Sound and Vision


This is a post I was looking forward to writing because it is about an activity I do in class which combines music, one of my greatest passions, and videos. So, you can be sure, that day I’m as happy as a lark.

I have always been very interested in the language of music videos and how the performance and footage convey what seems to be described in the song. Most clips have a clear advertising focus, so there is a lot of “star factor” involved to make the artist reach the consumer more easily. But still, pop/rock culture has been the cradle for iconic music videos with enormous aesthetic value.

In my view, music videos can make very good material for an EFL class because:

  • They resemble short films in terms of length. They are typically from 3 to 5 minutes long.
  • There is a great diverstiy of themes that go from a typical love story to relevant social issues today.
  • There are two types of media texts in videos that can be of particular interest in an EFL class (1) Narrative. You can easily spot a main character, often played by the star, who is developping part of the storyline. (2) Conceptual. These clips are often very interesting too, as they are based on metaphors and give place to multiple meanings.


I suggest using clips to create a problem-solving game, which combines the many advantages of jigsaw or information gap activities. I find really it very engaging, it usually works well and it is not too time-consuming to prepare. Level: Intermediate and above.

Bring an odd number of music videos to class -in my experience, a good number is 5. I recommend choosing clips from independent musicians, and drive away from mainstream music as students are likely to be familiar with them. You can spot great music on soundcloud or follow scoop-it accounts, or suscribe to YouTube channels.

Students work in pairs. One is the viewer and the other one is the listener.

STAGE 1 Viewers and listeners work separately


They watch 5 videos, or extracts (A, B, C, D, E) without sound.  What story was being told? What was happening? Is there any character? Where are the musicians? Are they playing any role? What is the dominant atmosphere?

Language focus could be set on:

  • verb tenses and adverbials for sequencing actions
  • useful phrases and vocabulary for describing people or places
  • describing emotions.


They will listen to 4 songs, or extracts (1, 2, 3, 4)  but in a different order. Theirs is the most demanding part, as it requires comprehension. But they should also pay attention to the mood and what feelings it inspires apart from

  • key words or phrases
  • general meaning.

STAGE 2 Viewers and listeners work together

Students are paired up again and have to complete a grid trying to match which video (A, B, C, D, E) matches the lyrics (1, 2, 3, 4). They work together towards completing the task sharing the information they have.

What I like most about this kind of activity is that however challenging it is, students are usually task-oriented so fluency usually benefits.

I like eliciting some words to each group for them to teach their partner and also give them enough feedback after they have watched and listened so they feel more comfortable in the speaking task that follows. I would also narrow some of the language they can use and remind them of the grammar or lexical focus of the activity -if there is any-. The activity works well anyway for improving fluency and negotiation language.

Somehow they teach each other, and subsequently learn from each other. I find language sticks more in a context like this one. I have used the same approach with film trailers, although that variation is more suitable for level B2 and above.

What do you think of the videos on this post?



I intend to carry out the same task in the future, but asking a pair of students to choose the songs and prepare the activity themselves for the rest of the class -they would manage and organize the task.

When I create the blogging community in class music is topic that they could write about and share, maybe having our own youtube channel, too.




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