Songs in the ESL Classroom for Younger Beginners
Music-based learning is an effective technique to develop English proficiency within an early youth classroom. Classroom-based singing can create a fun learning environment and lead to the development of musical skills, social interaction, and English vocabulary.
This post was written by our ITTT graduate Patrick H.
The most effective method for younger learners is the use of various simple rhymes. Rhymes are simple in nature and may easily be adapted to the current material that is being taught. The teacher and students will benefit most from a circular seating arrangement as it allows both parties to interact amongst each other in clear viewpoint. It is important for the teacher to model the beat and enact a clear movement or sway; this will act as the main control mechanism while the students learn the words to the composition.
Examples of Suitable Rhyme Songs
Song selection is relative to the needs of the course content and its expansion into other parts of immersion within the classroom are quite infinite. The use of song rhyme variants such as “What’s your name?” and “I’m so happy to see...” can allow teachers to quickly learn the names of their students while creating brief teacher-student bonding moments. Three-word rhymes can also help create classroom etiquette such as when going downstairs or outside. An example of a three-word rhyme for going down a flight of stairs could include “down the stairs, one-by-one, hold the rails, here we go!”.
During an English lesson, the most popular songs as a warm-up may include the ABC song, Old Macdonald, and Mary Had a Little Lamb. You can also apply various rhymes to teach students about traditional topics such as family, weather, feelings, etc.
Also read: 11 Fun ESL Activities for Young Learners
Involving the Class
In the case of a substitution rhyme (Ex: Itsy bitsy spider), the teacher will lead the first 2-3 verses of the composition. Then while keeping the beat ask for suggestions from the class, this allows for creativity and expansion of English vocabulary. In the case of ‘Itsy, bitsy, spider’, a teacher may ask the class “This time should it be a big spider, or small spider?” or “What color should it be?”. The interactive class setting and input from students will make the session more meaningful and lead to more investment by individual students.
Other substitution songs such as ‘Old Macdonald’ may be used to expand animal vocabulary or ‘Ride Along’ may be used to expand vehicle vocabulary. When taking suggestions, it is important to not criticize or correct the child as this may cause them to become introverted during the session and hinder their creative learning process. It is also best not to single out a specific student during suggestions as it may create anxiety or hinder the extroversion needed in a musical environment
It is important that the students first learn the song without the instrumental. This will promote independent musical accuracy as they will not only have to listen and learn the words, but also sing in tune and follow the beat. Only after the class is fully competent in singing cohesively should the instrumental soundtrack be added.
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