Whether you’re teaching English as a second language to young children or adult learners, using songs to teach English in your classroom can be an effective way to enhance your students learning experience.
The Many Benefits of Songs to Learn English
- Songs can improve pronunciation: . By singing along with songs, learners can practice the rhythm and intonation of English, and improve their pronunciation skills in a fun and engaging way. This can help students feel more confident and comfortable when speaking English.
- Songs can teach vocabulary and grammar: The repetition and melody of a song can help students remember new words and phrases, and understand how they are used in context. Think of ‘ear worms’, songs you just can’t help but repeat in your head forever. They’re annoying if you’re already a native speaker, but they’re amazing for helping students who want to memorize some English lyrics intuitively. Songs also often contain examples of grammatical structures that can be difficult to teach through traditional methods.
- Songs can build listening skills: By listening to English songs, students can improve their ability to understand spoken English, including accents and different pronunciations.
- Songs can promote cultural understanding: Music is a universal language that can help students understand and appreciate different cultures. By incorporating songs from different countries and cultures into your ESL classroom, you can expose students to a variety of styles and perspectives, and encourage them to explore and appreciate diversity.
- Songs can create a positive learning environment: By singing and incorporating music into your lessons, you can help students feel more engaged and motivated, and create a sense of community and connection among your learners. Be sure to ask them about their favorite songs and discuss the differences between music in their home country and music in yours. You can even discuss traditional dances from around the world and get out of your chairs to try out some moves.
Here are my 4 picks for ESL songs to teach adults English
Here are four popular “ear worm” songs that are great for teaching English to adult ESL students:
- “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” by Justin Timberlake – This upbeat song is perfect for getting students up and moving, and contains lots of simple English vocabulary.
- “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong – This classic song is perfect for teaching descriptive language and is great for practicing pronunciation.
- “Let it Go” from Frozen – This popular Disney song is a great choice for teaching past tense verbs and is perfect for students who love Disney movies.
- “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston – This iconic ballad is great for teaching English pronunciation and intonation, and is perfect for students who love power ballads.
These songs are just a few examples of the many great songs that can be used to teach English to adult ESL students. When selecting songs, it’s important to choose ones that are appropriate for the age and language level of your students. Give these songs a try in your next ESL class and watch your students’ language skills soar!
And don’t forget to suggest they create Spotify playlists or Youtube playlists to continue their English immersion at home through songs. I made a post listing all the best music for ELL adult students. You can share it with your students and encourage them to build their own playlists to listen to before going to bed or as they run errands. If they want, they can share it with me and I’ll add it to the website if you think it’s really great!
My top 5 picks for songs to teach kids English.
These are my personal favorite songs for teaching English to kids. These are great for B&M classrooms and online classrooms, too. So, take a trip down memory lane and think back to when you learned your own alphabet. And, don’t forget the classics:
First, try “B I N G O”. “There was a farmer who had a dog and Bingo was his name-o…” A great song for practicing letters and phoneme recognition. Excellent for A1 students and any student who is still learning the English alphabet.
2. Old McDonald’s Farm
Similarly, you can try “Old McDonald’s farm,” which is a classic way to teach the names of all the animals. This is a great song for extensions, too. Maybe Old McDonald branched out and got some tigers and bears and hedgehogs and panthers and anteaters one day. If you need to stretch out your class, this is an ideal song to use at the end of class. It can also be differentiated for very advanced high school students: just have the farm include pangolins, okapi, fossa, axoloti, and so on.
3. “The Song that Doesn’t End”
Next, don’t forget Shari Lewis, who is truly an American national treasure. Her song in the beginning of Lamb Chop will get stuck in your student’s brain and the repetition will ensure they don’t forget about of the words. It includes lots of common verbs (it goes, singing, knowing, etc.) and is great for A2, pre-intermediate English students.
Try to teach advanced students these lyrics and see if they get the joke:
This is the song that doesn’t end
Yes, it goes on and on my friend.
Some people started singing it
Not knowing what it was.
4. The Hokey Pokey
Additionally, try teaching the names of the parts of the body by dancing and singing the Hokey Pokey!
The Hokey Pokey is really fun when teaching online. You can put your arms and legs ‘in’ the camera frame, and them take them ‘out’ again. It’s a great song for teaching beginner ELL students their prepositions (in, out, about). Take a brain break and have the kids play the hokey pokey dance. Get in and out of the camera field. Have the student echo your movements. Great for the little ones! It helps them learn their vocabulary for arms, legs, hands, and feet!
Put your left foot in
Your left foot out
Your left foot in
And shake it all about
You do the hokey pokey
And turn yourself around
5. Jack Hartmann’s Skip Counting
Then, peruse Jack Hartmann Kids Music Channel, which has 2.19M subscribers and rightly so. I dare you to watch these without breaking into a big smile. These songs are fantastic for teaching math and getting your kids moving. Also, be sure to check out his alphabet songs. These are perfect for A1 students and the littles.
7. School House Rock
Don’t forget the classic School House Rock is great for grammar and math. Are you teaching your kids about nouns, adjectives, and verbs? If so, Schoolhouse Rock is a great way to incorporate some fun into grammar.
8. Mr. Adam’s Songs for Students
Finally, check out Mr. Adam’s songs for students. Former keyboard player in U.K band Sika Redem, Adam left his Coventry roots in 2016 for an ESL teaching career in Hong Kong where he now writes songs for students. They are bangers!
Some songs are crated to help with certain linguistic devices in the English language or literature. Others celebrate the lives and achievements of heroic people throughout history.
There are more personalized songs to teach English written to engage and support specific ESL classes or students, too.
How should I incorporate singing into my lessons?
Don’t be afraid to get up and dance. You can use them as a class reward, even. Every time they do a great job, take a little dance break and be silly. Remember, with kids, you can always teach a funny song and it will be a big hit.
In conclusion, singing songs in your ESL classroom can have numerous benefits for your students, so why not try singing a song or two in your next ESL lesson? Your students will thank you! And, if you are wondering how to incorporate more song and dance into your online English classes, I suggest starting by downloading Manycam, a camera software that lets you share your video screen with kids online. This way, you can play fun song and dance videos for your students as a fun reward.
Here are some other catchy ways to improve your students’ English learning in the classroom:
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- Digital Nomad’s Guide: Teaching English Online in Vietnam
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