Howard Holland

Oldies but Goodies: Songs and Films

There are no greater advantages in the classroom than having a range of activities which can be repeated year after year, adapted to all ages and group levels and which stretch a 3 minute song into a 30 minute enjoyable series of excercises, or using 10 minutes of a film for a 50 minute lesson, covering all the main skills of listening, speaking, pronunciation practice, writing, reading and set grammar tasks.


Modern classes are dominated by aims and objectives: curricula, testing, getting certificates, surviving the hour and motivating students (and ourselves). A long etcetera. But as I always say, how about the students learning something. How about teachers taking time over an activity that may not be fantastic in itself, but which will lead to students creating or commenting on one of their own likes.

The advantage of a song or part of a film is that we can use it again the following year. It can be repeated for different group levels, and because all classes are different, we can get something new out of it. They are tools taken for granted, but not exploited enough. A 3 minute song can be developed into a 30 minute session of a wide range of encouraging motivational, if not 100% enjoyable, activities, highlighting exactly what we the teachers want to see from the students. A 10 minute part of a film, in reality any part, with or without sound, different uses of subtitles and language can be extended into a 50 minute class that seems too short and leaves the students feeling good and willing to do something similar next month.

As teachers we should be doing less book, spoon feeding , simply filling in work records /sheets, and do more ´milking` of exercises by focusing on what students need and not what they want. Songs and films create listening skills, role plays: imitation and repetition. It is possible to have speaking through grammar revision, 1 minute topic talks, writing description and story continuation. There is room for pronunciation work, translation and comprehension checking when students read. Wh-?`s, gossip about actors/resses , singers or football teams and their songs and history continue the long list.

Nothing new, but it is new everytime we try it out.


Howard Holland, degree in English Studies MA, has 35 years teaching experience, ranging from school, universities and language academy classes. He has taught ages from 7 to 85 year olds. Howard is currently a team leader for Cambridge and has been a Cambridge examiner for 25 years. TESOL Spain 2020 in Salamanca saw him as a first time speaker.