10 ways to use music in the ESL Classroom

Music can be one of the best ways to teach any subject because students will get catchy beats stuck in their head and soon be able to list the capital cities of Europe or the bones in the human body without much “studying” at all. Plus, it’s fun for everyone.

It can also be used to help teach English as a second language, so let look at some of the different methods that could work for your students.

Photo by Juan Pablo Arenas from Pexels

Get the basics down

There are tons of songs with catchy tunes to help students remember basic information in English, like the alphabet and the days of the week. Have your students sing along to get the music (and the information) stuck in their head.

Let’s get lyrical

Find the lyrics for a popular English-language song and make it into a worksheet by taking out some of the words. Have your students listen to the song and fill in the blank.

Inspiring artists

There are so many singers from non-English speaking countries (and a fair few from English-speaking countries) who are multilingual. This includes Lady Gaga, BTS, Cardi B, Bruno Mars, Pitbull, and many more. Let them serve as inspiration for your students. You could even have your students do a mini English-language research project on the multilingual music artist of their choice.

Find the story

Have your students listen to an English-language song of their choosing and then explain the story the singer is telling.

Let’s sing together

Duets are a great way for students to practice speaking as they mimic real-life conversations, so put your students into pairs and have them practice a duet. Think before picking love songs though as it could make them feel super uncomfortable.

A matter of timing

If you want to indicate a set amount of time to your students, say if you’re conducting an oral assessment, use the Countdown clock music.

Write your book

Many creative writing classrooms use music as a writing prompt because of its ability to provoke emotion, so why not have your students engage their creativity and their language skills by writing a story based on the song(s) you play? Then, have them hand in their work so that you can grade their spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

(Not) lost in translation

Students will enjoy translating their favourite songs into English, which is a fairly simple task. For more advanced students, have them alter the text so the lyrics still fit the tune.

Get your lips around pronunciation

Many students will have trouble with pronouncing English words, especially those that don’t sound anything like they’re spelt. Singing along with a song can help the student adapt their pronunciation faster than just reading it on the page. However, you do need to watch out for the songs that twist the pronunciation in order to fit the tune or a rhyme.

A calming tune

Students perform better during tasks that require concentration if instrumental music is playing quietly in the background. Although, don’t use anything too familiar, i.e. the Star Wars theme.

That’s it from us on using music to teach English and hopefully you can use these tips in your classroom. Let the music play and help your students not only learn English, but love it too.

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