song time

Song Time

Students love music, and they love doing songs in class. It’s small wonder then that coursebooks are incorporating songs or offering songs on supplementary photocopiable material. However, these are rarely the songs that students want to listen to. Students are far more motivated when the songs they do in class are those which are familiar to them, or at least within a genre which they like. It’s therefore always a good idea to ask students what kind of music they like and what their favourite songs are. You can then use this information to prepare song activities which you know your students are going to enjoy. With that in mind, this time we’re looking at different song activities you can do in your class.


Song Bingo

This is a really great activity which works really well for getting students to actively listen for detail and specific words. Use the attached template to help you prepare the activity.

  1. Before the class, choose an appropriate song and then choose 15-20 words from the song and write them in the first box on the template – alternatively you could do this on the board. the board. Now add another five ‘red-herring’ words to the list.
  2. Hand out an empty 3×3 bingo card to the students and ask them to fill it in, choosing any nine words from the box/board. This is great as it ensures differentiation.
  3. Tell the students to listen very carefully to the song for their words and when they hear them to cross them out. When a student has crossed out all nine of their words tell them to shout BINGO.
  4. If no one shouts out bingo after the first listen, play the song a second time.


Stand Up! Hold Up!

This is a good activity to do with a song on a first listen, before doing something more in depth, which also helps sharpen their listening skills.

  1. Choose some words or phrases from the song you’re doing which are repeated a number of times and write them on some cards, making sure that each phrase is repeated a few times.
  2. Handout the cards to the students, giving them one each (you could give stronger students two). Explain that you’re going to listen to a song and when they hear their phrase they should stand up and hold up their card.
  3. Play the song and watch your class stand up and sit down like jack-in-the-boxes.


Jumbled Sentences

This is a variation of the kind of activity you might do with grammar and one which makes listening to a song more than just listening to a song. It also really appeals to the kinaesthetic learners.

  1. Either hand out on slips of paper or dictate the words from a line of the song and get students to unjumble them into a correct sentence. However, don’t give the lines of the song in the correct order.
  2. When the students think they have the right answer, they run up to the board and write it up.
  3. When all of the lines of the song (or just a verse) are on the board, ask students to re-arrange them into an order which they think is logical (this helps if the song has story).
  4. Listen to the song, with the students checking the order of the lines and rearranging as needs be.


Board Grab

This is a really fun, sometimes chaotic activity which students invariably love doing. It can be used as warm-up before doing further activities with the song.

  1. Before the lesson prepare a number of words from the song on individual cards, plus some red herrings for fun.
  2. Stick the words on the whiteboard in a random order.
  3. Split the class into two teams who then form two lines in front of the board. The aim of the activity is for the students to listen to the song carefully and when they hear one of the words on the board they grab it. Once they have grabbed a word they go to the back of the line so the next student in the team can have a go.
  4. When the song has finished, count up how many words each team has, remembering to take points of for any red herrings that they might’ve taken off


Extra Words/Wrong Words

This is a good alternative to the standard gap fill task and one which gets students to really focus at listening for specific information.

  1. Choose a song and either add words to some of the lines, or write in the wrong words – if changing the words, choose ones which have a similar sound e.g. you could change the word king for thing.
  2. Students listen to the song and correct the mistakes as they hear them. After the first listen let students compare answers before letting them listen a second time.


Musical Inspiration

This activity uses music as a means to inspire and fire the imagination in regards to story writing. Simply by playing some music (or a mix of different music) it is possible to aid students in coming up with ideas and vocabulary. Play a piece of instrumental music and then the students brainstorm different words they associate with that music. Coupled with some Wh- prompts (who, when, where, when, why), the students are able to visualize and start to create their own story.


Comment and let us know which song activities you’ve used in your class! Which are your favourite?

For more materials using songs, available in both American and British English, Welcome to Our World is a three-level preprimary series that uses traditional children’s songs from around the world and age-appropriate National Geographic content to introduce very young learners to the world of English.


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Author: Alex Warren

Alex Warren is a DELTA trained teacher trainer with over 14 years’ experience of working in ELT as a teacher, academic director and teacher trainer. Working for National Geographic Learning, Alex is driven by his passion for developing teachers on a global scale and helping them to reach their true potential. A firm believer in a communicative approach to language learning and student centred learning, Alex enjoys working with innovative, thought-provoking materials and presenting on a wide range of ELT-related topics.

One comment

  1. I liked this article. I think most people learn their first words in English through music.
    Learning English through songs is a very fun and easy way for children, who learn while singing, dancing and having fun.
    Personally, listening to music in English has helped me a lot to improve my vocabulary and also to not get bored while learning.
    I really liked the songs that the article proposes, I will be singing them these days to improve my pronunciation

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