We love teaching English using songs – just look at our great collection of ESL song lesson plans! And from experience you’ve probably seen that most students love teachers bringing songs into the classroom; but are there any proven benefits of teaching ESL through songs? So far there has been relatively little research in the field, but here we present 20 reasons why you should consider using songs more often in your ESL lessons:
- Most students are highly motivated by song based activities, which they perceive to be fun.
- You can create ESL lessons around songs that can be used to practise any of the main language skills.
- Grammar can be surreptitiously presented or practised through songs!
- Music can relax, disinhibit and simultaneously stimulate students. These affective responses to music are optimum for learning.(1)
- Playing a song immediately affects class atmosphere. You can use it to calm, energise…
- There is often a lot of repetition in songs, which can aid long-term memory. Just think about all those lyrics that get stuck in your head!
- The rhythmical aspect of music also aids rote memorisation.(2)
- Research shows that students may retain more vocabulary when presented through a song.(3)
- Popular music is a highly accessible source of authentic language. Music isn’t scary; it’s part of students’ lives outside the classroom. Even your beginner level students probably listen to music with lyrics in English.
- Bringing music to class can help break down barriers, enabling students to better relate to their teacher and classmates.
- Students may feel more fluent singing along to song lyrics than they do speaking a foreign language, so this builds confidence.
- Music with lyrics engages both sides of the brain so becomes a powerful learning tool.(4)
- Using music to teach a second language is consistent with Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences.(2)
- A range of colloquial language can easily be introduced through songs.
- Most lyrics need to be interpreted, and regular practise of this may improve prediction and comprehension skills.
- Popular songs cover a wide variety of general interest topics so are perfect for theme based lessons.
- References in lyrics provide a means to integrate cultural dimensions in a lesson.
- Music can help language learners to learn good pronunciation. Melodies and rhymes guide learners to speak in a native cadence.(5)
- Students may learn to segment new words more effectively when learning through song. This could be especially beneficial in the first phase of language learning.(6)
- Using songs in your lessons is a great way to encourage students to do so outside of class, providing essential extra-curricular listening practise.
So how exactly should you go about including songs in your lessons? Most importantly, remember that to maximise the benefits you must keep standard language teaching methods in mind. Perhaps one of the most popular ways of using songs in class are cloze (‘listen and fill the gap’) activities, but there is so much more you can do with songs in the classroom. Why not browse our other articles for more tips and information. Or take a look at the complete ESL song lessons here on Tefl Tunes for inspiration.
- Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition: Krashen, S.; 1982; Oxford: Pergamon Press.
- Language, Literacy, and Academic Development for English language Learners; Lalas, J, Lee, S.; 2002; Pearson Educational Publishing
- The effect of music on second language vocabulary acquisition: Medina, S.; 1993; FEES National Network for Early Language Learning, 6 (3), 1-8
- Enhancing Acquisition through Music: Lake, R; 2003; Journal of the Imagination for Language Learning (VII)
- How Music Helps Language Learning: Farrug, D.; 2008; Language Study Suite 101.com
- Songs as an aid for language acquisition: Schon et al; Cognition; Feb 2008; 106(2):975-83
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