Like many teachers of the English language (ELL, ESL, EFL), I like to enrich my lessons with popular songs. On this site, you’ll find:
- A list of hundreds of classroom-friendly songs, organized by theme, along with links to recommended YouTube videos
- Song-based activities
- Lesson plan ideas for songs in two categories: Recent Hits and Classic Hits
- A Grammar + Songs page with worksheets and songs to pair with specific grammar topics
- Stories behind the songs, written at the beginning to low-intermediate levels. Some stories are on this site, and some are on the Pearson catalog site (audio only), no registration or password required.
The songs and activities coordinate with the lessons in True Stories Behind the Songs (a beginning reading textbook) and More True Stories Behind the Songs (a high-beginning reading textbook), but they would work with other materials and curricula as well.
- Updates on Facebook: This site has a companion Facebook page, where I’ll post notifications of newly added songs, activities, and lesson plans.
- Following this blog on WordPress: Many of you are now following this blog on WordPress, which means you will get a notification for every post. You’ll probably get clusters of individual notifications because new material is usually posted on several different pages. The quickest way to see exactly what’s new is to check here on the Home Page or on the Recently Added page. New songs, activities, and lesson plans are also posted on Facebook.
Song + Worksheet. Taylor Swift released two albums while quarantined in 2020. Her song “Invisible String” is the favorite of many music critics. In fact, one critic put it on his list of “10 Best Songs of 2020.” The phrase “used to” is repeated three times in the opening verse, so if you like to use songs to illustrate grammatical concepts, that phrase would be a good focus. I posted an interactive worksheet on the Grammar + Songs page. Click on “Used to + a Verb in the Simple Form.” Recommended: the official lyric video. (The official music video also has the lyrics on the screen, but it might not be appropriate for your class. Previewing is recommended.) 1/3/21
Song Suggestion. “When Winter Comes,” the final song on Paul McCartney’s new album, has a slow tempo, straightforward lyrics, and a relaxing official music video—plus many of the sentences are in the future tense. You could follow up with practicing the future tense with “will.” For example, students could:
1. make a list of New Year’s resolutions in this form: “In 2021, I’ll _______.”
2. complete this sentence: “When summer comes, I’ll _______.”
3. complete one of the “future tense” worksheets on the Grammar + Songs page.
Story Behind the Song. The video of Nathan Apodaca, the singing, juice-guzzling skateboarder made me–and millions of other people–smile. I posted the story behind the video, and the story behind the song in the video (“Dreams”), under “Stories” on the navigation bar. 10/14/20
You could follow up with one of these discussion questions:
1. Do you know how to ride a skateboard? Could you ride a skateboard while drinking juice, listening to music, and filming yourself?
2. Do you like a song that was popular before you were born? Why do you like it?
3. Are you sometimes late for work or school? Why?
4. What is your favorite beverage?
5. Have you ever posted a video of yourself on social media? Would you be happy if it went viral?
Story Behind the Song and Lesson Plan. The song “Wichita Lineman” was in the news recently when Glen Campbell’s recording of it was chosen by the U.S. Library of Congress for preservation for future generations. I hadn’t heard the song for a long time, and when I listened to it I was struck by its suitability for language learning–clear diction, opportunities for follow-up activities in discussion and grammar, as well as a good backstory. (The song was inspired by an actual lineman, although he wasn’t from Wichita.) The story and a grammar worksheet are in the Lesson Plan. 7/30/2020
Story Behind the Song and Lesson Plan. Recent events have prompted many people to turn to Sam Cooke’s song “A Change Is Gonna Come.” One commentator on YouTube described it as “a powerful song that reflects times past and present.” I have brought this song into my classroom several times over the years. Students have always been moved by the song, especially when it is paired with the story behind it. 6/21/2020
Lesson for Students. Adult English classes in my school district have been canceled indefinitely because of the pandemic. I’ve been trying to think of a way to continue song-based lessons with my students online. As an experiment, I’ve posted an informal lesson that my students (high beginning and up) can do on their own. (The last step in the lesson is “Share,” which we’ll probably do via group text.) The lesson—titled “Sunny”—is under the new “For Students” tab on the navigation bar.
This lesson is based on Billie Eilish’s performance of “Sunny” on last Saturday’s OneWorld TV concert. It was wonderful to be reminded of this great song—I can’t count how many times since Saturday I’ve listened to the original Bobby Hebb version. 4/24/20
Lesson Plan. I decided to bring Alicia Keys’ new song “Underdog” into my classroom partly because there are official lyric videos in many languages, including Spanish and Japanese, the two languages represented in my classroom. My students have just begun studying the simple past tense, so we focused on examples of that form in the lyrics. I posted the gap-fill exercise I prepared for my class on the Grammar + Songs page. The exercise is also in the Lesson Plan, along with more teaching suggestions. 2/2/20
Grammar Worksheet. The song “Someone You Loved” has repeated examples of infinitives and infinitive phrases used as adjectives (somebody to know, somebody to heal, no one to save me, etc.), so I decided to focus my intermediate-level students’ attention on that construction. The worksheet we did in my classroom, as well as annotated lyrics, are on the Grammar + Songs page under “Infinitives as Adjectives.” (Previewing the lyrics of this song is recommended; some content may not be appropriate for your class.) 11/7/19
Updated List of Songs. When I first started bringing music videos into my classroom a couple of years ago, I discovered pretty quickly the necessity of carefully previewing them. Sometimes the song was appropriate for the classroom, but its music video was not. I had some time over the summer, so I updated the List of Songs by Theme and added dozens of links to classroom-friendly videos. 10/1/19
Do you have a suggestion for improving this site? A song or activity you’d like to share? Please e-mail me, Sandra Heyer, at email@example.com. This is my personal e-mail address. Your address will not be shared, and you will not get ads or promotions of any kind.