The Language of Teens: Using Music to Target Goals

As a Speech and Language Pathologist working in a Title 1 school, I have worked with Pre-K and High School students, but for the past 3 years the majority of my caseload has been Middle School students. I have found that one of the biggest challenges of working with this population has been burnout and disengagement.

Many of these students have been in speech/language therapy since early elementary school and it feels like a chore to them. My students are also in an environment that does not always prioritize education, so you can’t rely on internal motivation to do their work. Add in the ambivalent teenager phase and it can make it difficult to have students entertained, engaged, and most importantly learning. In this post, I’ll explain how incorporating music into my speech and language session has increased these factors. Since implementing music in my therapy, my students are animated and engaged. Some even try to come more than they are scheduled!


Using lyrics from songs can target many language goals, but the one’s I find most relevant are Vocabulary/Context Clues, Grammar, and (my favorite) Figurative Language. Whether it’s pop, country, or rap – songs are filled with figurative language. I used to create powerpoint presentations, but now mostly use Kahoot. Below I will describe how I use each and provide examples.


  • Pick a song: You can ask your students for suggestions, use some of your favorite songs that you hear on the radio, or just scroll through Tik Tok and see what’s trending. You might even be able to get your students to dance if you choose a Tik Tok song. 
  • Google the lyrics: Find your vocabulary word, grammatical error, or example of figurative language. You may look through the lyrics and find nothing suitable, but luckily there’s a million popular songs out at a time so you can just choose another.
  • Create your slide: Put the line from the song containing the target. Embed a picture or music video. Both PowerPoint and Kahoot allow you to do this. If you use a picture, make sure you add sound to the slide or play the song beforehand– kids want to hear the music.
  • Discuss: Don’t forget to discuss the correct answer, especially in the context of the artist’s motivation. For grammar, a slide explaining what grammatical rule was broken works best. 


Example 1: Power Point – Fig Language



Example 2: Kahoot – Vocabulary 


Example 3 – Kahoot – Grammar


Tips and Reminders: 

  • Make sure you include a variety of music genres. Especially with regard to grammar, we don’t want to call out a specific type of music or culture for having ‘poor grammar’.
  • Use songs you are familiar with or look up the lyrics so you are not accidentally using an inappropriate line that seems harmless or will be surprised by an inappropriate word when sharing the music and/or music video.


Author: Jillian Donahue M.S. CCC-SLP

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as professional advice. The content is based on the author's personal experiences, research, and opinions. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified professional or expert before making any decisions or taking action based on the information provided in this blog.

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