10 Ways To Use Songs In The EFL Classroom


Gap Fill

The most obvious one but not without its merits. Most people simply delete random words and then let the students fill them in. This can help students practice listening in a fun way, but there are other ways of doing it.

Focus on a particular word form, adjectives or past simple verbs, for example. You can then get students to collaborate and speculate what they think these words will be before listening and then listen to check.

Students will think about the language a lot more and use language not contained in the song. This brings us on to our second activity.

Word Substitution

After listening give students a particular word form. We will use adjectives in this example. Students work together to replace all the adjectives with either synonyms, antonyms or any other adjectives that fit. This is a fun way to revise the vocabulary or introduce students to more complex vocabulary. Very useful for IELTS students looking to expand their vocabulary.

It can also completely change the meaning of the song and you may get many different versions that the whole class can look at.

Meaning From Context

Find a song that has a lot of new vocabulary you want to teach your students. Let students listen to the song. Give them the lyrics with the new lexis highlighted and listen again. Students then work together to figure out the meanings from the context of the song. You can clarify meaning later but it often requires very little help from the teacher.

Tense Review

Find a song with tenses you would like to review. It works best if you highlight the difference between two or three different types.

Let the students listen to the song and then hand out the lyrics. Students then identify the different tenses. Coloured pens work well for this. They then listen again and explain to each other why each tense was used. This forces the students to really think about the rules in a fun way.

For an example click here


If your students know a song really well you can play a little trick on your students by turning it in to a story or fairytale.

A dictagloss is an extended listening and collaborative writing activity. This takes a little work on your part but is well worth it.

Change the story so that the students don’t recognise it but try to keep as much of the main themes and language as possible.

Tell you students you are going to read them a story. Take some key language out of story, board it and get students to predict what the story is about. Read your story to the students once. All they have to do is listen the first time. Next they make short notes on the second listen. They then compare those notes with another students. In small groups, they collaborate to write the story out as best they can. Put them up around the room for all students to view. Finally, tell them they can now check their work. Play the song. This should lead to some lively discussions afterwards.

For an example click here

Creative Writing

After listening to and analysing the song you can set your students a few different creative writing tasks.

They could write a short piece from the perspective of one of the characters in the song we don’t hear from.

They could also write a diary entry in the near future by the people addressed in the song.

If your class are feeling really creative they could write an extra verse.

If you have any more ideas please let me know.

Pronunciation Awareness- Phonemes

After teaching two or three different phonemes students listen to a song and then mine the lyrics for that sound. This is good way to show the difference between spelling and sounds.

As a fun activity, hand out cards with the particular sounds, play the song and students grab the sounds as they hear them in the song.

Pronunciation Awareness- Rhyming Words

This follows on from the last activity. Ask students to identify the phonemes on the last part of the rhyming words. These should be the same or nearly the same. Again, this will raise awareness about the difference between spelling and sounds.

Students can then create their own rhyming words, verses, choruses and ultimately full songs.

Pronunciation Awareness- Rhythm and Sentences Stress

Most songs have a regular rhythm and often a regular sentence stress structure. Think about the chorus of Happy by Pharrell.

After listening to the song, ask students to identify the stressed syllables.

A good way to do this is to get students to mark this on the board and then turn off the projector. You can then drill just using the stressed words.

Finally, gradually delete all the words until the students can say/sing the whole song without any help.

Over To You

Do you have any ideas? Let me know and I will add them to this section.

Thanks for reading.


Do you teach IELTS? You should check out our other site IELTS Advantage.

IELTS Advantage has lots of hints, tips, full lessons and sample answers to help your students get the score they deserve.

For example, we have a full lesson on writing task 2 problem and solution essays that takes students step by step through the process of answering a problem solution question.

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22 comments on “10 Ways To Use Songs In The EFL Classroom
  1. marina says:

    i use songs to improve fluency, and when songs lines are not easy to repeat and learn (i work mostly with children aged 6-11), i found a way that really works: i make kids repeat the last word of a line, then the last two, the last three and so on until they are able to repeat fluently the whole line.
    keep on with your good job

  2. aziza says:

    i use matching, like; give the students the nouns and verbs from the song and ask them to match. here they have a lot of good ideas and variants. this kind of activity id done before they listen to the song. after listening they compare their work with the original text.

  3. Great ways of using music in the classroom. A colleague and I presented a workshop in TESOL Greece last year about alternative ways to use music in the classroom. Here is the link to the Slideshare presentation – maybe you’ll find it useful!

    • Hi Maria. I had a look at your presentation and I’m really impressed. I liked that stats at the start to show the significance of songs. Might steal a few of your ideas 🙂 Thanks so much.

    • Great ideas here for older students. Thanks!
      I’m also doing research on the use of songs and chants for young learners. I’m comparing how Japanese teachers may use songs and chants compared to teachers who speak English as L1. How did you gather the research in your slides? Music is such a powerful tool, isn’t it?

  4. Julia Villamizar says:

    You needed me by Anne Murray. It is full with Past Simple verbs. You can use the nice youtube version with lyrics. I ask my students to look for the verbs in the Past Simple give the corresponding infinitive and/or check the irregular verbs.

  5. Catherine Mcfarlane says:

    Nice ideas – thanks for sharing everyone!

    I’ve done this with kids and young teenagers: take 10/12 words from a song (which aren’t repeated) put them on the board in a list in the order they appear in the song. Students choose 6 words each, copy them, keeping the same order – so they all have different words. Play the song and when they hear their first word they stand up, second word sit down etc. Great fun! It takes a few times, but finally everyone’s sitting down at the end of the song! Works well when the words are familiar or when you’ve already worked on the meaning of the lyrics. You could get them to predict what the song’s about first, if the words chosen lend themselves to this – then check afterwards. I used it on CELTA courses too as an intro to how to exploit authentic materials.

  6. Elio says:

    Woow it’s really good example for me to learn Englis. Exually i’m English Department student but i’m learning just a bite at Uny. The big problem is with pronuntiation, it’s because when the teacher teach us without any listening audio. So i just hear when teacher make pronounc and i just take a look for my hand out. I think it’s so complicate for me to do the good pronuntiation at the coverce time. Wanna tell the truth my really poor with the pronuntiation. Here with Elio from Timor Leste and Uny student.

  7. You can divide the song in slips of paper, for example each line on a slip of paper and you can make the students put the slips in order while they listen to it. It can be done in groups

  8. Eva says:

    I found so interesting your article and comments and I have translated it to create an article in Spanish. Of course, naming your blog. http://cosicasdemaestricos.blogspot.com.es/2014/07/utiliza-canciones-de-forma-diferente.html

  9. Sabrina says:

    Thank you, this is really helpful for me 🙂 This is a good summary of different techniques – thank you! 🙂

  10. mohamed mosa says:

    Good idera

  11. mohamed mosa says:

    Thank you this is help full for me.

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