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Using Music to Enrich EFL Teaching for Young Learners

Admin - Jul 18 2016

Teaching English to Young Learners with Music!

Music has a way of touching the soul like nothing else. As such, it is an indispensable tool in any English teacher’s arsenal. Keeping young 

EFL students interested and engaged is often a daunting task, however, utilising teaching techniques involving music could go a long way towards enriching the learning experience, while teaching valuable English skills. All the while, it is important to keep in mind appropriate use of music in the classroom, as it could have detrimental affects if used incorrectly. When used in a suitable manner, music is an invaluable resource and has a tendency of bringing about a positive atmosphere to the classroom. The first step is investing in a CD player and we could start changing some lives.


Morning Songs

Play English songs in the morning as students enter the classroom, this sets the tone for the day and eases them into a foreign environment (the classroom). Students will begin the day with a positive attitude and it helps them get into the ideal mindset to learn. Use music as a warm-up tool and choose a song with a decent hook and chorus that students could easily repeat. Teachers could potentially incorporate some physically activities like finger movements or dance steps to get their students’ blood flowing and minds working. This positive conditioning will lead young students to connect learning English with positive feelings and emotions. A happy student is a student best capable of learning and storing the fundamental English skills taught. Encourage students to sing along if they prefer, this allows them to wake up in the morning and be geared for learning. Furthermore, it allows students to learn lyrics; remember, dictation is the best method for improving one’s pronunciation.


Nursery Rhymes

Nursey rhymes are the foremost used musical technique when teaching English to young students. It allows students to sing along, imitate the teachers moves, and learn a few dance steps in the process. It is best employed for a classroom of kindergarten or elementary school students. Students view this as engaging in an activity and do not consider it a learning experience. However, they are able to pick up valuable syntax and vocabulary knowledge by listening and singing along to nursery rhymes. Group singing is a valuable tool in promoting comradery and allows students to familiarize themselves with one another. “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Five in the Bed” are two useful rhymes to teach younger children. Furthermore, seasonal songs should be incorporated whenever possible; “Walking in the Winter Wonderland” is ideal for the winter season. Similarly, this Youtube video has some catchy Halloween nursey rhymes for youngsters:


It is important to choose catchy nursery rhymes and things students could easily remember and repeat. Song lyrics sheets are counter-productive during these exercises as it reminds students of traditional approaches to learning English.


Theme Songs

Choosing a theme song appropriate for your classroom and school is a great exercise to make students feel more at home and connected to the learning experience. Determine a song that is appropriate for the region you are teaching at. “Yankee Doodle” for American students and “London Bridge” for British pupils would be ideal. Many schools also have school songs, teachers could allow students to incorporate school themes and make parodies of songs to promote creative thinking. Students will feel a strong attachment, a sense of belong to the school, and encourage them to want to learn English in general. A good approach to take is to take the rhythm and tune of a popular piece and create a catchy song for students to sing. “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”, and “It’s a Small World After All” are prime candidates for creating your very on classroom theme song.



Song Lyrics

It is important to choose the right type of song. You want an engaged classroom, not a fanatic one. Gauge the mood of your students, if they are in an active mindset, choose slower, melodic songs. When students are in a sedate mood, choose upbeat or rock-oriented songs. Queen’s “We Will Rock You”, The Beatles “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah”, and “Hip Hop Hurray” by Naughty By Nature are suitable songs when teaching a classroom of elementary students. These songs have choruses and/or hooks that are easy to repeat and students will have fun singing along to them. Furthermore, these songs are best used to review grammar and vocabulary taught in previous units. Young children are easily impressionable; you must avoid choosing songs with excessive profanity or other adult content.


Once students are familiar with the basics and have a grasp on vocabulary, music is a great way of practicing the speed, pace, and flow of spoken language. For example, Disney songs such as “Let it Go” allows students to work on vocalizing and practicing the speed of the English language. For best results, you as the teacher should slowly dictate the song two times prior to your students singing aloud. For this exercise it is important to keep body movements to a minimum and get students to focus on pronunciation and delivery of the words to the song. Students often skim through, or even neglect, difficult words and phrases in favor of dance movements, it is crucial that the focus should be on the content of the songs for this particular activity.


Cultural Understanding

Foreign students embarking on their journey of learning English have a difficult time adjusting to the cultural changes. Music is a great way to bridge that gap. By analyzing the lyrics of songs, students can gain a deeper understanding of the culture around them. Songs from the 70s and 80s give a snapshot of those eras and how life was experienced by those living through that time period. A better understanding of the culture allows students to better embrace the English language and it makes the transition smoother.




It is no secret that music plays a large role in our lives. Regardless of age, gender, or culture music is all around us. It is in our nature to be fond of music and love everything it has to offer. As such, it is a value asset when it comes to teaching the wonders of English to young ESL students. Songs could be used early in the day as a warm-up to set the mood for the day, and nursery rhymes and songs from pop culture can be further utilized to enhance the learning experience. Moreover, music is a tremendous tool to bridge the gap and teach cultural understand to students new to a region. The possibilities are endless, and as a teacher you could make magic happen through this wonderful tool; music.

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