Songs in English lessons: how to use them correctly

Using songs for teaching English

Using songs for teaching English

17.09.2022

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  • Activities
  • Tips & Strategies
  • Methodology

Everyone likes singing songs. Teachers have been using them in their classes for a long time. Lessons built around songs motivate, encourage students to communicate, and bring maximum benefit from the use of authentic materials to learners.

Songs help work on stress and intonation, and make students effortlessly use new vocabulary and grammar structures without thinking about them. Of course, this list of advantages can be longer.

When used effectively, songs and music can become an engaging learning strategy, because they draw students’ attention and can even help establish some routines in our lessons.

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A song as a task

Using songs, as mentioned above, we can introduce students to new vocabulary and grammar. What should be considered when choosing a song:

  • How is the song related to the topic of the lesson?
  • Will it improve student learning?
  • Are the lyrics of the song written in an accessible language and can the students understand them?

We offer practical and non-trivial tasks with songs further.

Song as an element of classroom management

Another great use of songs is when transitioning from one part of the lesson to another. For example, some students may find it difficult to prepare for a lesson. Here you can use a song that the students will perceive as a call to return to their seats and focus on the upcoming lesson.

What should be considered? The lyrics of the song should be easy to remember and relate to the tasks to be performed.

If you use background music during a lesson, you can instantly draw students’ attention by gradually reducing the volume. You will notice that the students will look at you when you turn the volume of the song all the way down.

This technique can be used before giving instructions or moving on to another task during the lesson.

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A song as a reward

Since most students enjoy singing songs, you can reward a well-behaved class with a fun song during the last three to five minutes of class.

They will be happy, they will remember the rewards for good behaviour and, without realising it, they will practise their English!

In this case you can use any song, which the students really like to sing and enjoy.

Interesting tasks with songs

Students listen to a variety of music outside of school, so they love it when teachers choose to use songs in their lessons.

One of the fundamental rules of language learning is that the activity should be motivating, and if students can suggest which songs to use in class, they are at the center of the learning process.

Depending on the goals of your lesson, some songs will be more appropriate than others.

There are many different ways to use songs, from traditional fill-in-the-blanks to word/line ordering exercises. Remember that songs are listening texts, so any activity you use to develop listening skills can also be used with songs.

In addition, the songs are ideal for practicing reading skills, building vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.

Opposites

One of the simplest exercises is predicting opposites. Choose ten to fifteen words from the song and write the opposite words on the board. Next, students write down words opposite to these words.

Students then listen to the song to check their answers. As you listen, ask them to put the words in the order they hear them. For example, the Beatles song “Hello Goodbye” has all the following opposites: Hello-Goodbye, Yes-No, Stop-Go, High-Low, Why-I Don’t Know.

Lyric Grab

In this activity, students arrange a list of words from the lyrics of a song. For example, you could take all the food words mentioned in the song “The Food Blues” and write one word at a time on sheets of paper. Place them on the board and also choose about 20-30 words from the song.

Choose songs with lyrics that students can understand easily.

Place all the words randomly on the board and divide the students into two teams. Students line up facing the board, you play a song, and when a student hears a word from the song, they grab it and run to the end of their line, then the next student continues.

Keep playing the song until it ends. The team that collects more words wins.

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Find the mistake

One way to change traditional gap-filling is to use the full lyrics of the song, but replace some of the words with something similar. Students listen to the song and underline or circle the words they think are incorrect.

Next, they listen to the song again and try to correct the words themselves, and then compare their text with their partner and the correct text.

Draw a song

Music can evoke many emotions and images in our minds. Therefore, you can engage students by asking them to draw a scene from a song in pairs or small groups.

Students first listen to the song and then discuss in small groups what they think is happening.

After getting some ideas, students focus on drawing the scene. Give them pencils or paints. Listen to the song while they draw and put it on repeat.

After students have finished drawing, they compare with the class to see if there are similarities or differences in their drawings.

The next task is a follow-up of the previous activity. Ask students to identify the phonemes in the last syllable of rhyming words. They should be the same or almost the same. Again, this will increase awareness of the difference between spelling and sounds.

Next, have students create their own words for the verse, chorus, and eventually the song.

So, as you can see, songs are so versatile that they can be used and adapted to any topic. We hope that you and your students will find our tasks interesting and fun.

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Article authors & editors
  • Yulia Chorna

    Yulia Chorna

    Author

    DELTA Module 1, CELTA certified teacher of General & Business English

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