The Importance of Songs in the Children’s ESL Classroom

January 28, 2008 at 9:09 am | Posted in Teaching ESL Songs | 2 Comments
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I’m currently teaching English in Japan. Every time I visit a school to teach, I always hear music. Kids are singing, dancing and playing to music. Of course, being in Japan the songs are in Japanese. So how does this translate to the ESL classroom? First of all using music creates a comfortable environment. Something the students are used to, in what at first can be a very unfamiliar environment. If you are using the right songs, it can really set the mood and enhance the good feelings of a class.

Learning Language through Songs

I feel it is really important to pre-teach language used in songs. However, I have been in situations where this isn’t always possible. What always amazes me is through repetition, the kids start singing the songs in English. Why is this? Well of course because of the repetition, for one. Also, if you will allow me to theorize for a moment, from a very young age children are learning songs that they might not yet understand the words for in their native language. So the learning of songs, and lyrics, is a learned habit. I know my daughter was singing songs before she could talk.

And Finally….

It’s fun! Maybe this should have come first. I really enjoy singing and dancing with my students, and by their smiling faces, and great singing in English, they do too!

Off to teach…..

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Teaching Children an English Song using the 1,2,3, Go! Method

January 26, 2008 at 5:35 am | Posted in Children's Classes, Teaching ESL Songs | 2 Comments
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I introduced the 1,2,3 Go! Method in the previous post. I feel like riffing a bit on that idea today, so lets talk about teaching children a new song using the 1,2,3,Go! Method.

If possible, it is great to have the students listen to the song a few times before practicing. This way it gets into their heads a bit. You can do this by playing it a few times before class starts, or after a class ends. All of my students have the Dream English Kids Songs CD that I use in my classes. This is really great because they listen to the music at home, and are already familiar with it when they come into class.

Let’s talk about teaching the Dream English “Let’s Count” song. So here we 1,2,3 Go!

1. Preteach the vocabulary- In this case the lyrics are mainly numbers and some actions. You can review the numbers before you start with the song. Then teach the simple actions, and have the students do them with you. In this case: 1,2,3 step forward; 1,2,3 step back; 1,2,3 spin around.
2. Next add actions and practice singing the song with the actions. I use a simple clapping left to right in a big semi cirlcle (1,2,3,4,5) and then right to left (6,7,8,9,10), then of course jump!
3. Go! Now sing the song with the students and music.

You can apply this same method with any other song. The Let’s Count song is available on Dream English Kids Songs Volume 1, and as a free download here. So give it a try, and let me know how it goes!

The 1,2,3,Go! Method

January 24, 2008 at 12:58 pm | Posted in Children's Classes | Leave a comment
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Below is a video made by Shari, an English Teacher in Thailand. The kids are singing the Dream English Jingle Bells song. I think this video shows a good example of what I am talking about with pacing. For young learners of English Jingle Bells can be a difficult song. My idea in rearranging the song was to pace the song into three sections:

1. Repeating the Christmas Vocabulary- This is relatively easy as the kids simply repeat the words after me. You can see this well in the video.
2. Jingle Bells Lyrics- A little more difficult, the students have to memorize the words, and sing along. These kids did great!
3. Actions- A little relief from difficult vocabulary, the children can simply repeat the actions. I think it is very cute here how they repeat the action word twice, “Jump, jump!”

I think this song works well, and the pacing ideas behind it can be applied well to a class. Why not warm up your class with simply repeating some vocabulary. Once the kids are warmed up speaking English, try some longer phrases. Just as the kids are at the point of tiring, or getting restless, have them do some fun actions that they already know. This way they feel they are really understanding and participating in what is going on.

This cycle can be repeated with different songs, subjects, or activities within a class. Let’s call this, for fun, the 1,2,3, Go! method. If you apply the 1,2,3,Go! method to coloring in the letter A, it would look like this:

1. Introduce the colors of the crayons by having the kids repeat the names of the colors.
2. After they are ok with the color names, introduce a phrase like, “ I like blue.” This could take a few lessons with younger kids.
3. Go! Have the students start coloring. Certainly an activity they are familiar with.

Teaching Children English with Songs

January 17, 2008 at 11:49 am | Posted in Teaching ESL Songs | Leave a comment
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This is a quick tip in a series I am starting about how to use songs in the ESL Children’s classroom. I have been writing and using songs to teach English in Japan for over a year now, and have learned some things that might be useful.

This Weeks Tip: Sing Louder!

When you are singing a song with your students, simply ask them to sing louder. Often the kids can be shy, but actually can sing the song. Sometimes even on the first try of a song I ask the students to sing louder. They really try to say the words, even if they don’t know them yet. Of course it always best to pre-teach the vocabulary and lyrics. Happy Singing!

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