Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

How Subtitles In Music Videos Teach Literacy


The Boston Globe has a useful article headlined Watch and learn:How music videos are triggering a literacy boom.

It’s about the use of subtitles in music videos as a tool to teach native-language literacy, and shares some good stories and research.

Many ESL/EFL teachers are very aware of the usefulness of subtitles in second-language instruction, too.

You might also be interested in The Best Music Websites For Learning English and The Best Online Karaoke Sites For English Language Learners.

You might also want to read an interview I did on using music in the classroom.

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. Very useful. Thank you. I was just thinking about adding some song based exercises to my website and the references you supply will be helpful.

  2. Seems like modern-day stained-glass windows to me. How can you tell if they are really learning to read, or learning from musicality. I agree that subtitles are powerful tools; I always use them for regular content video. But I am skeptical to think that subtitles with song and dance are of the same level. But I guess kudos for any effort to put the written word in front of people.

  3. This is a particularly interesting subject and it is the focus of what we are working on here at Zane Education –

    We have recently completed the development of over 1,000 online videos all of which are purposely subtitled and they are developed to teach 11 K12 subjects and 260 curriculum topics. We also provide online assessment and testing for each topic in the form of online interactive quizzes containing a total of over 23,000 curriculum based questions which are designed to also help continue the learning process.

    When we first embarked upon this project, we anticipated that by providing this online subscription based service, that it would be primarily of benefit to children and students in classrooms and homeschools by enabling them to study and learn curriculum material while at the same time also enabling them to improve their reading skills and literacy levels.

    We have also developed a better understanding of how, by combining the use of educational videos with subtitles, we are providing each child with the option of watching, listenting to, or reading each presentation, and thereby being able to provide for different learning styles and levels of academic ability.

    By working with a range of children with a variety special needs we discovered that by introducing a variety of techniques as to how the videos were used in each particular situation, we are able to provide significant benefits to a wide range of of children with various types of special needs.

    We have also discovered that gifted students can also benefit greatly because the use of video enhances the ability for the child to learn and study at their own speed and thereby achieve their greatest potential. However what we did not anticipate that what we have produced would have significant value in the ESL market. By enabling each child to see each word, hear how it is pronounced, and then better understand the context in which it is used enables those children learning English as a Second Language to use what we produced to significantly improve their ESL studies.

    We are currently establishing new offices in India and China to complement what we are doing here in the United States and we are always interested to look at collaborating with those academics, individuals, companies and other organisations that have a similar interest in this field.

    A lot of research has been successfully conducted in respect of the benefits of linking video subtitles with the improvement of literacy levels, however we seem to be the first to combine the learning of curriculum subjects with improved reading at the same time, and provide an online solution for special needs children.

  4. Hi Larry! I’ve been an advocate of Open Karaoke style subtitling for Music video for a long time. I’ve had a lot of success with my students using Cloze style worksheets and Musicals with subtitling, Take a look at foe how I used in class. I also have had some success with students using software to make karaoke music videos. Take a look at


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