Music in the TEFL/TESOL Classroom

Songs and Music are great tools to use in the TEFL‏‎ classroom. Everyone likes listening to music and the right song can not only be fun for the students (and the teacher) but also be used in an effective way to teach.

Popular song lyrics are often very simple and mostly in the first person. They use rhyme which can help in remembering and the language is often conversational.

This article introduces a few ideas about using music in the TEFL classroom to help teach English.

Choosing the right TEFL Song

A couple of things to bear in mind here. Songs are very generational and music which you as a teacher may think is classic and cool is likely to induce groans from your students, especially if they are teenagers. There are ways round this though: select music which is either “classic” (which isn’t always so easy) or get your students to give you the names of artists they like. It’s easy enough to get hold of music which your students like and which is suitable for the class. You can get a list of popular songs in one lesson and use one or two several weeks later and surprise the class.

Oh, and it may sound obvious but make sure the lyrics are suitable for the class (you don’t want parents complaining about sexual or drug references).

Note: There are many interesting blog articles on choosing the right song: Old Fashioned Teachers and Music.

Song Activities

Here are a few ideas on how you can use songs in the class.

Missing Words

Essentially this is a gap fill exercise. Print out the lyric sheet of a song but with gaps where some words should go. Hand out the sheet to the students and have them (in groups‏‎) try to work out what words would fit in well in that space. Sometimes it’s obvious:

When we moved apart

You broke my …..

But sometimes it’s not:

When we …… apart

You broke my heart.

So play around a little with the gaps to make it just the right level for your class and to try and inspire a little thought and imagination in the students.

Once this has been done you can compare what different groups have put together. Which words work (i.e. they have the right number of syllable‏‎s and scan well) and which words don’t.

Then you give the students a new copy of the lyric sheet with the missing words. This time they listen to the song (a couple of times if that’s enough) and complete the missing words.

Afterwards it’s good to compare the students’ version with the artist’s version. It’s often the case that the lyrics the students have chosen can make the song sound better and there’s plenty of scope for discussion on the way in which the meaning has changed.

Lyric Strips

Print out the lyrics with wide gaps between each line then cut the lyrics into strips with one line per strip. Jumble up the strips. With the students in groups, hand out bundles of lyric strips and have the students reassemble the song and tape them together before they actually listen to the song.

Go through the different versions in the class and then compare it to the original. Again, this can be a precursor to discussions about meaning, lyrical development and suchlike.

Song Writing

Present the students with the first verse and chorus of the song. Work with them to establish the number of syllables and the structure of the verse and then have them (in groups) write two or three more verses.

Depending on the level of the class you can give them a few phrases to help them along.

Then listen to the song and see who has produced the best version: a group of students or the original artist!

See Also

Karaoke in the Classroom‏‎ – a great way to your lessons fun and effective

Lyric Swap‏‎ – another song activity for the classroom

Lyric Lineup‏‎ – fun for younger learners with songs

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Posted in Lesson Plans & Activities.

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