Friday, 11 October 2013

7 ESL Activities on Songs, Bands and Music

I recently started planning a lesson on music for my both my beginner and intermediate high school classes. However due to a combination of teenagers loving to talk about music and there being a serious amount of ways to use music in ESL activities, this one off lesson on Music has become a series of 3 lessons. Here are the best activities I have used in these lessons.

Introduction- Band genres game.
A very simple introduction that allows the students to show off how much the know about music. This is something that teenagers LOVE to do. First put the students into groups of 5/6. Show the students a genre (you should teach them the characteristics and show some examples of genres if you don't think they will know them) and ask each student to think of one English language band from that genre. Ask all the students to stand up and ask the first student to read out his answer. If anyone else has the same band they should both sit down. Do this until everyone has said the band they wrote down. The team with the most people left at the end are the winners.
(10-15 minutes for three genres)

Listening activity- Fill in the gaps game.
A classic listening activity using music with a twist. Print out the lyrics to your students favorite English language songs and delete some words. Put the students into groups and hand out the lyrics to each group. In their groups the students should listen to the songs and guess the lyrics. Listen twice and then the group with the most correct answers wins a point. The added element of competition coupled with the fact that the students are listening to their favourite songs makes for a really good class activity! Also I think it is best to only use the first verse and chorus, with maybe 6/7 words missing on each song so the activity keeps its energy. (20 minutes if you use 4 songs)

Reading/speaking/listening games.

Guess the song lyrics game.
Put your students in groups and give each group two printouts of the first verse and chorus of their favorite songs in their own language from their own country. They should then translate these as best as they can into English. When everyone is finished one group should read their translation and the other groups should try to guess the song. To give everyone a chance to get the answer and also to extend the game time a little I ask each group to write the name of the song they think it is down on paper and put their hand up. This way the other teams can continue to try and guess the song. I will give 3 points to the first team to guess correctly, 2 points to the second team to guess correctly and 1 point to the third team to guess correctly. (30 minutes)

Guess the band reading game.
Write out some biographies of famous bands. If your classes are a higher level you could use an authentic text from the internet. Put your students into groups and give each group two or three biographies. Ask each group to choose four facts about the band and put them in order of importance. The students will then have to read out their clues while the other groups guess who the band is. Like in the song lyric game, to give everyone a chance to answer tell the groups to write down their answer and raise their hand when they know the answer. I gave my students four points if the guessed after one clue, three points after two, two points after three and one point after four clues. (30 minutes)

Speaking/conversation activities. 

Find someone who.
Very simple activity that really gets the students talking. Give students a worksheet with some things they should find out about each others music tastes. These questions will differ depending on the level of your group, but some examples are:
Find someone plays an instrument.
Find someone who likes the same type of music as you.
Find someone whose favourite band is from England.
Check the students know how to convert these sentences from the 'find someone who..' form to the question form(In my low level class I wrote the questions out for them). The students should stand up and ask each other each question until they find someone who fulfills the category. I also told my students to find out one extra bit of information about each answer. For example on the question 'Do you play a string instrument?' the students should also ask 'What string instrument do you play?' When the students have finished go through each question and ask one or two students about their answers. (20 minutes)

Music tastes discussion and presentation.
Put the students into pairs and ask them to ask and answer some questions about music. After 5 minutes tell the students that they have to tell the class about the other persons music tastes. (10 minutes although longer if you ask more students to present)

Analysing songs activity.
Choose some songs from a variety of genres and play them. Whilst the songs are playing give the students some questions to answer about the songs. For example: 
Do you like the song/why?
Can you compare it to another song?
What genre is the song?
How does the song make you feel?
What do you think the song is about?
After the song has finished give the students a minute or two to finish their answers then ask the students what they think.
(About 10 minutes a song)


  1. Have them make their own band! TO get them into groups have three symbols written on different slips of paper. A dollar sign, a circle and a smiley face. Tell them to make a group where they have one of each symbol. Then have them create a band. Together they need to agree on a genre (or you can assign it to them). They need to come up with a name, a poster / t-shirt, and titles of songs that they will sing. Lots of talking in English and usually some very excited presentations!

    I also like to have them give different interpretations of song lyrics They get really creative!

  2. The song lyrics idea looks really interesting! Thanks for sharing


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