10 Ideas to Use Songs in Class

Earlier yesterday, I observed a lesson which revolved around the worksheet on The Food Blues: BusyTeacher, that also included a song. I believe there is a lot more you can actually do with songs in class, as well as exploiting the resource and make it more engaging. It is a great resource and what the teacher actually did in the lead up to the listening task was wonderful but there are still a few things that you can exploit from the worksheet. This blog post looks at 10 practical ideas of using songs in class.

1. Get Learner Attention

If you have play some background music during the lesson, you can get instant attention from the learners if you slowly reduce the volume of the song. You will notice learners will look at you once you have reduced the volume of the song completely. This could be technique could be used before you give instructions or wish to change the task during the lesson.

2. Time Limit

If you have set a task up, such as completing a questionnaire or talking to another person, and you are thinking how best to give students a limited time – use a song to give some time. At times, I have told students that the task will finish when the song finishes. It is an engaging task and if you are able to project the song via YouTube or Spotify, they will be able to see the counter and the time remaining.

3. Lyric Grab

This is another favourite activity and I am sure that I have mentioned this in previous blog posts about music and lesson ideas. Apologies if I am repeating myself. However, this task is a really engaging activity whereby you prepare a list of words from the lyrics of the song. For example, you could get all the words of food mentioned in the song, “The Food Blues”, and put one word on one slip of paper which you stick to the whiteboard. Choose around 20-30 words from the song and always best to choose a song for learners with lyrics that they will find easy to comprehend. Place all the words randomly on the whiteboard and put the students into two teams. They stand in single file facing the whiteboard, you play the song and when a student hears a word from the song, they grab it, run to the back of their queue and then the next student continues. Continue the song until it has finished and the team with the most amount of words are the winners. I hope you understand this activity. It might be better to record this and share this in a future video post. Students love this task and it is a great way to finish lessons with this.

4. What’s the Topic?

This is a really interesting way to start a lesson by getting students to guess the topic of today’s class. Choose between 3-5 songs all related to the topic and play the first twenty seconds of each song. For example, if the topic of today’s lesson is related to travel and transport you could play the following songs below and get students to predict the lesson topic.

5. What’s the Mistake?

One of the most popular music activities is to fill in a word to a gap yet this task is just quite boring as many many lesson activities evolve around this idea. One way to change the lesson is to use complete lyrics but then change different words for something similar. Students have to listen to the song and then first underline or circle words that they believe are incorrect. Next, students listen to the song again and then try to correct the words by themselves and then compare their lyrics with a partner.

For example, the lyrics could be from the song “Sailing”, by Rod Stewart, and you have the first set of lyrics filled with mistakes below.

I am selling
I am selling
Home again
‘Cross the see
I am selling,
Stormy daughters
To be near you,
To be three

Then students need to listen to the song and then correct the necessary mistakes. The lyrics below are correct.

I am sailing
I am sailing
Home again
‘Cross the sea
I am sailing,
Stormy waters
To be near you,
To be free

Always be sure that students don’t have a smartphone next to them as I have had students search for the lyrics on their device and then just rewrite the worksheet where necessary.

6. Random Lyrics

Once you have found a suitable song to use in class – such as a song related to a topic or something to supplement a discussion – you could just use the lyrics. For example, get all the lyrics cut each line up and then give groups of learners the lyrics and they have to listen to the song and put it in order. If you don’t fancy cutting up all the lyrics, you could put each line in a random on a worksheet and then students have to listen and number the lyrics. If you do the latter task, it is best to put the lyrics into small groups: verse – chorus – verse – chorus – verse. It is much more manageable for learners and you can then combine different tasks with this.

7. Review Grammar

Many songs are a great resource to consolidate and review grammar. Jamie Cullum’s “Next Year” is a great tune to look at future tenses. You can remove phrases, such as ‘going to verb’ or ‘will + verb’ and then get learners to fill in the particular words which are missing in the gap. It is a great idea and there are loads of songs available which you could use just to review grammar in a fun and motivating manner. In fact, there is a wonderful website which just focuses on this! Check out TEFLTunes as they have some free lessons.

8. Word Selection

Much like activity 5 above, this one would work on a similar principle. You prepare some lyrics but then the student must listen and then choose the correct word from three. For example you could have the following lyrics prepared below from the song “Lying Eyes”.

City girls just see/seem/sale to find out early
How to open doors with just a smile/mind/sound
A rich old man
And she won’t hail/have/had to worry
She’ll dress up all in lace and go in make-up/heels/style

9. Drawing the Scene

A lot of music evokes a lot of emotion and images in your mind and what better way to engage learners than to get pairs or small groups of learners to draw the scene of the song. Students first listen to the song, then brainstorm in their small groups about what they envisage is happening. After getting some ideas in their groups, you could get learners to focus more on drawing the scene. Give students pencils and colours. Play the song while they are drawing and put it on repeat. Once students have finished their posters of the scene, they compare with the class to see if there are any similarities or differences. Have a listen to the song below to see what sort of image or scene you think is happening.

10. Fill that Gap

If you have used many of the previous nine ideas above with your class and feel that you wish to do something which has been tried and tested by thousands of English teachers, then go ahead. Try to the usual Gapfill exercise. Get the lyrics, add in some blanks and then play the song a couple of times to see how the students responded to it. It is a fun activity and it is best to ensure that you work in a stage whereby learners compare their answers before checking with the whole class.

What is your favourite song related activity in class? Have you tried any of the ideas above? Which one will you try in class next time?

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