When teaching English, a big part of any successful lesson is keeping your students engaged. Using popular songs in the EFL classroom is a fun way to add some energy to a lackluster grammar topic while giving students a lesson in American pop culture at the same time!

I usually find it’s best to use a popular song that students are familiar with. This gets students interested in the lesson right away and allows them the chance to sing along when they hear it later! I also suggest  you pre-teach any new vocabulary in the song so students don’t get stuck on words they don’t know.

Here are 3 ways you can use songs in the EFL classroom:

The classic gap fill:

Find the lyrics to a song you want to use (go to a site like www.lyrics.com to get them). Then create a new document, replacing strategic words with blanks. I recommend focusing on a specific grammar point you have studied recently. For example, if you just learned imperatives for direct orders, you can use a song like “Hey Jude,” and leave off the verbs that start each line. Have students work either individually or in small groups to fill in the missing words as they listen. Either give them the whole song or cut it up into verses and give each group one verse.

Error correction:

This game is good for more advanced students who need to sharpen their listening (though it can be adjusted to suit all levels). Similar to the gap fill, in this exercise you can put students in groups or have them work individually to correct the mistakes, rather than fill blanks, in their copy of the song lyrics.

In the past I used a Green Day song, “Time of Your Life,” but first I translated the lyrics using Google translate. This gave me a close version of the correct lyrics, but still with lots of words and phrases wrong. Students find these “lost in translation” mistakes funny,  so it’s also good way to demonstrate the shortcomings of translating things online.

Draw the verse:

This is a good activity for any level— including kids–as long as you adjust your song choice in regard to vocabulary and verb tense. First, put students in small groups and tell them they are going to listen to a song and decide what it’s about. Then play the song and have a class discussion about it.

Now you’re ready to give each group a verse of the song (that you previously divided) and ask them to draw what they see in the verse. Once the groups have finished, you can put the drawn verses up on the board at the front of the class and play the song again, so that everyone can “see the song” as it is played.

Now you have a few more ideas to get students excited about learning English vocabulary and grammar! Once you start using songs in the classroom, you will never hear music the same!