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How to Use Songs in the ESL Classroom?

Updated on March 28, 2013

Including songs in the ESL classroom is another way to teach listening comprehension. The use of songs in the ESL classroom can add variety to the acquisition of a language and can be used to teach grammar, syntax and vocabulary to students, furthermore, a song can wake up memories in the students, which can ease the learning of a language.

I have used songs in the ESL classroom, not only to teach a grammar point, but also as a means to get the students to relax a little during an English class. A song not only can contribute to the learning of a language, but also can awake past memories, which can be motivating for the language learners. In this hub, I’m going to present to you some simple techniques that you can use in the ESL classroom when including a song.

Things Needed to Use a Song in the ESL Classroom?

  • A song file (midi, mp3)
  • Song lyrics
  • Laptop computer
  • Speakers

Song in the ESL Classroom
Song in the ESL Classroom | Source

How to Teach Vocabulary Contained in a Song in the ESL classroom?

When presenting a song in the ESL classroom, it is important to teach vocabulary contained in the song. Even though, the students might have heard the song hundreds of times, there could be some words that they might not comprehend. Select those words that are not of common usage and give an explanation of them before presenting the song. You may also write the translation of those words right below the transcription of the song. This will assure that they don’t get lost while reading the song.

You may also have them listen to the music of the song without the lyrics, and as they do, have them write all the words and phrases they can relate to the song. If you have chosen a very popular song, they might perform this activity with ease, since lots of memories might be able to come into their minds. Afterwards, you may have them listen to the song with lyrics and review the vocabulary.

How to Teach Grammar with a Song in the ESL Classroom?

There are a great number of English songs written in a variety of grammar points, tenses and idiomatic expressions; you may find songs written in the simple present; others written in the simple past; more others written with conditionals and a lot of them written in the future. Some songs make use of adjectives; others use adverbs and some others use complex sentences. You only have to choose the right song for the lexical point you’re trying to teach.

After you’ve chosen the right song for your class, you may use a fill in the blanks activity, which the students will have to complete based on the subject of study. The song can also be used to practice phonetics. For this, you may have to teach the right pronunciation of the lyrics in the song

. How to Teach an ESL Class to Sing a Song?

At this stage the ESL learners should have listened and performed several activities with the song. They should have practiced pronunciation and the tune of the song should have permeated their minds. Some of them might be chanting the song in silence or in high voice. This is the right time to have them sing the song, which is a good way to assess that they have learned the grammatical points of study contained within the song.

Have them sing the song a capella. You might have to start the tune of the song for them to follow. Once they have sung the entire song once; divide the class in two groups and assign a part of the song, such as the chorus to one group and the other part of the song to the second group. I tried this with the song “jingle bell rock” and it sounded really nice, and the students sang the song more than once.


Most of the times, students enjoy listening to a song, especially if the lyrics contained within the song are easy to understand. When including a song in an ESL class, try to have the students deduce the grammar contained within it. The purpose of including a song in the ESL classroom is to relax the class a little. This can be achieved if you chose songs that are easy to understand and easy to sing.

After the song has been presented, you can have your students discuss the history of the song, which most of them should know or the biography of the group or singer.


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