Category Archives: Recycle Songs

Recycle Songs are short pieces of music, between 15 seconds and a minute or so in length. You’ll find one version of the song with vocals. English learners can learn this version. But then they create their own words, and sing them to the karaoke version. So you’ll find the Original Recycle Song, a Karaoke Version, and often a third version: an example of a student-generated version.

I’m a Dog

Below you’ll find two short and simple songs about dogs (41 seconds long). The first is “I’m a Dog.”

I’m a dog and I eat bones.
I live in people’s homes.
I like to chase the neighborhood cats.
I don’t like to take baths.

The second version is “He’s a dog.” Since I now live in a Muslim country where dogs don’t live in houses, I changed it a bit.

I’m a dog and I eat meat
I live out on the street…

These songs were created as simple, model-based writing activities.

To do a follow-up writing activity, provide this model:

I’m a ___________
and I eat __________
I live _______________
I like to ____________
I don’t like to __________
(repeat line 1)

The Favorite Food Waltz

veggie curry at the Hong Kong airportHere is another list song. That means you can just play it, and students will write as fast as they can, trying to list all the favorite foods that are sung. You’ll also learn a bit about cuisine in America–its various influences.

But the best thing is to give students time, after they have a feel for the song, perhaps in pairs–to write their own list of favorite foods. This they can sing to the karaoke version, while the other class writes down as many of these foods/drinks as possible. Thus, you have a writing, listening, and pronunciation activity rolled into one.Mango Avocado and Banana Smile


coffee, dark chocolate, watermelon, spinach, enchiladas, avocados, peppermint ice cream, hot peppers, mangos, blueberries veggie pizza with lots of olives, garbanzo beans, fried potatoes, tacos, curries, salsa, more coffee, beer from a glass, chili with cheese and onions. These are some of the foods I enjoy.

Counting Songs

These are among the simplest of Recycle Songs.

First: students practice saying numbers. This is good practice even for advanced learners. They won’t believe it, but let them try. In “Counting Song 1 – 7,” they sing along with the numbers: “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7… 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.”

“The Even Counting Song” is harder. Try singing along… “2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12… 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, and 2.”

Now you know the basic melody for this 12-second song. A huge range of Recycle versions can be composed by students themselves. Examples:

1. Students create their own number songs. They can sing any numbers (“100, 80, 25, 10… 16, 17, 43, 1″) to the melody and the rest of the group writes them down. Thus the group gets speaking, listening, and pronunciation practice.

2. Don’t stop with numbers. Students can make a list of words for this melody. The melody may have a theme, as in the Animal List Song, or it may be current vocabulary.

Animal List Song

Pigeons in VladivostokThis is a recycled version of the Counting Song. Same music. But this time the singer sings a list of 21 creatures.

The song is only 15 seconds long, but from it you get THREE great activities for students. The teacher spends no time preparing too!

First Activity: Tell students to get out their pencils. Ask them to write down as many of the 21 animals as possible. Play the song several times.

Second Activity: Have students sing along. It’s not so easy. This is enjoyable for students as they try to get their tongues around these English sounds at high speed.

Third Activity: Ask students to make their own list of animals and to sing them to the melody. Now the remainder of the class will try to write down what they hear.
Here’s the actual list if you need help:
bird, mouse, penguin, lion, fish, rat
snake, tuna, zebra, octopus, bat
skate, crab, woodpecker, tiger, fox, goose
cheetah, pigeon, jellyfish, moose

Note: there is such a thing as a lionfish, so it’s possible there are only 20 creatures in all.

Teenage Years

First, try to fill in the listen words. They will rhyme with the final word of the preceding line, so that and the context are your clues. Afterwards listen to the song and check your answers.

Teenage Years, what are they for?
A time to study and to __________,
A time to look and to sound cool,
A time to daydream while you’re at __________,
A time to wear shabby jeans
A time to read teen ___________,
A time to hit cafes with friends,
A time to believe that life never __________,
A time to hang out at clubs all night,
A time to believe that you’re always _________,
A time to fall in love at first __________.

*This poem was written by Evgeniya Dudina, 20, of Samara, Russia. Photo courtesy of Zhenya.Zhenya Dudina, Photo: courtesy of Zhenya

Now you’ve read Zhenya’s poem and heard Kevin’s song, it’s your turn to write a similar poem. You’ll work in pairs or groups, and your song will be short, so don’t panic! You’ll also have a model to follow. Choose your own subject, a period of time, like “Childhood Years” or “Summer Nights” or “School Days.”

TITLE: ___________________________

1. ________________, what are/were they for?
2. That’s the time to …
3. A time to …
4. A time to …
5. A time to …
6. A time to …
7. A time to …
8. A time to …
9. A time to …
10. A time to…
11. A time to…

In the remaining lines you’ll describe actions or events or lessons learned during that time. You may be poignant or comical.

Your poem may rhyme, but it doesn’t have to.

When you’re finished you can read the poem to the class. Or you might create a gap-fill activity, just like with “Teenage Years.” You may decide to post the poems on the wall of the classroom, or even put them up on the web.

The final task, and the most fun, is to sing your song. You can create your own music if you like, or you may use the karaoke version of “Teenager Years.” Listen to it and adjust your words so that they fit.

Complete Text of “Teenage Years” by Zhenya Dudina

Teenage Years, what are they for?
That’s the time to study and to explore,
A time to look and to sound cool,
A time to daydream while you’re at school,
A time to wear shabby jeans
A time to read teen magazines,
A time to hit cafes with friends,
A time to believe that life never ends,
A time to hang out at clubs all night,
A time to believe that you’re always right,
A time to fall in love at first sight.

The Number Waltz

Play the songs “The Number Waltz” and “Penny’s Number Waltz.”  The music is the same, but the words–or in this case, numbers–are different. Students write down the numbers that they hear.

Later, ask students in pairs or groups to make a similar list of numbers.  Each group will sing this list to the karaoke version of the song while the rest of the class writes the numbers down.  In this way we can get a lot of listening and pronunciation mileage out of one short musical piece.  That is the essence, of course, of Recycle Songs.

The Slug

Here we’ve got a short story song about a slug. Do a listening activity before revealing the words. Play it and have students write down the words. There are 4 lines.

Or you can do a sorting dictation.

Tell students you will to draw 3 columns on a piece of paper: NOUNS, VERBS, and ARTICLES. You will dictate twelve words. They will write them down: four words in each column. (Some English verbs actually consist of two words.)

Here they are in alphabetical order:

a, a, fell down, flashed, got smashed, lightning, roared, slug, the, the, thunder, tree

These words can no be sorted into a 4-line poem.

You’ll find the original version (with singing), followed by the karaoke version.

The Movement Song (Ufa)

This song contains instructions for making 12 movements.  The first step is to listen and understand what the movements are.  Play the song and ask students to write down as many of the instructions as they can.

Once students know the instructions, students will do the movements along with the song.  (The music, the words, and doing the action, all help to reinforce the language).

It gets better though.  Using the vocal versions as models, groups of students can write their own instructions.  Then they will lead the class in doiComposers of the Movement Song, Ufa, Russiang the actions.

I recorded this song in June, 2006, in a hotel room in Ufa, Russia.  The next day, students (pictured at the right) at the Ufa summer camp composed their own instructions to the music.  This version is available below too.  There is also the usual karaoke version so that students can write their own instructions.

About Recycle Songs

Teachers and Students Working TogetherRecycle Songs are short pieces of music, between 10 seconds and a minute or so in length. You’ll find at least two versions of each song.

The first–the original song–can be used for listening activities.

Second, there’ll be a karaoke version–an mp3 file without words. Students can sing the original words to this. But better yet, they can write their own words, perhaps in pairs or small groups, and then perform them to the class. They can even record their version.

Sometimes you’ll find a third recording. This is an already recycled version: a re-recording of the original with new words, often a student-generated version.

That’s why these are called Recycle Songs. We can use these songs again and again and again.

With each Recycle Song you’ll find specific instructions for a variety of activities.

If students from around the world happen to record singing to any of these recycle songs, or even write cool words, please contact me. I would love to put more student-generated material on the site.