Repitition & Rhythm - Using Songs in the EFL Classroom
2019-05-13 Linda Dunsmore Alumni Experiences
Songs, what are songs? Merriam-Webster define a song as a short poem or other set of words set to music or meant to be sung OR a single (and often standalone) work of music that is typically intended to be sung by the human voice with distinct and fixed pitches and patterns using sound and silence and a variety of forms that often include the repetition of sections. I will like to emphasize on some major factors that makes songs in the classroom very important in learning a new language and the general upbringing of children.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Banda J.
Repitition & Rhythm
The terms “repetition” and “rhythm” are vital in the classroom, according to psychologists; they claim that “songs help the body and mind work together, it has been found to stimulate parts of the brain, and also studies have demonstrated that music enhances the memory”. Exposing children to songs during early development helps them learn the sounds and meanings of words. Dancing to songs helps children build motor skills while allowing them to practice self-expression. For children and adults, songs help strengthen memory skills. Retentive memory can be achieved in kids through repetition and strong rhythms, I can recall that there was a study in 2016 at the University of Southern California, and it was found that musical experiences in childhood can actually accelerate brain development, particularly in the areas of language acquisition and reading skills.
Using Music, Songs and Rhymes as a Teaching Aid
I remembered when I started teaching English abroad, I had no one to put me through, no one to give me insights or share experience with me, I was literally stranded and had to learn all skills all by myself. At first, my classes were very boring I must admit; because I focused only on board work, teaching per se and left out the fun part which is using music, songs and rhymes as a medium to aid proper English Language learning in the classroom. Some of my students do not like seeing me at some point, co-teachers and my headmistress often complain that some children sleep off during my lessons, I felt incompetent and devastated.
Songs - a Tool for Memorization, Coordination, and Imagination
However, I promised myself to change the situation of things by attending other classes conducted by more experienced ESL teachers then I realized their tiny secret which is songs, music and movement (dance). After attending their classes on two different occasion I found out that songs actually help develop language and reasoning, a tool for mastery of memorization, increases coordination, builds imagination and intellectual curiosity and keeps the children constantly engaged in the classroom.
I discovered a lot of interesting activities that can be organized with songs. I think, that the songs are one of the best methods of familiarizing students with a new theme, or reviewing some forgotten grammar rules, or increasing the vocabulary of the students. While listening to music you enjoy as the same time you sharpen your language skills. Also, I agree, both reading and listening skills can be improved by listening to the songs with lyrics.
Carefully Selecting Songs
Children of all ages express themselves through music. Even young infants bounce and move their hands in response to music, it doesn’t matter whether they are sure of the lyrics or not., they just follow the rhythm. Many preschoolers even make up songs and, with no self-consciousness, sing to themselves as they play. This is the part where the teacher must make sure to include the basic vocabularies or sentences to be taught in the class in the composed songs or he can carefully select from popular songs available. As far as I know, repetition creates retention or remembrance; while rhythm creates the fun and interest in the learning process, so the combination of the two creates a very stimulating environment in the classroom, kids likes to move and sing at any phrase or even mimicking a fellow’s name. As an ESL teacher, I can’t imagine what the mood of any classroom or perhaps mine will look like without music or songs involved.
A. For toddlers: Silly songs make toddlers laugh, try to sing a familiar song and insert a silly word in the place of the correct word, like “Mary had a little spider” instead of lamb. The key to toddler music is repetition, which encourages language and memorization.
B. For Preschoolers: They like songs that repeat words and melodies, use rhythms with a definite beat, and ask them to do things. Preschool children enjoy nursery rhymes and songs about familiar things like toys, animals, play activities, and people.
C. For Teens: Teenagers may use musical experiences to form friendships and to set themselves apart from parents and younger kids.
Final Things To Consider
Finally, the process of selecting a song is one of the most difficult aspects of using music in a lesson. Here are some things I probably need to think about to ensure that I get the right song for each lesson. I must carefully examine what it is I want my students to learn in the lesson, is it going to be a lesson focused on vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, or a particular topic? What is the language level of my class, how old are my learners? The answers to these questions will guide me to which songs I will eventually use. In teaching of English, the use of songs in the classroom MUST NOT be ignored.
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