Improve English with Music and English Outside the Box

Improve your English skills with Music

Love music as much as I do?

If the answer is yes, then I really hope you are using music to improve your language skills. If you’re not, or you’re not quite sure how, then this suggestion and these tips will help you make the most out of something you love.

A great way to find music in English, if you don’t already have some favorites, is to check out the Billboard Charts. Here you can find many lists, including the Hot 100 or lists by genre of music, so you will be sure to find something that you like. For a greater chance of appealing to the majority of you, I choose the Hot 100’s number 1 song right now: “All of Me” by John Legend. This is just to use as an example, and to show you some of the exercises you can do, but please feel free to use anything that strikes your fancy (interests you).

Exercises with music to improve listening:

1. Music Cloze (listening, writing/spelling, reading)

A music cloze is an activity that has blank spaces within the lyrics of a song. The goal of the activity is to listen to the song, and fill in the blanks with the words you hear. This is helpful for overall listening skills, as well as helping with your spelling and phonetic awareness through dictation (hearing & recognizing sounds). This activity also helps reading, because you’ll be following along with the words written down as you listen. You can try it here with the music cloze I created for John Legend’s “All of me”. Feel free to print and try it yourself! *NOTE: if you’d like a cloze created for your favorite song, please comment below and give me the artist and song title, and I will upload a copy to the post!*

all of me_johnlegend_cloze

2. Sing along with the lyrics (pronunciation, intonation, reading, listening)

The lyrics for just about every song are available on numerous sites across the Internet. All you need to do is do a Google search: “song name” + lyrics You will definitely find something! There are also videos available on YouTube with the lyrics in the video. Not sure of every song’s availability though, due to YT’s copyright rules. Following along with the lyrics, and reading aloud can help you identify correct pronunciation, and help with some English intonation (I know a song is different than speaking, but still helpful). In addition to this speaking practice, you’ll also practice reading and listening skills as you follow along.

3. Write about the meaning (writing, creative thinking, reading)

Practice your creative and critical thinking skills, while improving your writing, by expressing your thoughts on what the song means. The beautiful thing about music, is this art can be interpreted in so many different ways, it just depends on how you look at it! Is it about someone, or something, an experience, something positive, negative, beautiful or ugly? What do you think about John Legend’s song?

4. Learn and expand vocabulary (vocabulary, writing/spelling, reading)

Can you find last weekend’s ” Word 2 of the Weekend’s ” vocabulary word in the lyrics for “All of Me” ? 🙂 You can find many different collocations, expressions, or new vocabulary words when reading the lyrics to your favorite song. A great way to learn new vocabulary is to write down the words you can’t recognize, and look them up in a dictionary. You know my favorite is Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary! Want to expand on those words? Visit an online thesaurus, and type in your new vocabulary to learn even more ways to express the same idea. Don’t forget about identifying the different related words in the same word family: nouns, verbs, adjectives, and verbs. Knowing these related parts of speech will help you understand how to use the words correctly, as well as other ways to express them in sentences. Finally, a different way to use lyrics to expand vocabulary is to create word webs, or connections/associations. Identify your target vocabulary, and make associations with that word. What comes into your mind when thinking about it, what ideas can you connect.

Let’s look at the word: dizzy.

1st: definefeeling you’re moving in circles and going to fall, even though you are still; or, mentally/emotionally upset.

2nd: thesaurus: according to, the most related words: dazed, distracted, groggy, wobbly, shaky.

3rd: word family: dizzy (adjective) dizziness (noun) dizzily (adverb)

4th: word web/connections: when I think of dizzy, I think of sick, nauseous, fainting, roller coaster, spinning, circle, illness, etc….

Bonus exercise:

This is a great website, with MANY songs to choose from I might add, to practice listening, reading, and typing (spelling) skills. You can find this week’s song, “All of Me” here.

How it works:

It’s the same concept of a music close, but already online and with a video! You choose your skill level, beginner to expert, and then listen and follow along with the song, typing in the blanks with the word you hear. The beginner level has you fill in about 10% of the song, intermediate is 25%, advanced 50%, with expert requiring 100% of the song lyrics (good luck!)


Your challenge:

Practice your language skills using the exercises above, and use the comment section to let me know about it:

  1. Complete the music cloze. It may be easier to find it online rather than printing mine.  *Comment: how did you do?
  2. How was your pronunciation?
  3. What do you think the song means?
  4. Identify new words or phrases, or practice expanding your vocabulary with these words and expressions:
  • draw me in
  • kick me out
  • out of my mind
  • distraction
  • risk

5.  What was the word of the weekend in these lyrics?


Happy Studying, and enjoy the Music ♥

related posts:  
     * Music Idioms 
     * Learning for your Style
     * Improving Speaking Fluency 


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  1. […] more learning fun! Music is a great tool to better your English skills. I even talked about it in this post, so I obviously think it’s helpful which is why I am including it in your plan. Listen to […]

  2. louisajd on May 28, 2014 at 7:57 am

    Great idea! I’m wondering if I could apply some of these to learning Chinese… I know that trying to learn a song in Chinese often helps me remember key words.

  3. rok0808 on May 25, 2014 at 4:05 am

    It’s a great idea. However, I would throw out the caution to realize musical lyrics are not written in the best grammar. Other than that, I think it’s a great idea.

  4. Michel on May 23, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    5- I think that the word of the week is these lyrics is ” distraction “.

    Have a good night, Jennifer..

    • Jennifer on May 24, 2014 at 2:46 pm

      No…. Same suffix though: -tion. Want to try again?

      • Michel on May 25, 2014 at 3:25 pm

        Then, may be imperfection..

  5. Michel on May 23, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    3- I think it is like a love declaration.

  6. Michel on May 23, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    My pronunciation was really bad, but some words, I had the help of a program where I wrote the word and got the pronunciation .

  7. Michel on May 23, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    1- I heard more than ten times, and the same time I tried to write in the blanks ( to me was difficult ).

    • Jennifer on May 25, 2014 at 11:06 am

      Keep practicing, Michel! It’ll get easier!

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