ESL and Music – Some Thoughts

Whenever I need to get a class going, whether it be to get the students to write or talk, music always help. Music is a great topic in my bag of teaching tricks.

I believe that music can also be a great tool for teaching. Using song lyrics to teach English works well. However, I believe that music can be used as the basis to teach English. I believe that by talking about, listening to, and even having students create their own music can be a great way to learn English.

I am interested in learning more about using music to teach English. I’ll share my thoughts with you. Please share your ideas with me.


About acohen843

I am a writer and ESL teacher who enjoys the challenge of starting businesses. Currently, I am a JuicePlus distributor ( who is using this business opportunity as the foundation of a social entrepreneurship project.
This entry was posted in education, English as a Second Language, ESL, learning, Mozart Effect, music, teaching, writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to ESL and Music – Some Thoughts

  1. Pingback: ESL and Music - Some Thoughts

  2. Hi, one of my favorite uses of songs was to teach sentence level stress and rhythm.

    Even after students have read and studied that function words often don’t carry stress in a sentence in English, they don’t always believe it. The following activities are a great way to prove to students that English really does work that way.

    Choose a relatively fast song or, better yet, one that crams a lot of words into fairly small spaces. You start out by pre-teaching any necessary vocabulary and introduce the topic of the song. Then, without any help at all, play the song and ask the students to write down the words they heard (they may only catch just a few words) and check with a partner. With a lower level of proficiency, let them do this again. Elicit the words to the board. Ask the students why they were able to hear these words and not others. The answer is, of course, that these words were clearer because they were stressed, which made them louder, longer, and a little higher pitched. Then ask the students to categorize the words, and you’ll see that they will be nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs–exactly the content words they should expect to be stressed in English.

    General listening comprehension should follow and they should all end up with the complete lyrics.

    The production side of this lesson follows. Require everyone to practice saying (or singing if they’re brave enough) the song at the same time (and the same speed) as the singer. Give them plenty of practice both with and without the music and then ask individuals to read out the lyrics using correct stress. This kind of controlled activity is difficult and intense, but is very doable–even with pre-intermediate learners.

    A fun variation is to take the lyrics and make two different cloze activities. Half the class should have blanks where there are content words and half the class should have blanks for the function words. Check to see which group gets the most correct answers, and it will almost certainly be the group that had to listen for content words. This will again prove to your students that the rules of English stress they’ve read in a textbook reflect actual use.

    Oh, and you can do the same thing with a 1- to 2-minute conversation from a movie!

  3. acohen843 says:

    Thank you for your excellent comments and suggestions. I will definitely incorporate these activities into my class.

    My students read but they put no emotion into their reading. Some ignore punctuation. They read until they run out of breath and then start again.

    Thank you. I’m sure your suggestions will help.


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