Music is a staple in the young learners’ classroom. That’s my opinion at least. Music is a huge part of my lessons, especially with very young learners. In this post I’m going to explore why I use music so much and the variety of ways in which I put it into practice. I hope you find something useful and if you have anything to share, please do so in the comments section.
Why use music with young learners?
There are many reasons to use songs in the classroom. First and foremost, they’re fun! Not all children react the same way to music: some dive right in and start moving to the beat while trying to sing along; others prefer to watch their classmates and listen. Either way, they’re enjoying the music and participating. Music grabs their attention and provides us with some really enjoyable moments in class.
Songs are also memorable. It’s easier for young learners to remember the phrases we sang as part of a song than to try to recall the question we all asked each other in circle time. Some songs have that catchy quality to them that make it impossible to get them out of your head. That makes for a great song in the classroom.
Another reason to use songs is that they are made up of chunks of useful language. It gives the children a context for the target language and the vocabulary we’re focusing on. Singing a song (especially without the CD) can serve as a substitute for drilling those chunks of language that the teacher wants to practice. The fact that it’s part of a song makes the process seem worthwhile to the young learners.
How can I use songs in the classroom?
You can use music at any stage of a lesson and for a variety of purposes. I use songs with my younger learners (ages 4-7) every single day of class. Below are some ideas on how to exploit songs to their fullest potential.
I generally use three phases when using songs with children and for a lack of better terms I’ll use the following: presentation, practice and production. (I suppose the process is similar to the PPP method but that’s not really my intention).
I always learn the songs at home before presenting them in class. I practice and practice until I can sing as well as mime the song without having to think about it too much. This frees up my attention so that I can work on getting the children involved.
When I play a song for the first time, I always sing along and show the pupils the mimes we can use with the song. Mimes are a crucial part of using music with young learners. They help reinforce meaning as well as give the pupils an opportunity to move around and get rid of some of their energy. I always encourage and never force pupils to participate. As stated above, everyone responds differently to music. Some need some time to organize the tune and the mimes in their heads before joining in. Others may never participate as actively as the teacher would like but as long as they’re listening and observing, they’re making use of the song.
After we listen to a song, I like to sing it again without the CD and sort of break it down for them. I guess it could be considered a controlled practice of the song. We practice the chunks of language, the difficult sounds, the intonation and the tune. We also discuss meaning and I rely heavily on mimes in expressing what the chunks and words mean. I also sometimes use L1 if necessary because I want them to relate to and understand what they’re hearing.
Then we move on to a more free practice and we sing the song every chance we get, with and without the CD. Sometimes when they’re working on a worksheet or in their books, I’ll start singing one of the class songs and they’ll join in. It’s a great way to keep them focused but revise songs at the same time. For more ideas on how to incorporate music into your lessons, see this page from Super Simple Learning.
I’ve included a production phase in this process but it may not always be possible, depending on your teaching situation. In my classroom, I use my mobile to record videos of the children singing the songs and post them on glogster pages (if you do something similar, I’d recommend getting parents’ authorizations first). I also invite the parents of the pre-schoolers to observe the last lesson of the trimester so they can have a glimpse of what we’re learning and how. These forms of production seem to motivate the pupils and allow them to enjoy showing their parents and loved ones what they have learned.
How do you use music in your classroom and why?