Using music to teach English as a Second Language is a fun way to introduce students to new vocabulary, improve their pronunciation, and provide them with another tool they can use to learn English. Everyone loves music.
Lyrics to improve listening and vocabulary skills
Listening to lyrics is a great way for students to improve both their listening skills and vocabulary skills. As they listen to a song, they will hear how words are pronounced and will encounter new vocabulary. The key is to find the right songs for your students.
I have always had good luck with John Lennon’s Imagine. The lyrics and tempo of the song work well with high-level beginners and intermediates. If your students are beginners, you can print out the lyrics leaving blank spaces for certain words that the students need to fill in. For intermediate students, I’ll have them write down the lyrics. After they are done writing down the lyrics, I give them a copy of the lyrics so they can correct their spelling and vocabulary mistakes. You can also use this YouTube video for review.
Next, I have my students discuss the meaning of the lyrics, and with a song like Imagine, debate some of the ideas that this song expresses. For example:
“ Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace,
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world,”
There is a lot of meaning in those two examples and a lot for the students to discuss. You may also give the students a writing homework assignment where either they write about the song or have them write about a different song they like. Have them include some of the lyrics as they write about their song.
Writing a compare and contrast composition
Writing a compare and contrast composition is a common ESL activity. Some examples of this type of composition are:
You can use music as another way to illustrate compare and contrast. You can play two different interpretations of the same song, for example, Imagine. You can compare and contrast the previous version that displays the lyrics, with one of these: Imagine - Playing for Change_Song Around the World, Imagine - John Lennon (The King Stones cover), Imagine by John Lennon--string quartet cover, etc.
There are many interpretations of songs. You may want to start with two versions that are very different, or or with versions that are less different. It’s your choice.
Have fun and be creative!