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Using songs in the classroom

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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

Language level
Language Level: 
Beginner: A1