Pop songs

I am making a compilation of pop songs to teach students in odd free moments. I have one smart class that has learned, with minimal intervention from me, the choruses for “American Pie” and “We Will Rock You.” One beginner class that would be doing well to learn “Hello Goodbye.” Criteria are: catchy, beginner to intermediate vocabulary, at least on the chorus.


Careful with “We Will Rock You”. I’ve never taught the song but it is well known in Taiwan, because I’ve had students come into class chanting it as “We will, we will FUCK YOU!”

I’m not joking. I’ve observed kids singing that several times.

How about teaching them some of the same songs you learned in school as a kid. Such as “You Are My Sunshine”.

I have used slower songs like those of Nat King Cole, but the fact is that what seems clear to you and me is often opaque to a non-English native speaker. I lived with a Japanese who speaks and understands English like a demon, but she couldn’t even get the words to “Alone again naturally” by Gilbert O’Sullivan (and she heard the song a zillion times and even saw him perform it live in a record shop).
So I think songs have limited real value, other than filler. Try it with a Mandarin song; it’s tough.

I’ve occasionally used
Norah Jones : Don’t know why
Elton John : Your song
Suzaane Vega : Luka
Dido : Thank you

The students have almost always found the listening to be enjoyable and even useful.

I’ve had some success with “the Lion sleeps Tonight”.

Also, much of the Lennon/McCartney songbook is useful for two reasons. The vocabulary often isn’t too challenging while at the same time there is a depth of meaning. Take for example “Imagine”, quite a lot to talk about there. There is a wealth of material in “Eleanor Rigby” too.

Unfortunately a lot of students want to listen to absolute crud with meaningless lyrics.