Learning English with Music

Using songs and listening exercises in the ESL classroom is an engaging and fun way to increase students’ language skills.

Repetition drills and worksheets have a place in the ESL classroom, but often students become bored with these activities. Working as a college essay writer, I know that utilizing these musical ideas in class is not only a fun way to get students involved and excited but they’re also proven to improve language acquisition.

Repetition and “Hooks”

In musical terms, a “hook” is a few lines or bars of music that catch the listener’s attention. Hooks are the reason hit songs are so popular; like them or not, most people agree that they’re difficult to forget.

Every ESL teacher knows that repetition is a necessary part of learning any language. Choosing a song with the appropriate hook can be an effective tool for helping students remember certain concepts, words, or phrases, as well as providing a focus on good pronunciation.

For younger students, there’s a song for almost any topic or theme that can be used for a sing-along activity. The ESL teacher doesn’t have to be a musician to write a song, either. Simply choose a well-known melody like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or “Three Blind Mice” and write a short, rhyming poem that fits the meter of the song.

Listening Activities

For any age group, particularly older students who are more averse to singing aloud, the possibilities for listening activities are endless. Listening to songs from different countries is a great way to integrate cultural study into any lesson plan.

Variety is the key to teaching ESL, and teachers should bring in both familiar and unfamiliar songs to play for the class. Students can also share their favorite CDs.

The grammar and slang in many popular songs are often questionable or flat-out incorrect, but this gives the ESL teacher a built-in discussion opportunity. Provide each student with the printed lyrics, and have them read along as they listen. Give them a few minutes to silently make corrections or highlight sentences that they don’t understand.

Afterward, the teacher can lead an open discussion on the idioms and slang in the lyrics. The teacher can choose songs with lyrics that will help students focus on almost any topic, like phrasal verbs, prepositions, rhyming, etc.

Memory Trigger

Instrumental music can also be highly beneficial to learning English. Often, simply playing music in the background while students are focused on an activity can help stimulate language acquisition.

Teachers should choose a certain genre of music to pair up with certain activities. For example, have a Mozart piano sonata CD for essay-writing time even if you prefer to pay for essay paper, or play a little Miles Davis during reading activities.


Hours of classroom study don’t always prepare students for real situations that call for speaking a second language. Whether a true emergency or just ordering a meal, speaking English in a real setting can be intimidating the first time.

Performing music that involves English publicly can help students overcome these jitters. For example, when an elementary ESL class has a small repertoire of English songs, the teacher can arrange for a recital. Even a small crowd of peers can help students get past their shyness and get accustomed to speaking (and singing) English in public, and the attention and applause can be a real confidence booster.

Written by Stop The Breaks
Stop The Breaks is an independent music marketing company focused on showcasing independent hip-hop artists. Our goal is to help motivate, inspire and educate independent artists grinding around the world. We provide branding, content marketing, social media, SEO and music promotion services.