Published 12th October 2015
Songs are ideal for TEFL classes regardless of the age of the students. Young Learners love singing along to their favourite nursery rhyme (or any song with English words) while teens and older learners enjoy finding out more about the words and the meanings of their favourite English songs.
Luckily for us teachers, there are a load of different ways we can use songs to accomplish language goals. On a bottom-up level, rhyming shows word-sound-spelling correlations and gap-fills help with listening for detail. On a top-down level, songs can be used as a stimulus for discussion and language structures can be focussed on in relation to the meaning they are communicating. Songs have been shown to be very useful in the classroom because they are memorable. There is no denying that songs can stick in your head and it is no different for your students, meaning that they will remember the words to the song and their meaning long after the lesson has finished.
Finding appropriate songs can be a bit of a challenge though, as often original songs are too fast for lower level classes, or are too long, or the singer is not very clear. Many coursebooks have included songs in their books which are sung by cover artists so as to be at the right level for these very reasons. Often they come with handy ready-made worksheets to be used. If you would like to find your own songs, though, sometimes a cover version can be slower than the original or there may be a YouTube video with subtitles or visual clues which can be helpful to the students.
Here are our favourite songs to use in the TEFL classroom:
Beyoncé, If I Were a Boy Second Conditional
Katy Perry, Hot and Cold Opposites vocabulary for lower levels.
Travie McCoy, Billionaire Wealth vocabulary.
Counting Crows, Big Yellow Taxi Environmental issues discussion.
Christine Aguilera, Beautiful Self-image discussion.
Nina Simone, I Got Life Food vocabulary
Bryan Adams, Summer of ’69 Past Tense
Fools’ Garden, Lemon Tree Present Continuous
The list is endless! It is not necessary to stick to the current popular songs or bands and very often the classics are able to provide us with the perfect platform for our lessons, appeal to a wide range of students and are actually more likely to be familiar to your students. As you can see, certain songs lend themselves to being used in the classroom, so be open-minded with your choices, as long as they are able to achieve your aim. As with any authentic material, though, you do need to take care with the content. Make sure the content of the song is appropriate for your students and not offensive or culturally insensitive in any way.