Published 24th January 2021
Using music in the English as a Foreign Language classroom is always a good idea. Music is interesting to students and music lessons can be fun, but did you know music can help our students learn the language too? Songs are often good sources of authentic, natural language. Song lyrics usually reflect how we speak naturally. Then, the rhythm of music makes the words of the song more memorable, which means our students are more likely to remember the language if they sing it. The repetition in songs is also a useful tool in learning the language. Plus, songs are an effective way to practice pronunciation. Besides language, songs are a great way of exposing your students to culture as they will learn about English culture (whichever English culture it is) through the songs. Luckily, we’ve got your back and have listed 9 amazingly effective songs to teach English in the classroom!
Now of course if you are teaching Young Learners there are countless songs you can use – nursery rhymes and so on, but there is no reason you shouldn’t use songs with adult learners too. We’re not saying use nursery rhymes with your adult learners! But rather, contemporary music which (preferably) you like but which is likely to appeal to your learners more than Old MacDonald.
While you can use a song in your EFL lesson and use it to teach vocabulary or to introduce or discuss a topic, it’s also possible to find popular songs that lend themselves to teaching particular language points. For your listening pleasure, we’ve compiled some of our favourite songs to help you teach some common language structures.
9 Effective songs for the EFL classroom
If I Were a Boy – Beyonce
This is a great song to teach the second conditional.
Somebody That I Used to Know – Gotye
This song has quite a few vocabulary items to help you teach the past simple.
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For – U2
As you can tell from the title, this song is the perfect vehicle for teaching the present perfect.
Friday I’m in Love – the Cure
With older students who are lower-level students, you can use this catchy song to teach the days of the week.
I’m Yours – Jason Mraz
This is a good song to teach possessives.
When We Were Young – Adele
In this song Adele uses comparisons with like 14 times!
I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
This classic song can be used to teach the simple future with will.
If You Don’t Know Me By Now – Simply Red
Another classic, this song is a great demonstration of the first conditional.
One Call Away – Charlie Puth
In this song, various promises are made.
Read more: Good Songs for TEFL
Now that you know which songs you can use, let’s talk about how you can use them.
How can I use songs in the EFL classroom?
There are a number of activities you can do in the classroom relating to music.
- Fill in the gaps – students are given a printout of the song lyrics with certain words or sentences erased. They must listen to the song and fill in the gaps.
- Wrong words – the students are given the lyrics printed out but with several words replaced with incorrect words, synonyms, or related words or words which rhyme. The students listen to the song, identify the wrong words, and correct the relevant words.
- Jumbled lyrics – the students are given the lyrics to the song on pieces of paper. They can first try to predict the order of the lyrics. Then they can listen to the song, check their predictions, and put the song in the correct order.
- Rewrite it – the students first listen to the song and discuss the language and its meaning. Then they can rewrite the song themselves. This can be done either by choosing synonyms for keywords in the lyrics to keep the meaning behind the song the same or rewriting the song entirely.
Have fun with it!
- Sing-along – students can sing along to a song to practice the rhythm of the song, as well as pronunciation.
- Bingo – create a Bingo grid using words, phrases, or lines from the song. As the students listen to the song they must cross off a square whenever they hear whatever is written in it. The first student to cross off all their squares is the winner.
- Draw it – students listen to the song and draw while they listen. They can draw the story of the song or they can draw images or patterns which relate to how they feel when they hear the song. Afterward, they can explain their drawing to the class. Then the students can look at the lyrics of the song to see how their drawings relate to the theme of the song.
Use as appropriate
But we can’t leave you without adding in a word of warning. Songs are authentic texts and need to be dealt with as such. You need to make sure the songs you are using in the classroom are appropriate for the age and culture of your learners. You need to consider the level of your students and the speed of the song. If a song is sung very rapidly, you might be able to find another version of the same song which is easier to understand. If you are going to show the music video of the song, be sure the watch it beforehand to make sure it won’t offend your students in any way.
But above all, choose songs which your students will find interesting. If you’re not sure what music they like, just ask. Remember, just because you are a Meatloaf fan does not mean you can play I’d Do Anything For Love once a week!