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Adult Activities

Sound-musical activities for the development of reading skills in adolescents and adults.

Using music in English Foreign Language (EFL) classes is not new. In Suggestopedia pedagogy, teachers adapt their voices to classic/baroque music while reading a text during a session called “concert”. This voice adaptation affects language in different ways: pauses between phonic groups are clearer, the musical rhythm slows oral production and the musical melody guides teacher voice’s tone variations. Music also affects the body as it has an impact on breathing, which is adapted to musical rhythm, on muscular energy and, even, on psychological moods. In general terms, practicing musical intelligence in the EFL class may help students to focus on, to connect with themselves, to encourage creative processes and even to eliminate distracting noise. There are multiple digital portals where teachers can find options to practice EFL through songs. Some of them are:

Some of these websites offer the possibility of video clips with subtitles, which can help weaker students. Others classify songs related to grammar contents and most of them include filling-the-gap exercises. Concerning this, it must be said using songs in class is not always a straightforward motivating activity for  students. There are adult and teenager students who prefer not to sing aloud before their peers. This is why students must clearly understand the pedagogical goal teachers intend to reach when using songs in an EFL class. In general terms, the main objective when using music and songs is helping students to improve their auditory ability, which affect two more abilities of language aptitude: central linguistic ability and memory ability (Skehan, 1988). Not all the songs are valid, teachers have to choose those where words are clearly pronounced while singing. Most of times syllables are lengthened and this gives time for students to discriminate sounds, as stated in the Temporal Deficit Hypothesis (Tallal, 1980).

Here a non-exhaustive selection of song/lyrics activities for the EFL classroom is presented. These activities may help students to develop some reading skill components such as: phonological conscience, sound discrimination, word recognition, word pronunciation and their rhythm patterns, word and structure memory and reading fluency.

1. Identifying sounds

  • Listen to the song and underline the words you hear.


    I found a love for me
    Darling, just dive right in and follow my lead
    Well, I found a girl, beautiful and sweet
    Oh, I never knew you were the someone waiting for me

    'Cause we were just kids when we fell in love
    Not knowing what it was
    I will not give you up this time
    But darling, just kiss me slow
    Your heart is all I own
    And in your eyes you're holding mine

    Baby, I'm dancing in the dark
    With you between my arms
    Barefoot on the grass
    Listening to our favorite song
    When you said you looked a mess
    I whispered underneath my breath
    But you heard it
    Darling, you look perfect tonight

    Well, I found a woman
    Stronger than anyone I know
    She shares my dreams
    I hope that someday I'll share her home
    I found a lover
    To carry more than just my secrets
    To carry love, to carry children of our own

    We are still kids, but we're so in love
    Fighting against all odds
    I know we'll be alright this time
    Darling, just hold my hand
    Be my girl, I'll be your man
    I see my future in your eyes

    Baby, I'm dancing in the dark
    With you between my arms
    Barefoot on the grass
    Listening to our favorite song
    When I saw you in that dress
    Looking so beautiful
    I don't deserve this
    Darling, you look perfect tonight

    Baby, I'm dancing in the dark
    With you between my arms
    Barefoot on the grass
    Listening to our favorite song
    I have faith in what I see
    Now I know I have met an angel in person
    And she looks perfectI don't deserve this
    You look perfect tonight

    “ Perfect” by Ed Sheeran,
    with subtitles in English:

  • Identify the sounds of the final words/rhymes:

    • Which word rhyme with which one?
      got/ today/ not/ way/ remember/ pain/ forever/ same/ December/ name
    • Predict where these words go in the text
    • Listen to the song and check

    Here's to the ones that we ..... (got)
    Cheers to the wish you were here, but you're ....... (not)
    'Cause the drinks bring back all the memories
    Of everything we've been through
    Toast to the ones here ..... (today)
    Toast to the ones that we lost on the ......... (way)
    'Cause the drinks bring back all the memories
    And the memories bring back, memories bring back you

    There's a time that I ........... (remember)
    When I did not know no .......... (pain)
    When I believed in ......... (forever)
    And everything would stay the ........ (same)
    Now my heart feel like ......... (December)
    When somebody say your ....... (name)
    'Cause I can't reach out to call you
    But I know I will one day, yeah

    Everybody hurts sometimes
    Everybody hurts someday, ay-ay
    But everything gon' be alright
    Go and raise a glass and say, ay

    Here's to the ones that we ..... (got)
    Cheers to the wish you were here, but you're ....... (not)
    'Cause the drinks bring back all the memories
    Of everything we've been through

    Toast to the ones here ..... (today)
    Toast to the ones that we lost on the ......... (way)
    'Cause the drinks bring back all the memories
    And the memories bring back, memories bring back you

    “Memories” Maroon 5,
    with subtitles in English: (no bien)

2. The rhythm of words

The key to make the correct accent in words is singing them (exaggerating the tonic syllable), which is what we do unconsciously when we write or read them. So this is a good exercise in case we present difficulties with this.

Clap the rhythm of the following words:

morning ^__
regret __^
disappointment _ _ ^_

Classify the following words according to their pattern and draw each pattern:


3. Recognizing words from the given consonants

Which are the missing vowels?. Students predict and then check listening to the song.

_t’s n_n_ _‘cl_ck _n _ S_t_rd_y
Th_ r_g_l_r cr_wd sh_ffl_s _n
Th_r_’s _n _ld m_n s_tt_ng n_xt t_ m_
M_k_ng l_v_ t_ h_s t_n_c _nd g_n
H_ s_ys, “S_n, c_n y_ _ pl_y m_ _ m_m_ry?
_’m n_t s_r_ h_w _t g__s
B_t _’s s_d, _nd _t’s sw_ _t, _nd _ Kn_w _t c_mpl_t_
Wh_n _ w_r_ _ y_ _ng_r m_n’s cl_th_s”

“Piano Man” Billy Joel
with subtitles in English:

4. Identifying words

4.1 Words and Mime

  • Divide the class in four groups.
  • Each group choose one of the following words:
    • know
    • change
    • why
    • feel
    • sad
    • bad
  • Each member writes their chosen word in a white piece of paper with capital letters.
  • When the song is played, each member shows the sung word.
  • When the song is played, each member shows the sung word and mimes it.
  • When the song is played, each member shows the sung word, mimes and pronounces it.

Alicia Keys “Why do I feel so sad”.
With subtitles in English:

4.2 Filling the missing words

Students predict the missing words and then check with the song:

Hello, darkness, my old ______
I've come to talk with you _______
Because a _____ softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was ________
And the vision that was _____ in my brain
Still _______
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked ______
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street _____
I turned my ______ to the cold and damp
When my _____ were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the ________
And touched the sound of silence

“The Sound of Silence”, Simon & Garfunkel
With subtitles in English:

5. Recognizing different discourse parts

5.1 Joining sentences

Students predict joining the sentences 1, 2 and 3 with a, b, c, and then check listening to the song.

1. If you can’t get what you love
2. If you can’t be what you want
3. If you can’t get what you need

a. You learn to need the things that stop you dreaming
b. You learn to love the things you’ve got
c. You learn to be the things you’re not

“Things that stop you dreaming” Passenger.
With subtitles in English:

5.2 Order the paragraphs

Each paragraph is written in a different piece of paper. Each student in a group chooses a different paragraph. The song is played. Students have to order themselves depending on the paragraph is played.

I am sitting in the morning
At the diner on the corner
I am waiting at the counter
For the man to pour the coffee
And he fills it only halfway
And before I even argue
He is looking out the window
At somebody coming in

"It is always nice to see you"
Says the man behind the counter
To the woman who has come in
She is shaking her umbrella
And I look the other way
As they are kissing their hellos
And I'm pretending not to see them
Instead I pour the milk

I open up the paper
There's a story of an actor
Who had died while he was drinking
It was no one I had heard of
And I'm turning to the horoscope
And looking for the funnies
When I'm feeling someone watching me
And so I raise my head

There's a woman on the outsideLooking inside, does she see me?
No, she does not really see me
'Cause she sees her own reflection
And I'm trying not to notice
That she's hitching up her skirt
And while she's straightening her stockings
Her hair is getting wet

Oh, this rain, it will continue
Through the morning as I'm listening
To the bells of the cathedral

I am thinking of your voice
And of the midnight picnic
Once upon a time
Before the rain began

I finish up my coffee
And it's time to catch the train

“Tom ́s diner” Suzanne Vega
With subtitles in English:

6. Practice your fluency

  • Students find a music for the lyrics below and read the text aloud with the music
  • Students make a rap with the lyrics
  • Students make a subtitled video with the music and the lyrics so that it can be worked with the whole class.

“At the end of the day - a mirror of questions” by John O’Donohue (2007)

What dreams did I create last night?
Where did my eyes linger today?
Where was I blind?Where was I hurt without anyone noticing?
What did I learn today?
What did I read?
What new thoughts visited me?
What differences did I notice in those closest to me?
Who did I neglect?
Where did I neglect myself?
What did I begin today that might endure?
How were my conversations?
What did I do today for the poor and the excluded?
Did I remember the dead today?
Where could I have exposed myself to the risk of something different?
Where did I allow myself to receive love?
With whom today did I feel most myself?
What reached me today? How deep did it imprint?
Who saw me today?
What visitations had I from the past and from the future?
What did I avoid today?
From the evidence- why was I given this day?

7. Practice your listening comprehension, reading comprehension and analyse cultural elements in the video clip

Create a session with Kahoot app and invite your students to participate with their mobiles in order to identify information they are listening to or/and cultural data the video includes.

8. Represent the lyrics with images and put subtitles in a presentation (e.g. in power point, genially, prezi, google slides, ...)

“Dance me to the end of love” Leonard Cohen.
With subtitles in English:

9. Working with plurilingual skills

Students listen to this song in Spanish and English. They translate the Spanish part into English and the English part into Spanish.

“Despacito” Justin Biber

“Bailando” Enrique Iglesias, Sean Paul, Descemer Bueno, Gente De Zona.

10. Dictation in group

Students listen to the song and in groups each member writes as many words and paragraphs as they can. The group with more words is the winner. It is advisable to play with the video speed which can be foung in the video controls.

“You ́re beautiful” James Blunt
With subtitles in English:

11. Working with democratic values in the classroom

Here are two articles where pedagogic proposals to work with video clips on democratic competences in class are described.

  • Sánchez-Vizcaíno, M.C. y Fonseca Mora, M.C. (2019). Videoclip y Emociones en el Aprendizaje de Español como Lengua Extranjera. Círculo de Lingüística Aplicada a la Comunicación 78, 255-286,