Pop Songs for themes in teaching

I think using music in the classroom is a great idea. It’s cool when there’s a catchy kid’s song with a nice melody and a natural flow that the kids get into and are happy to sing and repeat. Music can teach some students- often otherwise “problem” students- faster than any other medium.

But I totally hate those chants droned out with improper rhythym to a cacaphonic menagerie of synthesized sound effects. I think these things often do more harm than good.

Rather than playing that kind of junk for the kids, I would rather play a pop tune. Often classic rock and roll or older Top 20 tunes. Authentic music with great sound.

Recently I’ve been teaching an Egyptian theme and use “Walk Like an Egyptian” in class. The lyrics contain a bit of the same vocabulary that the students are learning and the kids enjoy hearing it. In another class where the textbook is teaching them about telling time (which is something they can already do) I just dl’d “Rock Around the Clock” and got the kids to move their hands to the clock positions as they did The Twist.

These songs energized the class, and at the least reinforced some of the patterns and vocabulary they were studying. This got me thinking about what I’m missing out on. What pop songs are other teachers using that really work?

Please share the songs you use (or have used) for a particular theme.

With Arms Wide Open, Creed. Good for teenagers and adults.

Hey there RDO,

I know it’s not quite what you’re asking, but the latest issue of Essential Teacher (the TESOL magazine for teachers, free if you’re a member – used to go by the name TESOL Journal) has a nice article on using songs to teach grammar. I saw that and thought WTF? But, it’s actually simple and makes sense. Take the grammar point that you’ll be teaching and google it along with the word “lyrics.” For example, “should have been” and “lyrics” turns up Nirvana’s “Been a Son,” Mist’s “We Should Have Been Stars,” Andreas Johnson’s “It Should Have Been Me,” etc. etc. etc. Download the song (for example, legally through iTunes…), print and copy the lyrics, and off you go to the classroom to make grammar more fun and interesting.

BTW, I haven’t heard of half of the damn songs in my sample search (and they’re surely not all pop songs), but that’s a good thing: you may end up surprising your students (and yourself) with hip-hop, country, heavy metal, blues, reggae, or God knows what.

Thanks, that is good advice for using songs for grammar points— especially with intermediate to advanced classes.

I’m hoping for some more content-specific things…