Tapping to Learners’ interests: PoP(ular) Songs

Lyrics Training has become a popular website among my students. Most of them love music and find it a great way to be in contact with English. In fact, they had been listening to English songs even before they decided to start the English course. And those are also the students who ask for music in the class all the time. They get bored at the grammar stuff, but move their body at the sound of music, and smile, especially if it is their favorite tune or kind of music. With time I realized that their request was based on their strong belief that listening to music is good to help them learn English.

lyricstrainingIt’s hard though to bring a song that will please everyone. So here is how I’m dealing with this nowadays.

1- Let students prepare the gap fill themselves and bring the songs. It might not be perfect as we would do it, but they need to learn and take charge of their own learning. With  feedback they will get better and better at it. Less than 15 minutes is all it takes to play it two or three times at the end of the class for them to fill the gaps. Then, we can use peer correction and quick reflection for them to talk about the errors they made and give each other tips. For large groups, I would first bring a “Get to know you” activity where students can find out more about each other’s musical taste, then ask them to group themselves in similar interest group according to what they had collected in the Ask & Answer stage. The teacher then could give a list of items and/or topics that wishes them to focus on when choosing songs to use in the class during the following weeks. Shared responsibility as well as tapping to their interests, in this case music will for sure make them pay more attention to the language they encounter on a daily basis and will leave room for a number of different discussions where the teacher can draw their attention to.

2- Here is how Lyrics training comes in hand. I have to cover Present Perfect simple and continous in the following weeks, but I don’t want it to be only about “a grammar point”. Especially because Present Perfect is seen by most students as something not really necessary to learn (at least these are the comments we usually get around here!). But funny enough they haven’t noticed how present it is in songs and tv series. This is quite easy to explain because they focus on the melody in order to enjoy it and follow the beat and lyrics most of the time without thinking about what they are hearing. I’ve seen teens singing songs beautifully and having no idea what they were singing or not able to recall the lyrics. My daughter had been before she became more proficient in English one of those who could sing beautifully. And secondly, they tend to avoid at all cost studying! At least most of them. The most successful learners I have encountered are those who DO pay attention to it + plus enjoying the music/tv series.

What I’m suggesting here is that most learners need us teachers to help them make the connection of what they like with how to use it for their own benefit without bore them to death. Don’t waste your time telling them about it, bring it to class.

I set the homework last week as follow for my 9th graders.

1) I introduced Lyrics training and showed them the features of the website.

2) I chose the songs with Present Perfect in it. I gave them the links for 4 songs. They had to choose one and then copy the verses in English and Portuguese onto their notebooks.


Modelling for Learners – my own notebook


The aim at this point was for them to focus on meaning. Get acquainted with the lyrics.

3) The second task was to use Lyrics training to practise with the song the had chosen before.

After taking iTDi course with Jason Levine, I had no doubt that this tool was just what I needed to create this connection between what we want them to learn and what they actually are exposed to on a daily basis.

Reasons to use it according to their About page are:

  • Its a perfect way to learn and improve skills.
  • It helps to learn new vocabulary and expressions, and reinforce grammar concepts through continuous exercise of writing the missing words.
  • Most important, it helps us train our ear to dramatically improve the capacity to recognize sounds and words of a foreign language in a very short time, training the brain almost unconsciously, whether you know the meaning of all the words or not.
  • Plus, music is a fun way to learn and listen to different accents and pronunciations allowing greater flexibility to test to the ability of recognizing different sound patterns.

In accordance to what Jason Levine had shared with us in Rhythm and Rhyme course, they claim that recent studies have shown that simple exposure to the sounds of another language sets up in our brain the structures and connections necessary for learning it.

4) Then, in the following class I asked them to read the lyrics again and circle the present perfect and I wrote the verses on the board to discuss form and usage. Plus I gave them the follow-up task to add to their notebooks more examples from other songs.

Title of the song:

Name of the band/singer:

The example sentences:

Three interesting things I noticed:

1: I met one of the students in the parking lot and he told me he was listening to music right at that moment and trying to find the present perfect examples. And that was interesting thing to hear because he usually listens to electronic music and he emphasized that when I gave the task.

2: Yesterday in my 1-2-1 class, I paid attention to my student using Lyricstraining. The song she had chosen was a hard one for her level of English. She played the first time, skipped a few of the words. Then, she tried again and was able to do much better. I was amazed at her persistence when she couldn’t recognize the word. She would play it over and over again. The about page also emphasizes that it is very different from the typical listening exercises in language classes, where the pronunciation is too perfect, which is not entirely practical in a real environment. And I tend to agree with them. Although scripted listening materials have their place in the class, developing strategies with the learners to become able to deal with authentic is very important.

3: Although the class, following the homework, we didn’t play any song, but used the examples of the song to work on the grammar, they mentioned that class was fun because they love music.

Plus, I noticed that it is indeed also a fun way to learn the lyrics of our favorite songs. I know that because I have been doing that myself. I was pretty bad at remember lyrics and I feel that I am starting to overcome this problem.

Does anyone out there know of tools I could use with my learners that feature music, films and TV series? Please let me know.


2 thoughts on “Tapping to Learners’ interests: PoP(ular) Songs

  1. Pingback: Using Webtools for Self-Directed Learning | My OWN Self-Directed Learning Experience

  2. Pingback: Day 1: choosing strategies | My OWN Self-Directed Learning Experience

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