Using Spotify with your English class – Great Tunes…

Spotify is a free music service (unless you go premium) that lets you listen to thousands and thousands of albums and song by thousands and thousands of artists over the widest possible range of genres. I’ve spent a long time on it – listening to songs I used to love and have long since lost, in fact I have spent whole evenings with friends saying ‘listen to this one’ and ‘do you remember this one?’. If you like music and haven’t tried it, then you owe it to yourself to have a browse .

But…how can you use it with your students? Playing music in class is nothing new and you’ll even find songs amongs the pages of Headway. What is new is the how much access we have to it now – we can choose from almost every mainstream song ever recorded. No doubt you will have your own favourite songs and will want to use these but, here are a list of my suggestions as to how to use Spotify with your English language learners. You’ll need to sign up for a Spotify account,  download their player and a computer or laptop to play the music to your students…

Any topic you are currently studying…

Just about any topic or theme you class is covered by a song somewhere. Type the title of your topic and you’ll probably find a tune about it.  Play the song for the students and get them to write down as many words linked to your topic as they can.

Money and Banks – Pink Floyd – Money

Shopping – The Clash – Lost in the Supermarket

Food and eating – Food Glorious food  – The Cast of Oliver

Grammar Practice

There are loads of good songs that you can use to practise and examine grammar points, here’s my short list.

Present Simple/continuous – She is leaving Home – The Beatles It’s Raining Men – The Weather Girls Singing in the Rain

Past Simple – Summer Loving – Grease Soundtrack Candle in the Wind – Elton John Dido – Best Day

Present Perfect – I’ve had the time of my life – B.Medley and J. Warne

Future Tense-  I Will Always Love you – Whitney Houston/ My Heart Will go on – Celine Dion

Conditionals –  If I was a Rich Girl – Gwen Stefani / If I had a Million Dollars – Barenaked Ladies

Superlatives –  Simply the Best – Tina Turner

Story Songs

Traditional folk music is just one of the genres that uses songs to tell stories. Play students the story song and ask them questions about what happened. Here’s a list of my favourite story songs.

A boy named Sue – Jonny Cash (Brilliant story and song that everyone will love…)

One Piece at a Time – Jonny Cash (a man steals a whole car by taking one piece of it at a time from the factory where he works)

She’s Leaving Home – The Beatles (you might have to use a cover version as The Beatles are not on Spotify)

Barenaked Ladies – Bank Job (lovely story about a heist gone wrong)

Waltzing Matilda – The Pogues

Chill out music

Music and easy listening is really good to settle students down and chill them out while they get on with some work quietly. I’ve met teachers who swear that ambient music is the corner stone of their teaching method – I need to use it more. Here are some  tunes I’d play to students to make them feel calm…

Heartbeats – Jose Gonzales

Cannonball – Damien Rice

Play a song as a prize

I sometimes do this with videos as well. After a game or a test, allow the winning student or team to pick a song that they can play to the rest of the class. People always enjoy making others listen to something they like.


Got a few minutes to kill, play one of these tunes and ask students to say what they think.

White Trash Wedding – Dixie Chicks (super fast banjo and funny)

Or just play something current.

Further reading

Check out Larry Lynch’s ideas

Also Kevin Schoepp’s paper on using song is here


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