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How to Teach English by Songs

Updated on June 23, 2015
prairieprincess profile image

Sharilee has a Bachelor of Education from the University of Calgary. She loves using creative teaching methods to reach her students.

Kids Singing With Their Teacher


Songs Are A Good Way To Learn English

Teaching English with songs is an excellent idea because music is a universal language. Melody, rhythm and harmony go beyond linguistic barriers and can be felt by any human being. When a student listens to a song, they experience emotion and connection which can be a bridge to learning the specific skills that they need to learn.

Years ago, one of the students I was tutoring told me that students in her country, Korea, absolutely loved listening to English songs, even though they could understand only a little bit of the vocabulary. Why did they want to listen to songs that did not even have real meaning to them? They liked the music, the sound. Music goes far beyond just words to actually touch and excite people.

Songs are an excellent way to bring in another medium into the classroom to keep things fresh and interesting. Students learn better when they are stimulated with different mediums. Another creative source you can use are articles from various sources such as newspapers, magazines and online sites such as Hubpages.

Fun Video Using Music To Teach English To Young Children

How To Use Songs For Teaching English

Music can be used with all ages and your approach will vary, depending on the age and skill level of your students. Here are some general principles for using songs for teaching English. We tend to think of songs as being for young children, but older students can also enjoy this method, too! These are some basic ideas. Some may not apply to you, so feel free to use or modify to suit your own individual classroom and situation.

  • Songs can be used for many different purposes within your lesson. Be sure to have a specific learning objective in mind and shape your lesson around that. Don't add songs just for fun's sake, although fun will be sure to happen!
  • For each lesson, focus on one or two songs at the most. Use the song to teach the learning objective that you have. Check this helpful resource that has a list of songs categorized by specific resources.
  • Use a disc player or other device to play the song in class, or sing it yourself! Also, with more advanced students, provide the students with a written copy of the words of the song to read along.
  • For more advanced students, you may also wish to provide a list of questions that you will be looking at, regarding the song(s) and read these questions to the class before playing the song. Doing this will help your students learn more by preparing their minds for what to listen to, making them targeted listeners.
  • For an advanced class, play the song through once, discuss the questions again, and then play again. Encourage discussion of what they have heard and read.
  • When teaching children, you may use songs over and over again to reinforce the concepts. Repetition, repetition, repetition!

Very Creative Video For Teaching Idioms To High School Teachers

Use Songs To Teach These Learning Objectives

There are many things you can learn from English songs and the ideas are almost endless. Here are some ideas for language learning objectives that can be met by the use of songs.

  • Basic vocabulary. Use simple songs, especially with children, to teach basic vocabulary and skills. The use of songs greatly reinforces the words in their minds, helps auditory learners. If you use actions, as well, this also helps the kinesthetic learners.
  • Advanced Vocabulary. Choose a song that is challenging but not impossible for the students to understand. Make a list of words you think they should know and hand them out with the words to song. Listen to the song more than once. A good strategy would be to place students in groups to decipher the words and the report their findings to the class.
  • Grammar. The grammar in song lyrics is often irregular, so this is a good chance to compare song word order to regular usage. A good strategy to teach grammar is to take a song and have students write each line out in a proper sentence and then share examples with the rest of the class. You can also have students pick out examples of a particular grammar part from one or two songs.
  • Writing. To develop writing skills in your students, use a well-known song and have them develop a similar song, using the original song as a template. For example, I used the song, Blowin' in the Wind, by Bob Dylan, with my high school students and encouraged them to write their own version of the song.
  • Speaking. Songs can be used for learning to hear English and how certain words are pronounced. Let the students listen to a song with rhyming end lines and then focus on the end words. Have the students say each line together, emphasizing the end words. Draw their attention the sound of the rhymes.
  • Culture. You can also use songs to show different parts of the culture where English is spoken, whether it is overseas or if the students are now living in the English speaking country.

I have just scratched the surface of how to use songs to teach English. I hope that it has piqued your interest and that you use these ideas to get you started on your own creative teaching ideas. I would love to hear your comments and any ideas you have used in the section below. Happy Teaching!


Popular Music Songs To Use For English Teaching

(click column header to sort results)
Skill Level  
Hello, Good-Bye
Fast Car
Tracy Chapman
Grammar, Sentence Structure, Idioms
Blowin' in the Wind
Bob Dylan
Culture, Rhetorical Questions

Song Links

Here are the links to the songs listed above. You can also find many other song lyrics at these sites:

Hello, Good-Bye, by The Beatles (Here is a lesson plan for teaching this song.)

Fast Car, by Tracy Chapman

Blowin' In the Wind, by Bob Dylan.


Fun Poll

Do You Know Any Non-English Songs? (If yes, please tell me which ones in the comments section.)

See results


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    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      9 months ago from Canada

      Gyaendra, thank you so much. I am glad you found the article useful, and you can also send it via email. Have a wonderful day!

    • Gyanendra Mocktan profile image

      gyanendra mocktan 

      10 months ago

      Thank you, Sarilee Swaity. I love this article. I would share this to my friend Dilip Bohora who is a passionate English teacher.

      Unfortunately, he does not use the social media. Thank you again.

    • profile image

      Greg Malone 

      23 months ago

      Love this article. Ummmm... perhaps de-stereotype the banner image. Maybe the teacher doesn't need to be so pale white contrasting with the (obviously disadvantaged!) darker skinned students...? Images also speak, sometimes unintentionally.

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      2 years ago from Canada

      Thanks so much for the comment, @wiserworld! Yes, those blank-fill sheets are an excellent idea for listening to videos; they really keep the students on track. Great suggestion! I apologize for responding -- I haven't been on Hubpages much the last couple of years. Take care!

    • wiserworld profile image


      2 years ago

      Great tips for using songs in the classroom. Blank-fill work sheets work really well when listening to audio on YouTube or elsewhere. Thanks!

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      4 years ago from Canada

      @Peggy W, thank you so much for your feedback! I am sorry for not getting back to you sooner. Take care.

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      4 years ago from Canada

      @PegCole17, you are so right. It is the repetition that does it it, and singing is a fun way of repeating something over and over, with a course. Thanks so much for the comment, and I do apologize for taking almost a year to get back to you!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      This makes perfect sense and would also be a fun way to learn words of a new language. Voted UUI and will share.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      5 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      I like this innovative way of learning a different language. A good deal of learning is from repetition which makes the singing method work so well. That video with the numbers was cute and really made the point. I can still remember learning to count to ten from a song we sang at VBS when I was four years old. I'm glad to hear this method is still effective.

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      6 years ago from Canada

      @Theater girl, it's nice to hear of such a creative teacher that uses interactive methods with her students. Thank you so much for dropping by, and adding your comment. Take care!

    • Theater girl profile image


      6 years ago from New Jersey

      I have always used songs to teach concepts in my first and second grade classrooms. And I agree, since I teach in a bilingual environment, it is particularly powerful tool for ELL learners.

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      6 years ago from Canada

      Paul, I appreciate your visit so much. That's great to hear that you use songs, too, when teaching. It is a really fun and stimulating way to learn. Music is such a powerful tool. Take care and happy teaching!

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      6 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Prairie Princess,

      This is an excellent hub on a subject which all teachers should employ. I have learned songs both in Chinese Mandarin and Thai, and I regularly use songs in teaching EFL to fifth graders. The songs have helped me to learn Chinese and Thai vocabulary and also helped with pronunciation. My students really enjoy the songs and they have helped me teach vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar patterns. Voted up as useful, shared with followers and on Facebook, and Pinned.

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Seeker, I appreciate you sharing your experience. Yes, it is amazing how music is so universal, beyond actual words. I know what you mean about hearing some foreign music that is appealing -- it seems to touch something deeper within us, than mere cognitive understanding. Have a wonderful night and thanks for the feedback.

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      I really enjoyed this hub - the information is very interesting and it's a concept that I hadn't thought of before, but it's an excellent one.

      As you say, music is a universal language that crosses cultures and language and what a fun way to learn another language. I was also interested in the kids from Korea who enjoyed the English songs even although it was the music that appealed. It's kind of the same for me and others when listening to something like The Eurovision Song Contest - most of the songs are in their native language from all over Europe, but if the tune is appealing, it doesn't matter about the words.

      Very enjoyable and informative hub + voted up!

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Teaches, thank you so much! Yes, the melody is very powerful in helping their brain connect. Have a wonderful day!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Very well done! I agree that songs are a great way to help children learn by having fun. They melody helps to grasp the concept of language as they sing. Voted way up!

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      7 years ago from Canada

      @Don, so true! A bit of creativity goes a long ways in grabbing and keeping their attention. Boredom is lethal when they're trying to learn something! Thanks for an excellent comment that wasn't boring, at all. :)

      @Maddie, thank you so much! The ideas are endless, but I was glad to give a few specific examples.

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      7 years ago from Canada

      @Laurinzo, thank you! I appreciate your kind comment so much.

      @Virginia, good for you! Wow, that must have an amazing experience. I am glad that this hub may give you some more ideas and maybe you'll be get a hub out of your experience, too. (or maybe you already have?) Thanks for the nice comment.

    • Maddie Ruud profile image

      Maddie Ruud 

      7 years ago from Oakland, CA

      I love that you included a few examples of songs to use in teaching, and what language concepts they illustrate.

    • DON BALDERAS profile image


      7 years ago

      Great sharing. Teachers only need to be creative to sustain the interest of students to learn. What you shared could be good exercises of creativity on the part of the teachers. Thanks for sharing.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 

      7 years ago from United States

      Such great ideas with lots of variations. I actually just got back from teaching a short course in Chinese to some Chinese adoptees. I used songs to teach many of my lessons. I'll have to come back to your Hub when I teach again to get more ideas. Voted up and interesting!

    • Laurinzo Scott profile image

      LJ Scott 

      7 years ago from Phoenix, Az.

      This is a very important hub... voted up.... of course!

    • prairieprincess profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharilee Swaity 

      7 years ago from Canada

      @Kissayer, that's great confirmation. Songs are a powerful way to keep things in our brain. Thanks for stopping by!

      @Green Lotus, wow, powerful statement. Yes, singing anything makes it powerful. I can relate with praise services, which bring my belief home to me so powerful. Thanks for the wonderful insight!

    • Green Lotus profile image


      7 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Love this PP and I totally agree. Songs are good learning tools. I believe in the power of positive verbal affirmations and have learned that singing them is even more powerful (and more fun :) Rated up and useful !

    • kissayer profile image

      Kristy Sayer 

      7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Great hub! I've studied a lot of languages and always found it easy to start by learning songs - I learnt the german alphabet and numbers through songs and still think of them when I hear a number/letter and that was years ago!


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