Great ESL Songs
and How to Use Them

ESL SongsSongs are great to use in an ESL classroom, but what are the best ESL songs, and how can you use them in a way that is actually useful?

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All Tenses

Some of the best ESL songs are ones which students know.

The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Queen – all these are artists most students should recognize at least a little, and know something about.

But it isn't enough to play a song in a class. You need to have a reason for playing it.

Songs often contain great examples of phrasal verbs and idioms but that isn't all you can use them for. Here are some that have worked well for me, and how you can use them.

The Beatles – "Yesterday"

This is a great song to review the simple past tense.

You can give the students a gap-fill exercise with this one, and it works very well because the words are clear and easy to hear.

Because of the simple melody, it is a good song for students to write alternative lyrics to. You may even have some students who want to perform their alternative version!

John Lennon – "Imagine"

This works well for grammar review (2nd conditional form), or to prompt discussion about some of the ideas in the song.

If you have quite a high level class, you can organize an official debate where one half of the class agrees that having no possessions would be a good idea, and the other have disagrees. You should tell them which side of the debate they are on.

Beyonce – "If I were a boy"

This is another, more modern, 2nd conditional song.

It is also a good one for prompting discussion.

For example, "How would your life be different if you were a boy/girl?" It is also a good song to introduce the topic of relationships.

Michael Jackson – "Heal the World"

This is a nice song to use to start discussions about the environment, war, famine, or any other negative things happening in the world.

It talks about how we can make things better. There is some good vocabulary in this song so it's a good one to use a gap-fill exercise with.


Raps are great for teaching English.

The rhythm of the words sometimes helps students, especially younger ones, remember phrases.

You could find one (without bad language in it) to play as a demonstration and then get classes to write their own rap around a particular theme.

Teenagers especially seem to enjoy this.

A good rap song with on-screen lyrics and an important theme can be found here.


Karaoke has a place in the ESL classroom. I find that if students sing a song, they will be encouraged to go and find out the meaning of any words they don't know.

If introduced into the lesson in the right way and used for a particular reason, not just because you like the song, ESL songs can really help make a lesson more interesting, and help your students remember English phrases.

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