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June 2024 - Year 26 - Issue 3

ISSN 1755-9715

Teaching with Instrumental Music for Motivation, Mindfulness, Integrated Skills, and Creativity

Magda Zamorska is a senior teaching fellow at the University of Wroclaw and a teacher trainer for Pilgrims. She is an experienced language teacher (from primary to EAP courses) as well as a seasoned  trainer. Magda’s professional interests include the use of arts and drama in teaching, teacher’s wellbeing and educational psychology. Email:



“The whole culture is telling you to hurry while the art tells you to take your time” Junot Diaz

Never have I found this quote more important than in the current troubled times. My professional interests have always been revolving around art (music, drama, visual art, and literature) and its uses in the foreign language classroom. I believe that not only does it offer a plethora of creative ideas for practical activities but it also creates unique atmosphere and helps teachers and learners alike to relax, enjoy the art they bring into the classroom and focus on the here and now. This, in turn, can make the learning process more entertaining, energetic, focused and, as a result, more effective. 

Take music, for example. It is common knowledge that music can be beneficial in therapy, may help you concentrate or relax, stimulate imagination, energise or calm you down. Many a song has been used in the classroom to a varying degree of success to teach grammar, vocabulary or even pronunciation. I would like to share with you several activities that introduce instrumental music into the EFL classroom. All are highly adaptable as far as the level of your learners is concerned and the outcome can include different language skills. I have used them with various age groups and levels, providing them with a selection of musical pieces or asking them to share their own choices.



You need reasonably good loudspeakers and a selection of musical pieces. The titles I include are by no means prescriptive and serve only as examples. It is quite important to let  your students get into the mood of the music so I would suggest listening for at least a minute. Don’t worry about the listening time: a minute sounds quite long but they have to settle down, focus and listen attentively.


Activity 1: Creating places in your mind

Play a selection of very different types of music. Ask the learners to imagine a place, jot down some words or a short description and read it to the class. We all then guess which piece conjured up this place. 

Variation: play just one piece and compare the descriptions. I have successfully used it with A2 to C2 levels: from short sentences to elaborate descriptions.

Examples of music:


Activity 2: Postcards/photographs

Ask your students to imagine a holiday place that the music takes them to and write an old-fashioned postcard, a text message, an MMS or a picture they can post online.. Younger students enjoy drawing and then describing the place. The students then share their ideas, talk about similarities and differences they imagined.


Activity 3: Social media profile 

In groups/pairs students brainstorm what kind of information they share on social media (age, sex, education, job, photo, hobby, likes and dislikes etc.). They should prepare and be ready to fill in a form where all the info is collected. You can play one or more pieces of music, depending on the time constraints and the level/age of the group. The students fill in the social media profile, describe the appearance (or look for a picture  online) and create a person they imagined while listening to music. This activity could lead to writing stories in which all the characters the students invented are used.

Variation: you can use just one piece only and compare the different people who are created by the students’ imagination.


Activity 4: Commercials

This activity can be turned into a project in which drama activities, music and visuals are combined. In groups, the students listen to the music and choose one piece which they will use as a commercial jingle. They have to decide what is being advertised, invent a catchy slogan and prepare a scene that we would watch. They rehearse and perform the ad using props, costumes, and the musical jingle. If it is possible they make a short clip and then the whole class can watch the commercials.


Activity 5: Musical biographies

The students choose several songs/pieces of instrumental music/operatic arias or whatever they deem suitable. The selection can be either their own musical biography (music that was important in their lives) or that of a famous person. The first version is better for adult learners, but teenagers enjoy illustrating lives of famous people with their own selection of music.  They prepare a short multimedia presentation (using both music and pictures, if they wish) to share with the group. I often prepare my own musical biography to make them listen to some antediluvian music. This activity, apart from being a story telling practice, encourages openness to different tastes in music and general tolerance.



All of the ideas are very much open ended and adaptable. As you probably noticed, the language practised ranges from descriptions to stories and performances. I hope the activities will spark off many variations on the theme, to use a musical metaphor.

 In my experience, music in the classroom not only makes  practising language skills pleasant but also creates very positive atmosphere, builds up the sense of anticipation and increases the motivation of the learners.



I would like to thank my dear friend and colleague, Anna Hałucha, for her invaluable contributions to the ideas presented above.


Please check the Pilgrims f2f courses at Pilgrims website.

Please check the Pilgrims online courses at Pilgrims website.

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