Music is a foolproof way to motivate learners of any age. However, it is easy to fall into the old rut of preparing a gap-fill activity to accompany the latest chart topper. Here are some suggestions for alternatives to keep your lessons changing with the charts:
1. Play Musical Bingo
Dictate or write a selection of words from the song on the board. Students draw a grid (3×2, 3×3, etc., depending on how difficult you want it to be). They should then write one of the words in each box. On listening to the song, when they hear the word hey should cross it off. The first to cross off all their words is the winner. This is especially good with lower levels as the repetition in the song will give them various opportunities for success.
2. Word Change
Give students a sheet with the lyrics, but change some of the words. You can make the changed words obvious (like changing ‘love’ for ‘biscuit’, which is clearly wrong) so students are completely focused on listening, or more difficult (like changing ‘I just called to say I love you’ for ‘I just called to say I miss you’). Students cross out the wrong words as they hear them, writing in the correct ones.
3. Order the song
Give students the whole song, but cut into parts. This can be chunks of several lines or entire verses, or individual lines to make it more challenging. Students then have to listen and put parts in the correct order.
4. Musical Dictogloss
There’s a lot to be said for a good old dictation! But give it a modern twist with students writing the lyrics of a verse or chorus of a song; if you feel hey are up to the challenge, why not go for a whole song? Play and pause, little by little, and repeat each verse before moving on to the next part. Slower songs are ideal for this activity.
5. Draw the song
As students listen to a song, they should draw whatever the lyrics bring to their minds, either real or imagined. After the song finishes, they can explain their pictures to their classmates; it will amaze everyone how people interpret the same lyrics in a different way!
A lot of songs contain informal language. This is a great opportunity to show students the valuable skill of using formal language. Have hem identify parts of the lyrics that are more informal (think contractions, phrasal verbs, etc.) and have them substitute these for more formal equivalents. For an added challenge, get them to try to maintain the rhythm of the song!
7. Translate the lyrics
Many people are against the use of students’ mother tongue in the EFL classroom, but it can be a very useful tool. With groups of students who share the same L1, give them the lyrics to a song in English; their challenge is to try to rewrite the lyrics in their own language, maintaining the rhythm and meaning of the original lyrics as much as possible. More advanced groups could take a song in their L1 and translate it to English.
8. Add a verse
After listening to a song, and perhaps completing another activity, why not challenge students to add a new verse to the song? They should focus on rhythm, syllables and rhyming words. When students have finished, have a sing-song to test the new verses out! You could accompany is with a karaoke version of the song on YouTube.
More advanced students could use song lyrics to learn the vital skill of paraphrasing. Students listen to the song, watching the video where possible. Afterwards, they should summarise what they think the song is about in their own words, either speaking or writing. Don’t worry if the results are all different, as different people may interpret the lyrics differently.
10. Order the students
Cut up the lyrics onto small cards. As the song plays students should listen out for the line or chunk that is on their card, and order his elves in a line in the correct order of the song. When they have finished order I themselves, play the song again to check that they are correct.
So, next time you feel like a bit of music in class, mix it up a bit and try some of these activities. If you have any other favourite activities with songs, leave a comment below.