USING MUSIC IN THE CLASSROOM
Music is an amazing tool for teaching languages, especially to children. Good songs will bounce around in a learner’s head long after their lesson is over. Young learners pick up vocabulary, grammatical structures, and the rhythm of the language simply by doing what they already love to do…singing.
In addition, music can serve a variety of functions in your classroom, at home, or even in the car. Music can set a mood. Music can signal a transition from one activity to another (for both the teacher and the student). Music can be a bonding experience.
TEACHING 2 AND 3 YEAR OLDS
It’s important to understand that children from 2-3 years old have very limited vocabularies in their first languages, and from the age of 2 are generally just beginning to string together utterances of more than one word. As such, the main focus with such young learners is not on language production, but language comprehension. You’ll want to engage the children in interesting, comprehensible activities while providing them with lots and lots of English input. Don’t pressure the children to speak…they will when they are ready.
HOW DO I TEACH A NEW SONG?
Music is a great tool to use in the classroom for young learners who are developing language skills, but what is the best way to introduce a new song to children? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Introduce songs as background music first.
When learning a new song, kids need to learn the tune, the time, the rhythm and sometimes even gestures and dance. We can’t just focus on the lyrics. Even if they know the lyrics, they can’t really sing the song until they know the tune. Help students learn the tune by playing the song as background music as they enter the classroom or while they are doing a quiet activity. The kids will internalize the tune, and when you formally introduce the song in class, you will be able to focus more on the words.
2. Input comes before output
Listening comes before speaking, or in this case, singing. Don’t expect your students to sing the songs right away. The first time or two you play a new song, have the students listen and do the gestures to the song with you. As they watch you and follow the gestures, they’ll be learning the song in the process. After one or two times, they’ll likely be singing along.
If you like, introduce a song in phases. First, demonstrate the vocabulary and gestures without the music, then listen to the song and do the gestures; finally, listen, gesture and sing.
3. Use visual aids
Some songs have more of a story to them and can be difficult to teach by gesture alone. For these, you can teach the song with visual aids.
4. Repetition is good
Remember that with very young learners (4 years and younger), they enjoy the familiarity of hearing a song over and over. You can use their favorites almost every week. If you are using a song frequently, understand that there is no need for them to sing right away…let them become comfortable with it and sing when they are ready (they will!).
As the kids grow older, you don’t want to repeat songs as much. Students will still have their favorites that they like to sing, but you won’t be repeating songs every week like you do with the younger learners. In this case, you’ll need to build more exposure to the song into one or two lessons, and then go back to it every once in a while for review.