011 - 15:32

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I  think that is great method... because pupils don't like only book, copybook and etc... Pupils like interesting lessons... And I like it...

Submitted by Gulshan Huseynli on Sun, 05/01/2011 - 17:31

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This is  a very good material. I have never tried songs in my lessons as I have problems with understanding the words of the songs  even in my own language. I am going to try it.  Hopefully I could choose easier songs  for my students. Some of this tips will work out well with my students. Do you use songs as a part of the lesson or the whole lesson? I mean do you use it as a motivation, vocabulary part or for practice of some grammar rules.  I also want to use this material as training material for my collegues that I am planing to do in summer. How can I get more information with examples about the ways you have presented here?

Submitted by KaraAharon on Mon, 05/02/2011 - 12:52

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It's true that song lyrics can be different to understand, but it's east to find them on the internet. You can also search lyrics sites for lyrics containing a certain phrase, which can be helpful if you don't know the exact name of the song you're looking for or if you want to teach a particular language chunk. It's also a good idea to read through the lyrics of any song before you bring it into the classroom to make sure it's appropriate (this may have been mentioned in a previous post). Please also bear in mind any copyright issues that may arise with using lyrics and songs.

Two more ideas I've come up with recently for using songs:

Have one student read the lyrics to another or to the class as a dramatic reading. This helps get across the meaning of the song and can be a lot of fun.

Turn the song into a "MadLib" - take out certain words and replace with random words of the same speech part, then try singing the song. Example: instead of "Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon?" "Would you like to (verb) in my (adjective) (noun)?" This can also be a solution for popular songs with inappropriate lyrics.

Keep singing!

Submitted by bonbone on Wed, 05/04/2011 - 15:17

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My pupils just love songs, especially the lower grades. They enjoy the class everytime we practice this activity.

 

Submitted by zifeiskurti on Fri, 05/06/2011 - 18:31

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Learning English through songs is the most relaxing and funniest activity especially for young learners.

When I practise it in my classroom,my pupils never seem tired singing the song again and again.

They feel more at ease and that is what we teachers want.

Thanks a lot.

Submitted by dianira on Fri, 05/06/2011 - 19:09

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I really appreciate your great efforts for providing many different resources and techniques for the teachers all over the world. Actually songs are very important in teaching because it makes an atmosphere of fun and enjoyment to students.Thanks a lot.

Submitted by a_delinka on Tue, 05/10/2011 - 11:29

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I would like to ask you what do you think about translation English songs into pupils´ own language? Is it suitable? Thanks for your comments.

Submitted by KaraAharon on Wed, 05/11/2011 - 20:05

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Personally, I don't like the idea of translating English songs into the children's native language, although some teachers do. I do, of course, review and explain the lyrics of the song which may involve some translation, but we only sing in English. Songs are an excellent opportunity for children to practice speaking English, something most are reluctant to do, so I think that translating the song misses the point. I have even translated some popular Hebrew songs into English and had classes sing them.

Thanks for your opinion. I definitely agree with you that singing songs has beneficial effects on pupils´pronunciation. It is also a funny way of practicing English. However, what about young learners with poor knowledge of English? I think that for these pupils, it is important to know what they sing about. Certainly, translation of songs depends on the choice of the song, too. Some songs convey interesting ideas, so I think that, for example, John Lennon´s Imagine is worthy of translation for all pupils.

Thanks for your opinion. I definitely agree with you that singing songs has beneficial effects on pupils´pronunciation. It is also a funny way of practicing English. However, what about young learners with poor knowledge of English? I think that for these pupils, it is important to know what they sing about. Certainly, translation of songs depends on the choice of the song, too. Some songs convey interesting ideas, so I think that, for example, John Lennon´s Imagine is worthy of translation for all pupils.

Submitted by agayeva shefeq7394 on Fri, 05/13/2011 - 16:51

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I agree, using Songs in the classroom is a great way of teaching and learning vocabulary, pronunciation, even grammar.Especially using Karaoke is one of the best ways to introduce new vocabulary, slang, idioms, similes/metaphors, and other aspects of the English language that students are not typically exposed to.It is not a good first week activity, it's better if students know each other well and are comfortable around each other.

Submitted by Nigina Rahmonaliyeva on Fri, 05/27/2011 - 10:22

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     Submitted by TE Editor on 30 March, 2011 - 08:46  Andy, Thailand

      When I read your article  I realized that we can use songs to study too. I knew about it before but I    didn't  know some strategies which you mentioned in your state. In your way pupils interested in to learningn english. Furthermore,all kinds of english learning stretagies: for instance, writing, listening,  vocabulary and pronunciation is covered by you.  I think we can use some reading activities too.  I agree with you.           

        IMy own view for your article is learner can motivated in this way for learning easily. They can use all kinds of  learning styles. Both translation and pronunciation of sounds. Substitution activities involved  in wide range.

   I want to remind you one point to consider.  It's possible to use this style for   intermidiete level pupil. What about  pupils who has poor knowledge in english. Can you recommend some points for this question. 

Songs can certainly be used with weaker pupils. Choose simpler, but not childish, songs or sing just the chorus. For example: Let the Sunshine In, We Will Rock You. You can also take a longer song, divide the class into groups and have each group sing just one line.

Use songs to develop listening skills at any level. Choose a song with some words that all pupils in the class are familiar with. Hand out cards with those words printed on them. Have pupils hold up the cards when they hear the words.

Submitted by BMilo on Wed, 11/25/2020 - 02:38

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Hello, I'm not a native English speaker and I can't understand the activities 2 and 9, can someone explain me, please? 

Hi BMilo

I can see why activity 2 and 9 might need more context - Activity 2 is a suggestion to take different lines from whichever song you are using, and cut them in half. Students then have to match the sentence halves as they listen to the song. "Another day in paradise", "If only" and "Private investigations" are song suggestions that you could use for this activity - but really, it could be used with any song that you want.

Activity 9 is where you ask your students to focus on pronunciation from the song lyrics - choose a specific sound (like /d/ or /h/) and ask students to practice saying the lines with that sound from the song (or they could sing!)

Hope that makes it clearer,

Cath

TE Team

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