ESL Through Music

June 12, 2012

Looking back on lessons I've developed for my high school classes, I've noticed that lessons surrounding music have worked the best. It's another reason why I'm grateful that I have free reign over what I teach.

The process of choosing an appropriate song is the most difficult thing to do. It has to be a song that the students will like (predominantly pop), that they will understand (usually involving repetition), and that uses proper English. Satisfying all of these requirements is harder than it seems.

Last semester I used songs by Taylor Swift ("Speak Now") and Maroon 5 ("Misery"). For those lessons, the main activity was filling in the blanks of the lyrics followed by a reading comprehension activity involving a biography.

Last week I used the song "Who Says" by Selena Gomez which worked the best out of all songs I've used. The main activity was putting the lyrics in order, which were cut up in strips. I'm not sure if it went well because they really like the song, because she is J.Biebs' girlfriend, that the activity was more interesting, or all of the above but ALL students were involved (rather than sleeping) which is pretty rare.The second half of the lesson was a bit more boring with the biography Q&A, but some students are interested to hear about the lives of celebrities... and anything related to Justin Bieber. With extra time at the end of the class, I shared some music videos. 

As long as you keep in mind the fact that these songs will forever be ruined after listening to them 80 times (literally), I highly recommend incorporating music into ESL classrooms!


  1. I LOVE the idea of putting lyrics in order. I want to try that with my high schoolers! Great idea!

    1. I can send you my materials if you'd like... Another tip is if you plan to use the pieces more than once, laminate them!


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