Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Not another Cloze! How else to use songs in EFL classes

Songs are awesome! And I have seen SO many gap fill assignments (which are nice) but let's look at how else to use songs.

For the sake of continuity I am going to use one song for this entire post (though other songs will be mentioned). Let's look at It is a music video mixed from two K-op music videos (Fantastic Baby by Big Bang and Scream by) 2NE1 the song is actually by Regina Spektor and it is called, "All the Rowboats." I like to use videos students haven't seen, so this works well because even if they know the song my Mexican students won't know the K-Pop visuals, and if my Korean students recognized the bands they won't know the lyrics.

1. Make your own songs: So for this one instead of: "All the rowboats in the paintings they keep trying to row away, and the captains' worried faces stay contorted and staring at the waves." you could change it so something to review parts of speech, "All the nouns stay in the paintings they are objects or things. Without verbs they have no action there is no moving." or whatever. Songs are a great way to review concepts you have learned or just give students something to humm during tests.

2. Use songs to describe grammar points: This would be an easy song to use for prepositions (and you could follow up by asking about the people in the video: they are on the table, under the fence etc).

3. Practice Punctuation Lyrics are hardly ever punctuated properly as they are arranged by rhythm and rhyme rather than syntax. Have your students avoid comma splices and run ons by punctuating a song,
 "First there's lights out, then there's lock up
Masterpieces serving maximum sentences
It's their own fault for being timeless
There's a price you pay and a consequence
All the galleries, the museums
Here's your ticket, welcome to the tombs"

"First there's lights out, then there's lock up: masterpieces serving maximum sentences. It's their own fault for being timeless; there's a price you pay and a consequence. All the galleries, the museums, here's your ticket; welcome to the tombs."

4. Describe music videos! I LOVE music videos.
  • Write ten sentences describing the video. Have five of the sentences be incorrect. This can be any grammar point. Participle phrases, appositives, tense, proper modifiers, etc. Examples:
      • The owls eyes, looked right at you, are scary.
      • The people attacks the fence trying to destroy it.
      • There are much people dancing at the party
    • Students should correct the five wrong sentences 
      • The owls eyes, looking right at you, are scary.
      • The people attack the fence trying to destroy it.
      • There are many people dancing at the party.
  • Use the  grammar point. Tell students that they need to write ten sentences using participle phrases / adjectives / adverbial clauses / whatever to describe what is happening. They get really specific and sometimes funny!
5. Mess up the lyrics Write the lyrics incorrectly and have students try to fix them.
  • You can mess up the words for minimal pairs/homophones "Thirst their's lights out," instead out "First there's lights out." Depending on the level on your students you can either have them do it without listening (and then let them listen to check), have them listen without the paper and then pass out the paper and have them work from memory, or have them do it while listening.
  • Mess with the tenses:  "First there's lights out, then there are lock up" have students read messed up lyrics and fix the verbs. Then listen to the song to check. To differentiate tell some students how many mistakes are in each column, and don't tell others. Or, give one student a worksheet with more/more difficult mistakes.
6. Work the Paragraph Have students find a Topic Sentence in the song. It can be literal (Tequila makes her clothes fall off) or deeper "This song discusses immigration policies" "This song is about how people don't appreciate art" "This song is about a holocaust museum" Then have them find support in the lyrics. This really makes students follow paragraph structure using evidence from the song and then explaining it in their own words.
7. Spice up a song Take lyrics out of a song and have students make them better
  • Remind them to use synonyms. She says, "all the rowboats" a lot, what else could she say?
  • Have them add adjectives or clauses to make better sentences.
  • Underline phrases that could be changed to phrasal verbs or phrasal verbs that they have to change to phrases "First there's lights out, then there's lock up" --> First everyone has to make the rooms dark, then everything gets locked
8. Make it active! TPR doesn't have to just be for kids! Give each group a chunk of the song and have them make up a quick dance/collection of hand movements WHICH MAKES SENSE with the lyrics. This really means they have to focus on meaning and think outside of the box to prove comprehension.

There we have 8 easy ways to get songs into the classroom. How do you like to incorporate music? How else would you use this song?


  1. Great ideas here, thanks!

  2. Hi and thanks for the post. I created a blog around songs a couple of years ago and the students really liked working on the worksheets.

    Then I also linked songs and comics and invited the kids to create a comic which illustrates a song in a sort of guessing game. You can see some results here

    1. Looks like you have a wide variety of songs! That's great :-) I am all for the Beatles, but some teachers tend to find one artist and then just stick with it until the end.

      The comic idea is super cute too; thanks for sharing!

  3. Great ideas -- especially mixing up the lyrics!!


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