25 Pop Songs to Use with Students


Want to find some music that you can use in your elementary classroom? Looking for songs that are fun and that students recognize, or songs that have a positive message? Last spring I was looking for some songs to use in a video for my students and did not know where to start. It took me a while but  I finally found 2 appropriate and child-friendly pop songs in my over 3,000+ song collection. I knew there had to be more options than that!  If you're interested in 25 Oldies Songs to Use in  Your Classroom, check out my related post here

This summer I set about to researching pop songs from the last 10 years or so and finding a good pool of them. I teach second grade and these songs, in my opinion, would be fine for classroom use. Some may even already be used for brain breaks in programs such as GoNoodle and Just Dance! 

So how did I choose them? I listened to about 100 songs I thought might be okay and eliminated most, then read the lyrics and a few more didn't make the cut. If you'd like to read the lyrics yourself, try AZ Lyrics' website.

I will post links to the videos for the songs so you can hear the song but I can not vouch for the videos themselves. If you need to find music videos that are okay for elementary students, please search through videos on your own.  I can only vouch for the songs themselves! If you have any other songs you know well and would recommend, please comment and let us know!

Here they are-25 Pop Songs to Use with Students

HAPPY by Pharrell Williams
Well, of course! I don't think I need to say anything else!

ROAR by Katy Perry
I used this song as one of the two for my end of the year videos last year. It has such a positive message. Love it! 

FIREWORK by Katy Perry
Yep, Katy Perry is one of quite a few artists who are on this list more than once. This is another positive, life affirming song. I remember I saw her perform it on the show Home for the Holidays one Christmas. The show promotes the Dave Thomas Foundation (for adoption) and all these children who had once been in the foster care system who had been adopted were in the front. So many happy smiles. It was the perfect song for it.

UNWRITTEN by Natasha Bedingfield
This is the other song I used in my end-of-the-year video, and yes, you may also recognize it as the song played at the beginning of those The Hills shows on TV about 10 years ago. Its great and always makes me feel good when I hear it.

POCKETFUL OF SUNSHINE by Natasha Bedingfield
More positivity here. Bedingfield has a message of creating your own happiness and staying positive, despite hard times.

BEST DAY OF MY LIFE by American Authors
This song is pretty new and I wasn't that familiar with it until a few months ago. It reminds me of Lovin' Each Day by Ronan Keating (which I loved but couldn't make this list because it has one "bad" word). Its happy, uplifting and might be a good song for your alarm each morning.

STRONGER BY KELLY CLARKSON
I am sure you know this one, but Clarkson sings about being strong on her own and not relying on others for happiness. Of course it is about a breakup, but the message is pretty general. You may have to explain the saying "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" but if you don't mind that, it's a great choice.

BREAKAWAY by Kelly Clarkson
Another Clarkson song that is appropriate for younger kids, Breakaway talks about moving away from home and being on your own. It explains some times you need to take some risks in life and that doing so and embracing your independence can lead to real happiness.

GOOD FEELING by Flo Rida
This is an interesting song! I never would have thought of Flo Rida for this list but I remembered the chorus and researched the lyrics and it's a solid, positive song. Flo Rida sings (well raps) about loving the life you're living and about how working hard, really hard, leads to success. He also reflects on the feeling of beating the odds and living his dream.

STEREO HEARTS by Gym Class Heroes Ft. Adam Levine
This is a light, happy song, that is about love, but also can be applied to any relationship where two people love and support each other. 

HALL OF FAME by The Script Ft. Will I. Am
You may not know the band or recognize the song name but you will recognize it once you hear it. It's another song about working hard and becoming successful. The song also reminds children (and adults) you can be what you want - a  teacher, lawyer, preacher, doctor, whatever you dream is possible.

WHAT MAKES YOU BEAUTIFUL by One Direction
Sorry 1D haters, this makes the list because it's sweet, fun, light, and has no risque lines or curses. And it promotes positive self esteem too!

HOME by Philip Philips
A great song from a former American Idol winner about supporting and being there for each other.

KEEP YOUR HEAD UP by Andy Grammar
So catchy and fun! I always walk a little taller after hearing it.

LET'S GO by Calvin Harris Ft. Ne-Yo
This song is not as well know as some of the others but its a fun dance song with a catchy chorus. As you might guess from the title, it's about not procrastinating and taking action now.

FEEL AGAIN by Onerepublic
This is a song about healing after a break up but it might not be obvious. The lyrics make it clear that you can get through hard times with support and love. Just a note there are two versions and both mention "a gun" once (I never even noticed until I looked up the lyrics). The radio version says "just shy of a gun" but the album version says "Just shot a gun". Just FYI in case it affects your choice to use it or not.

DIFFERENT COLORS by Walk the Moon
This is a terrific, uplifting song that celebrates diversity. Everyone is different and unique but we can support each other and get along. There is one line that mentions "biting the bullet" which you may have to explain has nothing to do with an actual weapon. 

COOL KIDS by Echosmith
A song from this year by a band led by family members. It promotes the fact that you don't need to be a certain type of kid to be happy. The lyrics question the need to be a "cool kid" and points out it's best to be yourself. It is similar to the message of Different Colors but  a very different song.

HOUSE OF GOLD by Twenty One Pilots
This is a fascinating song which details a conversation between mother and son. She is discussing growing old and asks if he will take care of her and buy her a "house of gold". He says he will take care of her, love her, and keep her healthy. It's extremely rare to find a song about a mother and son so this is a neat one.

SHAKE IT OFF by Taylor Swift
Not much to say here. All the kids already know this song, so if someone is going to hate, just shake it off!

SAFE AND SOUND by Capital Cities
This is a fun song that you will probably recognize even if you have no idea who this band is. Its about positivity and knowing that with the support of a loved one, everything will be okay. There is one lyric which if someone is listening very hard, may ask about: "Even if we're six feet underground I know that we'll be safe and sound". Just so you know it's in there!

RIPTIDE by Vance Joy
This is a catchy one that I bet you've heard. Its about a crush and how fun the feeling is, but if you listen to it, you may not even notice what its about!

HURRICANE by The Vamps
This song may be familiar to you if you saw that movie Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible...To sum up, its about a happy, fun day!

THE MAN by Aloe Blacc
This is the song with the chorus, "You can tell everyone, oh you can tell everyone, I'm the man, I'm the man, I'm the man, yes I am, yes I am, Yes I am..." It's pretty positive overall! My research indicated there is an explicit version and a clean version but I listened to both and looked up both lyrics and didn't see anything questionable. Just to be safe look for the clean version.
The video below is the "clean" version.

I'M ONLY ME WHEN I'M WITH YOU by Taylor Swift
Another one from T. Swift this is about how you can really be yourself with those close friends and family members! Positive and fun!
Thanks for stopping by everyone! I appreciate you taking time out to check out this post! For my related post on 25 Oldies Songs to Use with Students, click here on on the image below. 

55 comments:

  1. Wow, you just saved a lot of people a lot of time, Bex! Thanks for your work, and for sharing this!
    Linda at Primary Inspiration

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    1. Linda, you are sweet! Thanks for swinging by and for commenting!

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    1. Thank you Sarah! They make me feel happy!

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  3. Great collection! Thanks for sharing

    Sally from Elementary Matters

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    1. Thanks so much for not only checking it out Sally but also leaving a comment!!

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  5. Thank you! I've been looking for a list like this for a loooong time!! Thank you for sharing your hard work!

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    1. Thanks Mandy! I appreciate you taking the time to stop by and read it!
      Bex

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  6. I love Hall of Fame! Except there is one "bad" word :( If I could find an edited version, I'd use it. Awesome list though! :)

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    1. The "walk straight through hell with a smile"? I missed that when I listened and read the lyrics - the google search lyrics I saw got cut off before it! Thanks for mentioning it! I will look for a replacement but maybe teachers of older students could get away with it. Thanks Alex!

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    2. I just adjust the volume for that line.

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  7. I love using songs for transitions and clean up. I love "Down on the Corner" by Street Corner Symphony and Feel Good By Tyrone Wells (he has a lot of great and inspiring songs). I love hall of Fame. I had my 1st graders dance to it for their 8th grade buddies at their graduation assembly. Great list!

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    1. Thanks Molly! I am excited - I don't know those two songs so I will check them out!
      Bex

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  8. Graduate teacher here, just soaking up all of the awesomeness that you are sharing!
    Thanks so much!

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    1. Wow Britt! Thanks so much for the compliment and coming by! You're so sweet!

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  9. Another suggestion would be "Gold" by Britt Nichole. It's about how sometimes people try to make you feel bad about yourself, but don't let it get you down because you're worth more than gold. I love it! It's super catchy!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9PjrtcHJPo

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    1. That's great! I love learning about new artists and that is a good song for this list!

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    2. This was our school song last year. Gold!

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  10. One of my favorites is "Brave" by Sara Bareilles. She has two videos of this song that I love. One has lyrics on the screen,

    https://youtu.be/xwTr_CRw3GY

    and the other has some great dance moves.

    https://youtu.be/QUQsqBqxoR4

    Thank you for compiling this list. It is greatly appreciated!

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    1. Terrific song! I can't believe I didn't think of it!

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    2. It's the best! I use it while students write about themselves. I find that it really helps relax and inspires them to use voice.

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  12. I love using songs in the classroom, but I would like some ideas to tie them to literacy standards. Ideas anyone?

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    1. Hi Tiffany! I am a music teacher and I pull in ELA, math, technology and science into lessons often. I would say to take the lyrics of a song from this list and do a unit on poetry. Then split your class into groups and have them choose from a list of songs you make available. Have the group then create new lyrics for a part or even the whole song. You could have the kids sing their new lyrics to a karaoke track, or use iMovie to make a little "music video" with their song. Hopefully this gets your creative juices flowing! :)

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    2. You can also use them for fluency practice...

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    3. You can also use the lyrics for fluency practice...my 4th graders lived it!

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    4. Songs are an amazing way to teach figurative language!

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  13. A fabulous find! thank you for do all the work finding these. You have saved me so much time. I'll see if I can return the favour.

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  14. A fabulous find! thank you for do all the work finding these. You have saved me so much time. I'll see if I can return the favour.

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  15. Thank you so much for this! I like to use a pop song with my elementary choir at the end of the year and thanks to this post I found one!

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  16. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS!!!! As a first year teacher you are helping out so much for having this available for others! THANKS AGAIN!

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  17. Coming across many lists of appropriate songs on pinterest, google, community forums, pages and sites this has to be of the highest quality. Thank you for taking the time to research and compile this list! It is truly great!!

    I will be using these in my classroom as will try some when I lead the whole school in singing.

    Brent from New Zealand

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  18. Thanks so much for this post! I've been making movies for years for my students and end up using the same songs so often because of the questionable lyrics of so many current songs. This will help broaden my horizons! :-)

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  19. Thanks so much for this post! I've been making movies for years for my students and end up using the same songs so often because of the questionable lyrics of so many current songs. This will help broaden my horizons! :-)

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  20. Hey! You're awesome! I do appreciate your time spent on making this list and SHARING it...wow! Thank you so much...GBY!!!!

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  21. Thank you for sharing this list! If you sign up for free on Gonoodle.com, you are more than welcome to check out Kids Bop Kids song videos as well as other song videos as well.

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    1. Thank you! We adore go noodle! We loved the Best Day of My Life video on GoNoodle and many others!

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  22. Every morning I start the day with music in my ELL classroom and we use www.lyricstraining.com. The students can watch the video and see the words at the same time. The website could also be used at a computer station as students can complete a cloze activity typing in missing words from the song as they listen.

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  23. Got another one for your list. The World's Greatest by R. Kelly.
    My Kindergarteners love pretending to be the different things in the song.

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    1. That's awesome! Thanks for the idea!

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  24. Got another one for your list. The World's Greatest by R. Kelly.
    My Kindergarteners love pretending to be the different things in the song.

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  25. Thanks for putting together such a great list of songs. We love to sing in 1st grade and my students will love adding some new songs.
    Could you tell me a little more about your end of the year video and what you do with it? I'm looking for new ideas for the end of the year. I would love to hear what others are doing for the end of the year in 1st grade as well.

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    1. I have a lot of pictures and videos I take during the year. Last year I used iMovie and just added most of them in, modified the time to 3-4 secs per pictures , and added 2 songs and it turned out about 8 minutes. We watched it about 4 times before the end of the year but because I didn't have photo releases for all the kids I couldn't put it on our blog or share with parents. Maybe this year!

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  26. Hi,
    I love this list of songs. Did you use the playlist as part of a lesson?

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  27. Hi! Thank you for sharing this list. I will surely find something for my fourth grade in Sweden. Last year we sang "Sun Is Shining" by Axwell and Ingrosso. The artists are from Sweden but are well known World wide I think. A great message in that song too.

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    1. Thank you for visiting the blog and sharing a song suggestion. Love it!

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  28. Thank you so much for your music compilations! We play them as an intro for our school-wide morning news show. One of my fifth graders suggested "Believe That" by the cast of The Lodge: https://youtu.be/fBoei2vILCc

    It is about overcoming obstacles and having a growth mindset. Loved it. ;)

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    1. Thank you for the suggestion ! I may do a follow up post!

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  29. Thanks for the awesome list of songs. FYI your Calvin Harris "Let's Go" video is not working.

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    1. Oh dear - thanks for the heads up!

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  30. Thanks for sharing this useful information.

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