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The universal benefits of songs as teaching tools

Children singing in classSongs are a great way for children to learn English. In this post, Devon Thagard, co-owner of Super Simple Learning and songwriter for the new Primary level course, Everybody Up, explores the benefits of using songs in class.

This past year, I had the great pleasure to be involved in the Everybody Up Global Sing-along as one of the songwriters, a contest judge, and a workshop leader. The entire experience reinforced and reminded me of the strong feelings I have about 1) the power of songs in the classroom, and 2) the importance of learning from other teachers.

The Global Sing-along received over 70 entries from countries all over the world. When you see classrooms around the world all enjoying singing the same songs, it really brings home the universal benefits of songs as teaching tools. Songs allow all ages to participate and learn at their levels. In the Global Sing-along videos, we see pre-schoolers and kindergartners (like these great students from Ukraine) doing some very simple dancing, picking up a few words, and getting a feel for the rhythm. For very young students who are just beginning to learn English, songs provide a fun, welcoming way to get that oh-so-valuable input, and gestures and dancing help them understand and internalize the meaning.

Older and more advanced students are able go beyond the basics and to express their creativity with songs. As students move into higher grades, they may be a little more reluctant to sing and dance as they did in kindergarten, but that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy learning with songs, and the benefits of the repeated exposure to comprehensible input continue. At all ages, students are learning vocabulary, pronunciation, intonation, the rhythm of the language, listening skills, and more. Here are some great examples from Thailand, Korea, Turkey and France.

It’s also fantastic to be able to visit our fellow teachers’ classrooms around the world through video. Just having the chance to see how the classrooms are arranged and decorated sparks a lot of great ideas, but being able to see how teachers are using dance, crafts, instruments, and drama together with songs is really inspiring. If you haven’t already, browse the playlist of Global Sing-along videos. I’m sure you’ll come away from it with several great ideas for your classroom.

How do you use songs in your classes?

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Why should songs be used MORE in the Young Learners classroom?

Children singing in classSongs are a great way for children to learn English. But what other benefits does using songs in the classroom bring? In this post, Devon Thagard, co-owner of Super Simple Learning and songwriter for the new primary course, Everybody Up, shares his thoughts.

My first day teaching a class of kindergarteners many years ago started with me greeting the students one by one at the classroom door. When I turned around after greeting the final student in line, I discovered that, before the lesson had even started, I’d lost all control. With my back turned for a minute, the children’s nervous energy had them running around the room, screaming, and tearing apart the foam tile ABC carpet I had laid down for a story time area. My pleas for calm had no effect. For the children, all they knew was that a big strange man was saying some odd words (loudly) in a language they didn’t understand.

Needing a minute to think, I walked over to the CD player and, not knowing which song was first on the children’s music CD I had ready to go, pressed play. I was rescued that day by a song. An old classic clean up song started playing, and I started simply picking up the foam tiles as I sang along.

Midway through the song I noticed the children had joined me in tidying up, and some were singing along, too. By the end of the song, the classroom was clean, the children were quiet, and they were all looking up at me with an expression on their faces that said, “What’s next?” We had a good lesson, and songs have been an integral part of my classes ever since.

The benefits of songs as teaching tools go well beyond just teaching the language. Here are a few reasons to implement songs in your lessons from start to finish.

Songs create a positive atmosphere.
Just as we take great care in decorating our classrooms to make them warm and conducive to learning, we should think about how we are decorating our classrooms with audio. Learning a foreign language can be stressful for anyone, especially young learners. Fun, simple English songs playing as students enter the classroom help create a welcoming environment.

Songs help to balance energy levels.
Some children come to class bouncing off the walls, while others are quite reserved. Starting class with an active song allows the higher energy students to “get the wiggles out” and the lower energy students to pep up a little.

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