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Using Songs with Young Learners

Why to use songs with young children:

  1. They are memorable, and so make students remember the language

  2. They can be great fun

  3. They cover the same topics as they kids are covering in the English lessons and other classes: animals (Old Macdonald), body parts (Teddy Bear Teddy Bear) etc.

  4. They are the best way of marking different stages of the lesson

  5. Students can listen to the songs at home and revise the language

  6. They provide an easy way of changing the pace, e.g. settling down restless students with a lullaby-like calming song (Incy Wincy Spider etc.) or wearing them out with a manic, lively song (YMCA etc.)

  7. They provide an achievable challenge for all levels of learner in mixed ability classes, by letting some students just show their understanding by doing the actions while others can sing along or even improvise their own words

  8. They allow for lots of repetition of the language without kids getting bored (as long as you add variations), vital for learning in small children. Variations to keep it interesting include doing the song louder and quieter, slower and faster etc.

Next question is how songs should be used. Here are some general principles for making a song ‘work’. First of all, what does ‘work’ mean? What are we aiming for when we use a song in class? Here are some of the things we might want to achieve by using a song:

  1. Students have fun and are therefore motivated for the rest of the lesson and future lessons

  2. Students learn quicker than with other methods

  3. Students remember longer than with other methods

  4. Students lose some of their inhibitions about speaking out, using rhythm and intonation when speaking, moving around and using gestures etc.

  5. Using the song reinforces other things you are working on in the classroom such as discipline, teaching kids to work together, rewarding good behaviour, fostering learner independence etc.

To make sure we achieve those things we will need to make sure that:

  1. The meaning of the song’s words can be made clear in a quick and easy way

  2. Whether the students understand the meaning of the song or not is easy to gauge

  3. The meanings and the song are easy to remember

  4. The song is suitable for the students in terms of age, speed, content, embarrassment factor

  5. The language in the song is similar to language they will be able to use in other parts of the class and/ or outside the class


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