Song Lyric Worksheets for ESL

These are some song-lyric worksheets I’ve developed over the years for my English as a second language classes. Most are based on pop and rock classics from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. A few are based on more recent songs. Generally speaking, they don’t focus on any particular grammar point; I usually let music be a break from grammar. Down below the song lists, there are some lesson plan suggestions and a little review of the iPod/iPhone player I use in the classroom.

The iTunes icons and Amazon icons link to the particular recording used to make the worksheet. And, by the way, if you buy something through those links, I make a little bit of much-appreciated money, and you will be helping to support And that's good, no?

The list is roughly in order of increasing difficulty. Enjoy!

For beginning-level students or higher

For intermediate-level students or higher

For advanced students

Using songs in an ESL or EFL classroom

The following is a general procedure that I often use together with the above handouts. Based on what seems appropriate for a given class on a given day, I usually skip two or three or more of the steps listed.

  1. Introduce vocabulary that will be new to many students.
  2. Ask the class questions that will get students thinking about the themes of the song.
  3. Listen to the song all the way through. I usually suggest that students try to enjoy the song rather than trying to fill in all the blanks.
  4. Have a very short whole-class or small-group discussion regarding general reaction to the song. Do they like it? Have they heard it before? In what year do they think it was recorded? What is the mood of the song? Etc.
  5. Listen again, this time encouraging students to fill in the blanks. Pause every two or three lines. Replay especially difficult-to-understand sections.
  6. Give students a chance to compare answers with a partner.
  7. Go over the song. Have students supply answers for class, either orally or by writing on the board, etc. (Note: On many of my worksheets, the blanks are not numbered. Going over the answers can be simplified considerably if you have students number all the blanks, right at the start.)
  8. Discuss any sections of the transcription that you’re not sure about. Explain that you got the lyrics from the Internet and can’t be sure that they are correct.
  9. Answer any questions about vocabulary, perhaps after giving students a chance to use dictionaries on their own.
  10. Point out any idioms that students haven't asked about and that you think they might not be picking up on.
  11. Have students repeat the song after you, phrase-by-phrase. Give extra attention to parts that are difficult to pronounce or that are fun to try to pronounce very rapidly.
  12. Take a little break from the song. Talk for a minute or so about the weather or whatever.
  13. Listen to the song again, encouraging students to sing along.
  14. Highlight or ask questions about grammar in the song that is relevant to what you have been working on or that is interesting in its own right.
  15. Highlight or ask questions about any incorrect grammar or informal language in the song. (Example: “don’t” is almost always used in place of “doesn’t” in pop and rock.)
  16. In small groups, discuss questions that connect the song to the lives and opinions of the students. See the worksheet for “Up on the Roof” for examples of this kind of question. You can also find a lot of good questions about music in general on the the Internet TESL Journal’s music conversation questions page

Need an iPod player / iPhone player?

Allow me to recommend the iGroove by Klipsch if you need an iPod/iPhone player for use in the classroom. It’s got plenty of volume, even in large rooms, and a clear sound with a good amount of bass to it. It seems to be pretty durable, too; I’ve been putting it in a bag attached to my handlebars and biking it to campuses all over San Francisco for three years now, and it’s still working perfectly. And the remote control comes in handy. (Note: As with the above MP3 links, I make some money if you make a purchase through my link to the iGroove.)