Saturday, March 21, 2009

12 Keys to Using Songs for Teaching Children English as a Foreign Language

Teaching Children English Using Songs

In answer to a reader question on using songs for teaching Italian children English, I gave the following twelve quick keys. They’re equally effective, however, for children from any country, or of almost any age too for that matter.

Here they are:

1. You can use most songs for English Language Teaching, but learners usually prefer songs which are currently popular. Both you and your learners can collaborate on selecting songs.

2. You should also select songs with easy-to-understand lyrics, absolutely NO profanity, violent, illegal or immoral themes like sex, drug use, prostitution, gang violence, kill-your-mother, suicide, etc. (It’s easier to fall into this trap than you think. Many popular song lyrics are horrid)

3. For motivating children take along a dozen or so children's songs on cassette or CD with the lyrics. Beg, borrow or steal a selection of popular children’s songs and you’re all set. (Okay, don’t steal them, ask – politely, about a million times until they say “yes”)

4. Most popular song lyrics are available online. You’ll need to be very, very careful of downloads from sites like these since they frequently FULL of viruses, Trojans, worms and lord only knows what else.

5. Walt Disney has a truckload of great children's songs. Us e films and shorts directly or just a recording with display pictures for visual support.

6. In addition to the above keys, there are the standard children's favorites any primary song child or teacher can tell you. You can even use songs from your childhood, if you were ever a child, that is.

7. Use inter-active games and Total Physical Response (TPR) along with the songs. Choreograph simple moves and actions to the beat and rhythm of the song.

8. Keep a fairly fast-paced class going as children get bored and restless easily with their short, short, short attention spans. Change activities every 15 minutes or so – even LESS with tiny “Chiquiticos”.

9. Try incorporating some simple “dance” moves into the songs too for some added benefit. Have the “kiddies” ad lib, lip sync, pantomime, swing, sway kick, hop, slide, glide, whirl, spin, dip, step, jump and wave – you get my drift?

10. Use pictures as an aid in teaching key words in the song lyrics. Cutouts, posters, drawings, anything that provides positive visual support and reinforcement for lexical elements, grammatical them, connected speech, pronunciation or use in context is fair game in EFL classes for children (and adults too, actually)

11. Practice a couple of the songs and activities beforehand in front of a mirror on your own. (See how silly you look! That’s okay though, so don’t worry. We can’t see you)

12. Oh yes, and be sure to have lots of FUN yourself! Whoever said English and foreign language teachers can’t have fun too? (Certainly not me. Despite my scholarly appearance, sometimes I’m nuts in EFL classes!)

So “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.

I hope this helps you with using songs to teach English to children. Be sure to check out the other article posts of mine like "9 Reasons Why You Should Use Songs to Teach English as a Foreign Language" on this blog for teaching English using songs.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 100 countries. Get your FREE E-book, “If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: Need a blogger or copywriter to promote your school, institution, service or business or an experienced writer and vibrant SEO content for your website, blog or newsletter? Then E-mail me for further information.


Anonymous said...

This is a great article! I never cease to be amazed at the many valuable contributions good music makes to our learning and well being.

Ela said...

This is a great article! The style is so straightforward and tips very useful at the same time.

Carissa Peck said...

I am so glad you mentioned TPR not enough teacher's embrace this. Even with young adults I try to give them activities that keep them moving.

I LOVE using songs in the classroom (for stduents of all levels) and I am always a bit miffed with all I see online are clozes. In addition to your site I put together a quick blog on some other ways to use songs in the classroom.