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Listening activities for songs

Katherine Bilsborough, Teacher trainer, British Council, Spain

Here are some tried and tested ideas I get my students to do when listening to a pop song. Activities need not require hours of preparation time and some of the best activities are spontaneous and simple. Below are a few suggestions. They are categorised into pre-listening, while listening and after listening activities.

Pre-listening activities

  • Give students the title of the song and ask them to predict words and phrases that they expect to hear.
  • Give students the words of a song with an "either/or" choice for certain words in each line. Students choose which word is more likely in each case and then listen and check if they were correct.
  • Dictate a list of words which appear in the song - in a random order and add one extra word which doesn't appear. Students write the words then listen to the song, ticking off the words as they hear them. They should end up with one word.

While listening activities

  • Students listen and delete extra words which they do not hear (you will need to prepare a song page with extra words)
  • Students listen and fill gaps (open cloze or multiple choice)
  • Students listen to a song, draw a picture to represent what they hear and then explain their pictures in small groups.

After listening activities

  • Students listen to a song and make a note of 6 or 8 words that they hear. Then they use these words as the basic vocabulary for composing a poem in pairs. Although students are often reluctant to write poetry, if you tell them that their poem has to be "corny", they will enjoy the task.
  • Students write another verse for the song in pairs or small groups.
  • Students brainstrorm all of the words that they have heard and then listen again and check to see how many are correct.