Lady Gaga in one of her flamboyant outfits. Lyric Swap is a fun activity for intensive listening. Depending on the song you choose, you can also use it to practice certain semantic fields or grammatical constructions.


Firstly, select a song you think your class will like; as mentioned above, if you want to look at a particular grammatical construction or semantic field, the song you choose should contain plenty of good examples of those. One thing to remember is that often songs will use slightly “bad” English grammar and/or pronunciation. Try to avoid these songs if you can.

Also try and avoid “classic” songs (like those from the Beatles) which your class will probably find old-fashioned and dull.

Instead, choose a contemporary song. As an example, here are the opening two verses of Telephone by Lady Gaga (contemporary when this article was written!).

Hello, hello, baby, you called?
I can’t hear a thing
I have got no service
In the club, you say? say?
Wha-wha-what did you say, huh?
You’re breakin’ up on me
Sorry I cannot hear you
I’m kinda busy
Kinda busy
Kinda busy
Sorry I cannot hear you I’m kinda busy

Just a second
It’s my favorite song they’re gonna play
And I cannot text you with a drink in my hand, eh?
You should’ve made some plans with me
You knew that I was free
And now you won’t stop calling me
I’m kinda busy

The next step is to re-write the lyrics, changing them where you want. Your students will later have to identify those changes by listening intently. Remember to replace words with others of similar sound, length, syllables, etc.

Hello, hello, mummy, you called?
I can’t see a swing
I have got no money
In the shop, you say? say?
Wha-wha-what did you say, huh?
You’re breakin’ up the sea
Sorry I cannot feel you
I’m kinda hungry
Kinda hungry
Kinda hungry
Sorry I cannot feel you I’m kinda silly

Just a moment
It’s my favorite film they’re gonna show
And I cannot see you with a hat on my head, eh?
You should’ve made some pasta with me
You knew that I was three
And now you won’t stop filming me
I’m kinda hairy

Print out one copy of the new lyrics per pair of students.

Running the Activity

In class, begin a general chat about the artist and song – do the class know anything about them or it? Next, have the students get into pairs and have them go over the new lyrics. Explain that some words have been changed and develop a discussion about what the students think could be changed. At this point you might want to invite suggestions on ways in which the lyrics could be changed to make them sound better.

Finally play the song 2 times and have the students listen carefully to see if they can identify the changes you have made.

See Also

Music in the TEFL/TESOL Classroom – a general introduction to using songs in the classroom.

Old Fashioned Teachers & Music – whey to avoid the Beatles and other old-fashioned music!

Image © Michael_Spencer

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