10 Ways To Use Songs In The EFL Classroom

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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

Dictagloss

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.

IELTS

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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Let It Go from Frozen Lesson Plan

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Lots of my students have been going crazy for this song. The problem is that most of them have listened to it so may times that using it in the classroom might not be that useful. Or would it?

I decided to play a trick on my students.

I changed the lyrics in to a fairy tale. I changed it just enough so that they wouldn’t suspect but tried to keep some key vocabulary.

I then did a dictagloss (see below) and some collaborative writing. I let them in on the trick by playing the song at the end of class.

The results: the students got some great listening and writing practice. They really analysed the song before realising it is something they have been exposed to lots of times before but never really thought about.

Lesson Plan

Level: Intermediate-Advanced

Time: 90 mins

Materials: A3 paper, story below and song.

Skills: Extended Listening, Collaborative Writing and Speaking.

Language Focus: Narrative Tenses and Vocabulary.

Procedure

1. Tell students that you are going to tell them about a fairy tale.

2. Tell them the fairy tale involves a Princess with a terrible secret that she must conceal, an isolated mountain, a swirling storm, fear and a realisation. Board these terms, clarify any unknown language and ask students to predict what will happen in the story.

3. Ask students to compare their predictions. Tell them they will find out the secret at the end of the lesson.

4. You can now tell students the story but this time they should just listen and not write anything down.

Once upon a time there was a beautiful Princess, but she did not live in a castle, she lived alone on top of an isolated mountain. On the mountain it was winter all year round. The wind howled and storms raged.

Every night, the Princess listened to the howling wind and thought about the terrible storm that raged inside of her. A secret so terrible that she had to keep it concealed from everyone.

The secret prevented her from ever seeing her people and even her own family. She feared the secret could hurt her sister. She could never let them see what was inside and would never let them in.

One day the storm inside got so strong that she could not hold it back anymore. She realised that the only thing she had to fear was fear itself. She didn’t care what people would say. Once she told her family she realised that the fear inside didn’t bother her anymore. She stayed in her kingdom and the storm on the mountain raged. She knew she was not perfect but the storm inside was gone.

I wonder what her secret was?

5. Tell students that you will read again and this time they can take short notes. Remind them they should just note down key words and phrases.

6. Students compare notes with a partner.

7. Put students in to small groups of 3 or 4. Using their notes they reconstruct the story. Encourage them to make a rough draft and then write the story out on A3 paper as accurately as possible.

8. When they have finished, put the stories up around the room for everyone to read.

9. Ask students to discuss what they think the big secret is.

10. Reveal by playing song.

11. Discuss the song- What was the secret? Have you seen the movie? Was the story similar? Have you thought about the song like this before? Have you ever felt like this before? Is it always better to share your secrets? Could the secret be a metaphor for something else?

I hope you enjoy the lesson and please let me know how you get on with it.

Thanks for reading and please share.

IELTS

Do you have any IELTS students? They may be interested in our other site IELTS Advantage.

It has tonnes of free IELTS resources including reading, listening, speaking and both writing tasks.

For example, our post on IELTS Introductions takes students step by step through the process of writing and IELTS introduction.

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Last Night by The Vamps

This is a great song to review past verb tenses with your students. I have used a ‘wordle’ containing verbs only and pictures from the music video for prediction, followed by inserting these verbs in to a gap fill. Students then identify the past tense followed by a discussion about why they are using each specific tense. The lesson wraps up with them recalling the chorus using these verbs and then writing their own chorus.

This is just a suggested procedure. If you have any feedback I would love to hear from you.

Hope your students enjoy it.

A PDF lesson plan including materials can be found here and a power point can be found here.

Level: Higher Elementary- Pre-Intermediate

Time: 60 minutes

Materials: PowerPoint, lyrics with gap fill and lyrics without gap fill.

Language Focus: Past verb tenses

Procedure

Step 1- Prediction Using Wordle

Show ‘wordle’ containing verbs only. Students discuss what the story is about. Don’t tell your students they are going to listen to a song yet.

Step 2- Prediction Using Pictures

Show pictures from the story. Students use verbs and pictures to predict. Board predictions.
Check any unknown vocabulary at this stage.

Step 3- First Listen

Students listen to song to check predictions.

Step 4- Gap Fill

This can be done in one of two ways. You could just let them listen to the song and fill in the gaps or you can show them the ‘wordle’ again and have them fill in the verbs before listening. Remind them that the verbs may be in a different form.

Step 5- Lyrics Analysis

Hand out full lyrics and students identify which parts contain the present tense and which parts contain the past tense.

Establish that the chorus has past forms. Students then identify which past tenses are included and discuss why they are used in each situation.

Monitor closely and clarify any misunderstandings in feedback.

Step 6- Retelling the Story

Display the verbs from the chorus. Students retell the story using these verbs. Remind them that they may have to change the form of the verbs.

Step 7- Writing Their Own Version

Students write their own version of the chorus about a crazy night out or party. Change this to suit your level/age/style etc.

Display stories around the room and students vote for best, funniest etc.

Possible Extension

Give students an unlimited amount of money to create a class party. Students work in groups to plan the party. Pick students at random to tell the rest of the class about their party. Students then come up with a story about one of the parties and use the past tense to tell this story.

IELTS 

Do you teach IELTS students? You might find our sister site IELTS Advantage very useful.

It has over one hundred posts on everything to help your students pass the IELTS exam.

For example, our post on IELTS Task 1 Maps question shows students exactly how to tackle these questions.

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Happy by Pharrell Williams

This is a great song to play to your students at any time,but the regular structure of the chorus provides a good opportunity for some pronunciation awareness, drilling and creating our own version of the song.

There are three versions of the video included in the lesson, the original version, a lyrics version and a Saigon (my city) version. There are lots of other versions from different cities, so have a look for yours on YouTube.

Did you know? Pharrell made 9 other versions of this song before he was happy with this one. The Happy Song is on the soundtrack of the Despicable Me 2 movie.

I have made a PowerPoint available here and the lesson plan is available here. You can also download the lyrics here.

Please let me know how you get on with it and any feedback is more than welcome.

IELTS

Do you teach IELTS? If you do, you might be interested in our sister site IELTS Advantage.

We have over one hundred articles about IELTS including writing, speaking, listening and reading.

For example, our post on Writing Task 2 structures gives students a sentence by sentence structure for every type of Task 2 essay.

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Clap Along If You Feel….

First lesson ready to go. I’m using Pharrell’s Happy to raise awareness of the phonemic chart, practice rhythm and stress and finally use the music video and sentence stems to produce personalised tunes.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to upload files. Talk to you again when I get my head around this.

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Welcome

Hi and welcome to my new blog.

I’ve been teaching for a couple of years now and I’ve decided to set myself a challenge.

I’ve noticed that the best way to engage my students is to provide an engaging context through various forms of media. Films, pictures and stories work great but my best lessons have been song based.

It’s not been all plain sailing. Trying to force my students to listen to my playlists backfired terribly. How can you not appreciate Iggy? Letting students choose a contemporary pop song seems to be the best way forward.

My challenge is to design and publish a lesson based on a song in the Top 10 every week.

If you have any feedback or suggestions please let me know.

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