Using Songs to Teach English: Song Challenge and Chat Stations

Photo by Chang Duong on Unsplash


This song-based activity lesson plan for English language teaching features the songs ‘Sunday’ by Neffex, ‘Something Special’ by Debby Smith and ‘Teeth’ by 5 Seconds of Summer and their official music videos. Students think and talk about connections between different things, listen to a song challenge and find out the word in common, watch music videos, read lyrics extracts, work together to make posters, evaluate each other’s work and explain and present their own work to others.

Language level: B1 and above
Learner type: All ages
Skills: speaking, reading, listening and writing
Topic: Connections
Language: Vocabulary related to connections, and presentations
Materials: Youtube videos, Chat station pdf and materials to make posters
Duration: 1 hour - 1h 30 min
Downloadable materialsinstructions; Song Challenge MP3 files; Chat Stations pdf

Part 1 – Warm-up and Song challenge

Step 01

Write DAYS – SEAS – CONTINENTS on the board and ask students what those words have in common. Give them some time to think, but no more than 5 minutes.

A good idea is to have a timer where they can see it counting down, this makes them more invested in thinking of the answer, and adds a little bit of excitement, as well. I like to use this online bomb timer 

Answer: there are seven of each: seven days of the week, seven continents (Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia/Oceania, Europe, North America, and South America) and the seven seas include the Arctic, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Pacific, South Pacific, Indian, and Southern Oceans.

Step 02

Divide students into small groups. Tell them they are going to listen to 3 short song extracts and the challenge now is to find out which word all three have in common.

They will listen to the extracts 3 times, and each group will have some time to discuss their final answer and write it down on a sheet of paper.  

Step 03

Play the song extracts 3 times. Have the groups write down and discuss their answers. Walk around checking their final answers.

Correct answer: Butterflies
Song 01: Neffex -  Sunday (I can feel the butterflies on the inside)
Song 02: Debby Smith - Something Special (I don’t need butterflies everyday)
Song 03: 5 seconds of summer - Teeth (Every little lie gives me butterflies)

Part 2 – Chat Stations

Note: The idea for the class discussion format used in this activity (Gallery walk aka Chat Stations) came from the site Cult of Pedagogy and was featured in their blog post The Big List of Class Discussion Strategies.

IMPORTANT! Internet access and students’ mobile devices are needed to scan the QR codes in order to access the music videos. In case this is not possible where you work, you can still perform the activity based only on the lyrics excerpts printed on the pdf file.

You will also need to provide blank sheets of paper and material the students can use to make a poster (pencils, colored pencils, glue, magazines, scissors, paint,etc)

Step 04

Tell your students they are going to work in 3 groups, and each group will be assigned a “CHAT STATION”. There are three chat stations which you need to prepare in advance and set up around the classroom, on the walls or on tables. (If the number of students is too big for only 3 groups in 3 stations, you can print more copies of the stations and work with 6 stations and 6 groups instead. eg. station 1A, station 1B, station 2A, 2B and so on). 

How to set up the chat stations.

To set up the chat stations, you just need to print the Chat Station pdf file in the downloadable materials found in the description of this activity, and display them around your classroom. Each chat station contains the band and the song title, a Qr Code with their music video on Youtube, and an excerpt of the lyrics. They are the same songs from the song challenge in part 1.  Example:

chat station example

Once the groups are in their assigned Chat Stations, their task is to discuss the ideas represented in that station and prepare a poster representing that featured song. They can do whatever they want as long as it is connected to the lyrics, the title or the video in any way. They are totally in control of their creativity. The only rule is that ALL members must contribute with something. They can access the Internet (if possible) to get more information about the band to include in the poster, too. 

Assign a time limit for the task you see fit. (suggested 15 – 20 min)

Step 05 

The students put up their posters displayed next to their respective chat stations.

Step 06

Have your students form new groups, but this time, each group must include students from the 3 different original chat stations. Eg. at least 1 student from station 01 + at least 1 student from station 02 + at least 1 student from chat station 03. SEE video in the next step for clarification.

Step 07

Have the new groups visit the stations. When a group stops at a poster in station 1 for example, the student who helped create that one, explains the idea represented in the poster to the other students. Then, they move on to the next station and the student who helped create this other poster explains it and so on.

The video below explains perfectly how this should be performed. Images are much better than words! I really recommend you watch it because it REALLY clarifies the whole dynamics.

To conclude the activity, if you still have some time left, you can have a vote for the best posters, and ask students to justify their options. You can create categories for the most beautiful, most creative, funniest, etc.

This song-based lesson plan is sure to spice up your classes! However, would you like to think, feel and act more creatively on your own to be able to turn ANY song you want into an engaging lesson plan?
HERE are TIME-SAVING ideas that do the heavy work so you can focus on the most important: INSPIRING and MOTIVATING YOUR STUDENTS to learn CREATIVELY!


That’s it for this week! I hope this activity is helpful and enjoyable! 


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Happy teaching!  🙂


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