Using pop songs in the classroom is a common activity. They are an enjoyable alternative to the traditional listening comprehension.

Photo of students singing.

Source: Eva-Katalin, Getty Images

  • Choose songs that are clear, make sense and do not contain a lot of unknown vocabulary.
  • You may decide to pre-teach some key vocabulary.

Gap fills

  • Write out the song lyrics but leave gaps instead of some words. For example, gap all the verbs or adjectives.
  • Students listen and fill in the missing words. They may need to listen two or three times.
  • If you feel students will find this difficult, write the missing words randomly around the text and so the students have an idea what they are listening out for.

Jumbled lines

  • Write out the song lyrics, but this time jumble whole lines and students have to put them into the correct order while listening to the song.
  • You may wish to cut up the lines, to make the task easier for the students – or get them to cut up the sheet before the activity.
  • Students can work in pairs.

Spot the mistakes

An easier activity:

  • Write out the lyrics of the song, but make about 20 mistakes e.g. change the tense, write an opposite or synonym instead of the correct word. The students listen.
  • The first time ask them to underline the words that are different and the second (or third) time actually write what they hear above the word or phrase that is wrong.
  • After each hearing they can check with each other – in a mixed ability classroom this ensures no-one is left behind and gets demotivated.
  • After they have checked that they got the right words, ask them to go through and see if the mistakes were words or phrases that were the same, similar or opposite in meaning: a good focus on vocabulary and/or grammar. 

Translation activity  

A challenging activity for monolingual classrooms:

  • In pairs or small groups, students choose a popular song in their Mother Tongue and translate it into English, ensuring that it is still singable to the same tune! They could also do it the other way round choosing a (pop) song sung in English and translate it into their own language.
  • You could also do this in a multilingual classroom or where students share two or more language other than English, (such as Senegal where the children could translate an English song into French or Wolof) as long as there are at least 2 or 3 children who can work together.

Other ideas for using songs in classs

Teenagers: Songs 1: Music in the background

Teenagers: Songs 2: Music as a stimulus for speaking

Teenagers: Songs 3: Music as a stimulus for writing

Teenagers: Songs 5: Discussion and presentation

Teenagers: Songs 6: Songs and grammar