10 Tried and True Steps For Vocabulary Teaching With Music


We all know how important it is to embed music into our cirriculum.

What are the benefits ? Well, just applying it, you give your learners a chance to grow socially, you help them with their cognitive development, automaticity, and physical abilities. Ans also we all know that when  taught in a fun and creative way, students learn better, easier and they love coming to class. Using music in the classroom is one of the easiest ways for teachers to achieve success with L2 learners.

Why to use songs in an ESL classroom? We use them for warm-up, cool-down, following directions, introducing new vocabulary and structure, teaching grammar, dancing, and games and so on.

And how to use it?  Here is what I usually do when I am introducing new vocabulary items.

1. Choosing the song

If you are teaching a song that you found from a website and want to teach vocabulary on a specific subject, you need to be very picky. Because I believe most English songs are way too difficult for younger learners. Moreover, they are not easy to learn and often contained lyrics that aren’t very useful at all. So go for the easiest and also at the same time the most useful one.

2. Quality check

If  the song has a video that you want to share with your students, make sure to watch it in advance for two main reasons. First is the quality of the video, and the second one is the content. Sometimes videos, even if they are meant for little kids, might have some little surprises for you that you actually don’t want your students to watch in the class.

3. Learn the song before the lesson

Before teaching the song in the class,  you as a teacher have to learn the song  by heart. Even though I am very good at music, I forget the lines sometimes. So just to make it sure, I put the lyrics somewhere close to my eyes. But if you keep looking at the lyrics and your students recognize it, they might think you don’t know the song at all. Probably it will create a bad image.

4. Dance – Game or Drama

Teaching a song to your students is good. Teaching a song with a game or moves that go with it or simply just dancing while singing is awesome! I usually let them dance while they are singing and they also do action movements that describe the song. We usually quickly decide on the movements together and apply. Below you can watch an example. It is an adopted song, and it goes by the name ‘You are my snowman’. The original song belongs to Johnny Cash  ‘You are my sunshine’. Here my students were asked to sing the song and do any movements that goes with the lyrics.

5. Teach the new words

You may either write the lyrics on the board or on a paper and introduce the new and important vocabulary. Or if you like, you can use colorful flashcards to teach the vocabulay items. Here it really depends on your vocabulary teaching style.

6- A capella

Before giving them the actual video or music, teach the song ‘a capella’. It makes it easier for them to concentrate on the lyrics and keeps the enthusiasm for the song last longer. Teach the song line by line and each time try to give the actual tone. You may not feel comfortable with your voice, but believe me they don’t really care about your being out of tune or anything. But if you really don’t think you can sing, you may leave the job to the video.

7- Introduce the actual song

You can either ask them to only listen to the video or sing along with it. Have them sing the song at least 2 times.

8- Repetition

Young learners have a tendency to learn quickly which is a good thing for a teacher, but at the same time a tendency to forget quickly. One day you teach a song and they might forget everything by the next lesson. After teaching the song, do not forget to repeat it the following day and sing it at least one time a week until everybody learn it by heart. Or if you don’t have time for that, you can also play it during the break time as a welcome or good-bye.

9- Visualization

It is very helpful to visualize the things you teach. When I teach a new song, I also prepare a song poster and put it to our ‘music’ corner. Here is an example of what I mean by a poster.

10. Challenge your students

Young learners are always hungry for new songs. You teach them one, but that is not enough. They want to learn other songs, they want to learn more and more, so unless they really like it, singing an old song can be boring for them. In these kind of situations, I do some tricks.

Students love challenges. So what can be a challenge here? For example a karaoke. The week I teach a song or the following one, I say, ‘Well, I have the karaoke for this song. Do you remember the song  and believe you can sing it good enough?’. And they go ‘Yes!!’  They love karaoke. So if you- it’s not so hard anymore thanks to youtube or such websites– find the karaoke of the song you taught, take it to the class and let your students be the actual singers of that song.

An another challenge could be singing the song in different tones of voice, singing the song very fast or slow. The list can be made longer. Anything you can think of and that is interesting for your students.

This is how I do it. I hope you find it useful.

Try to embed music into your lessons as much as you can and you will see the benefits. At least once or twice a week like Mr. Oliver Wendell Holmes said:

Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons.  You will find it is to the soul what a water bath is to the body.

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