Sunday, 18 November 2012

Choosing the best songs for your lessons


This week on Primary ELT course we're discussing the use of songs, rhymes and games as teaching tools. 
Here's my opinion on using songs:
I believe that songs are one of the best learning tools, especially at the early stage. With songs, we can successfully teach new words, grammar structures, language functions, pronunciation, etc. 
Unfortunately, the role of songs at the lesson is sometimes underestimated and they are seen as mere 'entertainment' by some teachers, quite many parents and school administration. Under this pressure, teachers might reduce the number of songs sung at their lessons to minimum and it would be a terrible mistake smile
I think that every good teacher should have a collection of songs to cover as many  vocabulary and grammar topics as possible. With wide variety of coursebooks and Internet resources available nowadays, it's not a problem. Why not collaborate with your colleagues at school and create a 'song library' that any teacher can use?! 
It's important to choose the best song of a kind, though. If you search, for example, a 'months of the year' song on Youtube, you'll find more than 10 different songs. Not all of them will work well with your students. Here are some criterias I use when choosing a song:
1. Catchy melody (or good rythm and rhyme). There are so many songs with 'vague' melody which you will never be able to repeat once it stops playing. Some songs are difficult even to sing along, because you can never guess on which music bit the next word falls and students keep singing words in the 'wrong time', even if it's the 2nd or 3rd rehearsal.
2. If it's a video, appropriate pictures. Pictures in the video clip should be appropriate for the age of your pupils (not too childish and not too boring / adult) and they shouldn't be distracting! Sometimes they are just too much. Children start watching it as a cartoon instead of a singing prompt smile It's great when pictures  'back up' the lyrics, helping pupils to understand the song without distracting them from the words too much.
3. Subtitles. It's really convenient when children can see the lyrics on the screen.
4. General difficulty of the song lyrics. Except your 'target vocabulary' in the song, there are other words which shouldn't be too difficult for your students to comprehend. If, along with 5 basic vocabulary words that you're going to teach your pupils with this song, there are 25 more words that they don't know, - maybe this isn't exactly what you need.
On the pages of Primary ELT Ukraine wiki (this wiki was started by Sasha Shalenko and last year's participants of this online course) I've started a collection of nice songs from Youtube. Another colleague from the wiki added some of her favourite songs, too. You can have a look and recommend more songs for these pages! There you will also find an explanation how you can save Youtube videos on your computer to use them without Internet connection.

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