Teaching English with Music

“Music is the universal language of mankind.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I often take advantage of the power of music and use it in my English lessons with L2 learners of all ages, from juniors to adults.

The best thing about using music to teach English is its flexibility. In my lessons I use music for a number of purposes and in many different ways! It can be a useful ice-breaker for first lessons, in classes where students don’t know each other, or it can be an enjoyable background, it can live things up or calm things down.

Studies have shown that music…

  • relaxes people who are overwhelmed or stressed,
  • can reflect cultures and give students the opportunity to acquire a better understanding of the cultural reality of the target language,
  •  can help learners improve their listening skills and pronounciation,
  •  can be fun and improve the students’ motivation,
  •  can be useful in the teaching of vocabulary and sentence structures.

In intermediate listening/speaking level classes I focus on song lyrics as the basis of a lesson, to introduce a new theme or topic, to inspire a class discussion and to teach reading comprehension.  Before choosing a song I define the objectives and the resources available and then focus on the activities I could use so that students can achieve their goals and develop the different language skills. I don’t choose very popular  because the students will already know the lyrics and my activities may become a flop.

Here is an example of activies I use to make the listening more effective.

Pre-listening step

  1. I write the title of the song on the board and ask my students to guess what it’s about,
  2. I show them a picture of the singer and ask them what they know about him/her,
  3. I give to each student the lyrics with some blanks

Listening to the song

  1. Once without writing
  2. At the second time they fill in the blank while listening
  3. They listen to the song one more time and check if they got the blanks filled in correctly

After listening activities

  1. We correct the exercise together
  2. Then I split the class into groups of 3-4
  3. I take the vocabulary from the lyrics and write 5-10 key words on the board
  4. I tell the groups to write what they think the words mean
  5. We correct the definitions together
  6. Finally, we discuss about the topic of the song.

There many other things you can do with the song lyrics to get the students involved. Discuss about the characters in the song, have the students ask each other about the perfomer and the topic, change words or invent new lyrics for the melody…

These are just some of my activities. I think I’ll soon be writing about my experiences of music in ESL classes, to share my digital resources and my music activities with kids.

Please leave questions or comments below.
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