You Will Survive: Teaching With Songs – Part 02

Hello there!

Today we have the second part of the activities I used in a talk about teaching with music a couple of years ago: You Will Survive!

Check out the first part by clicking here.

3. Translation. Level: A1+

Option 01

If you want to use more complicated songs with beginning students you can resort to translation. Here are some options:

– Choose some words / expressions that you want to review and remove them from the song.
– Write the translation of the words below the paragraph, like this:

And so you’re … (1) from outer space. I just walked in to find you … (2) With that … (3) look upon your face. I should’ve changed that stupid … (4), I should’ve made you … (5) your … (6), If I had known, for just one … (7), You’d be back to … (8) me.

aqui – chave – de volta – deixar – fechadura – incomodar – segundo – triste

– Tell students to listen to the song and try to complete with the correct word. You may have to play the (part of the) song more than once and stop while students write the word and correct it.

Option 02

You can also remove the words from the lyrics and ask students to provide the English form. No dictionaries allowed, so make sure you choose words students have already encountered in their course.

At first, I was afraid, I was petrified. Kept thinkin’ I could never live without you by my side. But then I spent so many nights thinkin’ how you did me wrong. And I grew strong. And I learned how to get along.

No início, estava ___ (1), eu estava apavorada. Ficava ___ (2) que não poderia viver sem você do meu ___ (3). Mas então passei ___ (4) noites pensando no quanto você me fez ___ (5). Eu fiquei forte e ___ (6) a me virar.

4. What’s wrong? Level: A1+

– In this activity you change some words from the lyrics that have similar opposites (or that belong to the same semantic field) and ask students to listen and cross off the incorrect words.
– Remember to choose mid-tempo songs.
– Play the song and help student correct the sentences.
– Make sure students know the words they are about to listen for, as this can be a review exercise.

Here’s an example with “I Will Survive”.

And so I’m back from outer space. (=you’re)
I just walked out to find you here (=in)
With that happy look upon your face. (=sad)
I should’ve changed that smart lock, (=stupid)
I should’ve made you leave your car, (=key)
If I had known, for just one minute, (=second)
You’d be back to love me. (=bother)

The examples above can be adapted into several songs and it is very important that you choose a suitable song for your students, otherwise all that hard work could backfire.

05. Using Pictures – What’s the Song? – Any level

This activity is good for practicing vocabulary and listening. You have, as an example, the first two stanzas of Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida”. Cut out pictures so students will listen to the song and put them in the correct order.

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy’s eyes
Listened as the crowd would sing
“Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!”

Here’s how I did it:

– Students read the lyrics beforehand.
– Scramble pictures so students listen to the song and put them in order as they listen to the word/expression.
– Work with word combinations like rule the world, seas rise, sweep streets, roll the dice, crowd sing, long live the king
– Students listen to the song and put the pictures in order.

As follow-up activities you can ask students to tell a different story using the pictures or have them write the story as an assignment for next class.

Here are the pictures I used (all from the Internet).

You Will Survive!

See you next month with more practical activities!


Magalhães, V. & Amorim, V. “Cem aulas sem tédio” Instituto Padre Reus 1999
Murphey, T. “Music and Song” OUP 1992

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Adir Ferreira

Adir Ferreira has been an English teacher for 22 years. He is also a teacher educator, blogger and professional singer. Adir is based in Bebedouro (SP); you can access his blog at and email him

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