Reasons Why Singing Songs Helps Children to Learn English
I have a great fascination and interest to teach English as well as proper study techniques to students of all ages. This next year, I plan on moving to China to teach English to young children. When contemplating these future endeavors, I plan on implementing songs as a method to help young children learn English. Singing songs is a fun, interactive method that engages the attention of children. When teaching children, I argue that singing songs is a great method to cultivate and maintain a strong foundation in their English language level.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Oni M. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Children and Learning
Young children can learn languages faster and with more ease compared to adults. Young students are categorized as young beginners meaning that they will most likely have lower motivation than adults because they have not made the conscious choice to study English and cannot see the benefits of learning English. When teaching children within the young beginner’s category, several important techniques can be used by the teacher.
Firstly, the aims of the lessons must be clear and realistic for young children, thus not challenging children to a great extent in the beginning. Also, the teacher must aim to adapt the lessons to the students with regards to their culture, native language, age, and interests with lots of visuals present. Also, the teacher must aim to have clear, simple instructions with the slow pacing of the presentation of the lesson.
In essence, singing songs can encompass all of the techniques aforementioned. Also, young beginners in China do not have a foundation of the Roman alphabet. This could create potential problems as certain sounds and intonations are not common in Chinese. Thus, more time on literacy skill work will be needed. However, for the sake of speaking and listening, singing songs can prove to be a successful method for teaching young beginners.
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How to Choose Songs for The Lesson
When teaching young children through singing songs, the teacher should plan to incorporate simple, slow and catchy songs. For example, a common song a teacher could use is the alphabet song to teach the English alphabet. When singing songs in class, the teacher could have a colorful video on the overhead projector so that the children can see the letters to accompany the sounds they are speaking.
Also, the songs should have pictures associated with each letter so the children can make meaningful connections. The teacher should plan to replay the video at least three times a class session to increase repetitions, but not too many times as to respect the short attention span of the children and avoid boredom. Furthermore, the teacher should plan to take notes based on the song choices to see how the children respond to the songs and the videos.
The songs and videos must be fun, varied, and at an appropriate pace so that the children will remember the material and enjoy the process. The teacher could use the song in a study phase before or after diving deeper into the topic. For example, if the teacher is singing a song related to pandas, common vocabulary should be introduced before the song such as “panda”, “bamboo”, and “sleepy”. Also, the teacher could start with an engage phase showing a video or pictures of pandas and then begin to teach appropriate vocabulary afterward before moving onto the songs. The songs should not include a large number of words or difficult words. Keywords must be repeated multiple times in the song.
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Another benefit of singing songs is that it not only works for small groups but also larger groups. It is a type of choral repetition that engages all students in the class. It does not put anyone student on the spot and can thus reduce peer pressure or anxiety.
At the end of each song, the teacher should share positive reinforcement, positive gestures, and smiles to ensure that attention and approval are given to the class and each student. This is highly important when teaching children to build self-confidence and increase motivation to learn English.
The alphabet is one example of a song that a teacher could use with the children in the class. When working in China, I also plan on using English songs that relate to certain animals within their cultures. For example, I will use a video that includes all animals from the Chinese lunar calendar. Or if all students are the same age, I will find a video that focuses on the animal associated with their year of birth. Or I could choose an animal that is salient to the Chinese culture that children like such as a panda. This is effective as the children will be more motivated to learn as they can make meaningful connections to the panda.
Any song that the teacher chooses to use should be sung many days to increase repetitions so that the students can remember the song and retain the key information. Once the students start to remember the songs, the teacher can start relating other lessons to the songs to make meaningful connections for the students.
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There should be high repetitions, slow pacing, clear pronunciation, use of high pitch, and clear intonation. Furthermore, the songs should draw the attention of the children with colors, stimulation, and variety. In conclusion, singing songs is an efficient and effective method for cultivating and maintaining a strong foundation in speaking and listening to English skills for young beginning students.
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