Tips for Using Songs in the ESL Classroom.

Using Songs in The ESL Classroom.

Music can be used in English classes in a variety of ways. It provides numerous advantages for both the teacher and the pupils, including boosting memory and focus, stimulating learning, and, most significantly, making learning enjoyable.

Nothing makes a teacher happier than seeing their kids laugh and grin while they learn. Students are in the same boat. Students enjoy coming to class when they are taught in a pleasant and creative manner. Teachers can accomplish success with their pupils by incorporating music into the classroom.

It’s also worth noting that listening to music can assist learners to enhance and develop their general English skills. Let’s have a look at some of the approaches for using music to augment conventional English sessions.

Planning your Musical Lessons.

What is your learning focus?

Will the focus of your class be on vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, or a specific topic? Whatever your focus, keep in mind that there are no restrictions on what you can do with the song.

For example, you might utilize the song to demonstrate a specific verb tense or make use of the opportunity to examine the lyrics for any intriguing idioms.

What is the Age level of your learners?

Teaching songs to children, teenagers, and adults all require different approaches. If you’re a young learner’s teacher, you’ll most likely want to employ songs that are repetitious and simple to understand.

However, for teenagers, use current or recently released pop and rock tunes. My recommendation is to ask them ‘what’s popular.’ Use songs that are appealing to their age group.

Adult learners will be more receptive to different types of music as long as they perceive a learning reward.

Cultural Inappropriateness.

What are some of the things that are commonly considered inappropriate in the culture where you teach? Whatever you do, don’t utilize music only to satisfy your own cultural expectations. Consider your audience and their tastes; better yet, let them choose the tunes you play.

What classroom tech do you have?

There is no good preparing a fantastic musical lesson and arriving into the classroom to find you do not have the tech tools available to play your songs.

Some schools have limited resources so it is a wise idea to invest in a few basic classroom tech tools to help you with your lessons. I now record all my lessons on to my phone and playback through a wireless blue tooth speaker.

Tips for Using Songs in the Classroom.

Busy Teacher has a large range of free songs you can use in the classroom, click on the link to discover these resources.

The Young Learner.

Children have an inherent affinity towards music. You don’t need to persuade them that it will aid their learning. They will quickly respond and remember what is being taught. Here are some ideas for activities to do with children.

  • Use a variety of alphabet songs (not just the classic ABC) to help kids recall their letters in English.
  • Colors: Use a variety of color songs and rhythms to teach the colors.
  • Simple action songs that demand kids to stand up and move about should be taught. Consider traditional song-based birthday games like pass the parcel or musical chairs.
  • Children enjoy learning about animals through songs. Use songs like “Old McDonald had a Farm” and “There was an Old Lady who swallowed a fly” to teach animals and animal sounds.
  • Simple number songs, such as “there were ten in the bed, and the little one said, roll over, roll over,” will get your pupils up and moving.

Children are arguably the easiest to provide lessons to in a song setting as they are naturally receptive to listening and singing along.

The Teenage Learner.

Songs are an excellent listening exercise for teenagers. Songs also have the ability to tell stories and convey emotions. Music can help to establish the tone or modify the mood. You may start or close a class with a song, or create a whole course around it, its message, and the artist or band.

  • Print out the lyrics to the song for students and listen to the song a couple of times while students read along.
  • For older learners, rather than have them sing the song, rely on them listening only and getting hem to fill in a song close sheet. You may want the older student to fill in the word close before the listening activity and see how close they get.
  • After listening, encourage your students to discuss the song and share what language they were comfortable with and where they struggled.
  • Rewrite the Song
  1. Older ESL students will require a bigger challenge to put their language skills to the test. So consider trying to get them to rephrase the song into a story.
  2. The pupils will need to have a basic comprehension of the original song before moving on to the next stage.
  3. The pupils will then have to completely rewrite the song into a story.
    Many students would simply substitute well-known synonyms for keywords, while experienced students may completely rewrite the song into a story format.
  4. Make sure students present their work to the rest of the class.

Teenagers will know exactly what kind of music they like and don’t like! Ask them what they like and incorporate a variety of musical styles in your classes. you don’t want to lose them at the start of the lesson just by choosing the wrong song.

The Adult Learner.

You can use some of the same approaches to songs with Adults as you have done with the teenagers.

Do your stop-gap exercises and blank out the lyrics that you wish to focus on or get the adults to also rewrite the song. And you are only limited by your own imagination. Here are some other ideas that will provide a more meaningful experience for your students.

  • Create a whole new verse of lyrics in the same mood and style as the ones before. You can do this I individually or in groups with your students. Then get each person or group to read them out. The remainder of the class can listen to the new lyrics.
  • A song usually gives you the singer’s point of view. Write a response from the perspective of the person about whom the song is being sung. It doesn’t have to be in lyric format.
  • Get the students to plan a music video for the song. They decide the setting, the people, and what happens in groups. After that, each group presents their concept to the rest of the class, and the students vote on which one is the best.
  • Role Play; Select a song that tells a tale or describes a relationship. Learners work in pairs or small groups after listening to the music to build a scene from the song, or even what happened before or after the story depicted in the song. Students could then perform their role-play in front of an audience.

Why Use Songs in the Classroom.

Language learning is aided by rhythm.

Students of all ages are naturally motivated to learn more efficiently when knowledge is provided rhythmically.

Consider your own experience as a student. Musical rhythms were most likely used to deliver stories, nursery rhymes, and even the alphabet.

Consider how difficult it would be to learn the alphabet with the letters jumbled up in a random order. Even as adults, we are considerably more likely to remember the words of a song than the contents of a speech we had just heard a few times. And this is because of the rhythm and melody.

Music has the ability to capture people’s attention.

Furthermore, few things capture the attention of ESL students like a great tune. During your lessons, you will inevitably have students that struggle to pay attention.

Additionally, kids may have a harder time understanding particular language elements that you give. You can assist your pupils by presenting linguistic topics in a more accessible manner utilizing ESL songs and music.

There are a few disadvantages to teaching with songs.

The songs can be;

  • be very fast for ESL learners;
  • contain slang or ungrammatical sentences
  • have difficult vocabulary that even upper intermediate students will not understand.

So please choose your songs carefully to be both age and skill relevant.

Final Thoughts.

In an ESL classroom, music can be used in a variety of ways. It is a readily available resource, and music can be used to teach a variety of skills.

Most teachers use music as a supplement, but it can also be used as a stand-alone unit, a lesson, or a part of your regular class activities.

Furthermore, there is a wide range of music to pick from that can assist you in conducting a number of fun activities in the ESL classroom.


My name is Stephen and I have been teaching ESL in Vietnam for over 15 years and have my own English school .

You can check out “Tet” in Vietnam on my YouTube channel below.

Tet in 2022

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