Songs for Teaching ESL Students

Instructor: Allison Camps

Allison has taught in elementary school inclusion classrooms and has her master's degree in Special Education.

In this lesson, you will learn the benefits of using songs to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) students. Find out how to choose a song, as well as how to integrate songs into your ESL lessons.

Songs in the Classroom

From an early age, students are taught concepts through song. Think back to when you learned your alphabet, it was through a song. I still sing, 'Thirty days has September, April, June and November...' when I am setting up my calendar each month. Teachers often use songs to remember a pattern, introduce a concept and review vocabulary. Songs not only provide enjoyment, but also teach us.

Songs for ESL Students

Being that song lyrics are often catchy and stick with us, songs are beneficial to use when teaching ESL students. Often music is universal, meaning that even if a student does not speak the language of the lyrics, he/she will often recognize the tune. This gives the student motivation to learn. Among other benefits in the ESL classroom, songs can be used to:

  • Help with pronunciation
  • Teach word stress and intonation
  • Provide chunks of language to use in conversation
  • Reinforce vocabulary

Implementing in the Classroom

Choosing a Song

When using songs to teach ESL students, think about the following:

  1. Class Make-up: You want to choose songs that appeal to your students. If you are teaching a group of eighth grade ESL students, you want to choose a pop song rather than a nursery rhyme. You also want to be sensitive to your students' cultural backgrounds. Be sure to choose songs that do not offend anyone's beliefs.
  2. Lyrics: Be sure to choose lyrics that are easy to hear and flow. You want the lyrics to be simple and repetitive.
  3. Song Length: Remember, you will be playing this song numerous times in a given lesson. Shorter songs allow the students to remain focused.

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