Using Music in the ESL Classroom

Using Music in the ESL Classroom

When students make a major breakthrough in learning, it is music to a teacher's ears. There is nothing more rewarding for a teacher, than seeing their students smile and laugh while they learn. The same can be said for students. Students who are taught in a fun and creative way, love coming to class. Using music in the classroom is a great way for teachers to achieve success with L2 learners. Oliver Wendall Holmes suggests taking a musical bath once a week, saying that music is "to the soul what water is to the body."

Benefits of using Music

Have you ever heard of anyone who doesn't like music? Some people may not like art, dancing, reading, or movies, but almost everyone likes one kind of music or another. Most people like many different kinds of music. Studies have shown that music...

improves concentration
improves memory
brings a sense of community to a group
motivates learning
relaxes people who are overwhelmed or stressed
makes learning fun
helps people absorb material

"Music stabilizes mental, physical and emotional rhythms to attain a state of deep concentration and focus in which large amounts of content information can be processed and learned." Chris Brewer, Music and Learning

Techniques for Using Music with L2 Learners

There are a variety of different ways to use music in the classroom. Some teachers prefer to use background music and others use music lyrics as the basis of a lesson. Music can be used to:

introduce a new theme or topic (Christmas/colours/feelings)
break the ice in a class where students don't know each other or are having difficulty communicating
change the mood (liven things up or calm things down)
teach and build vocabulary and idioms
review material (background music improves memory)
teach pronunciation and intonation
teach songs and rhymes about difficult grammar and spelling rules that need to be memorized ("i before e", irregular verbs, phrasal verbs)
teach reading comprehension
inspire a class discussion
teach listening for details and gist
"Music is the universal language of mankind." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Suggested Activities

Many teachers try using music once in the class, but forget to do it again. It might take a few times before you and your class get used to hearing music while learning. If you can commit to using music once a week, you may soon see the benefits, and realize that you want to do it more often and in a variety of ways. Here are 10 activities for you to try:

Use background music such as classical, Celtic music or natural sounds to inspire creativity
Teach your national anthem
Teach a song that uses slang expressions ("I heard it through the Grape Vine")
Teach a song that uses a new tense you have introduced
Add variety to your reading comprehension lesson. Students can read lyrics and search for main idea, theme, details.

Teach Christmas vocabulary through traditional carols

Write or choose a classroom theme song

Create (or use already prepared lessons) cloze exercises using popular song lyrics

Create variations to familiar songs by making them personal for your class members or your lesson

Have "lyp sync" contests. Allow students to choose their own songs. A little competition goes a long way in the classroom. Have groups explain the lyrics of their song before or after they perform.

"When the music changes so, so does the dance." African proverb.

Teaching Kids with Music

Using music with ESL kids has all of the same benefits mentioned above and more. Children are natural music lovers. You don't have to convince them that it will help them learn. If you feel uncomfortable singing in front of the class to teach a song, use a tape or CD player. (Don't expect your students to sing if you don't. Remember, that they don't care about the quality of your singing voice, just like you don't care about theirs.) Here are some suggested activities to use with kids (If you are not familiar with any of the songs mentioned, simply put the titles into an online search):

Transition songs: Teach simple songs that indicate transitions from one activity to another, such as "clean up" songs and "hello/goodbye" songs.

Energy boosters: Teach simple action songs that require kids to stand up and move around. Think of traditional birthday games that use songs, such as pass the parcel (use a classroom mascot or other favourite item instead of a gift) or musical chairs.

Animal songs: Children love learning about animals! Teach animals and animal sounds using repetitive songs like "Old McDonald had a Farm" and "There was an Old Lady who swallowed a fly." Multi-culturalism: Teach about multi-cultural instruments and learn how to create them in class. Remembering Names: Help students remember names of their classmates (this helps teachers too) with songs like "Willoughby Wallaby Woo." Alphabet songs: Use lots of different alphabet songs (not just the traditional ABC) to help kids remember them in English. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault is a catchy children's book and song.

Colours: Teach the colours with various colour songs and rhythms, such as Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" or Kermit the Frog's "It aint easy being green." Rewards: Reward hard working kids with "Music Time". Let them make requests for background music that they can listen to while they work on their written exercises. Student teachers: Encourage the kids to teach each other songs from their own language. Turn this into an English lesson by having students translate the meaning. "Musical nourishment which is rich in vitamins is essential for children." Zolton Kodaly

Tips for Using Music Effectively

When teaching students a song, it is a good idea to introduce an instrumental version first (If an instrumental version is not available, play the song softly in the background while they are working on something or hum the melody before introducing the lyrics). If students become familiar with the sound of the music first, they will be more likely to understand the words.

Make a vocabulary list ahead of time. Go over the words once before you introduce the song.

Expose students to a certain song many days in a row. Within a few days, students will not be able to get the song out of their head!

Choose interactive songs whenever possible. Adding actions enhances language acquisition and memory.

Have soft or upbeat music playing before class to encourage a positive atmosphere. Turning the music off is a great way to signal to a large class that it is time to begin.
Why choose Teach in China?
Teaching aboard especially in China can be a challenge, you need a reliable agency to select the most suitable job for you and help you to arrange the right visa and help you to deal with some unexpected situations is what our company is best at helping with.  

teach in China All our services are FREE. We’ll provide a one-stop service and guide you through the whole visa process, job placement, apartment location so you can settle in comfortably and daily assistance life guide.
Sometimes you may decide to ask for the school of your choice whether its teaching Adults or Kindergarten at different grade levels, and you realize its not the environment you expected because you have obtained the hands on experience at the school and may not fit within your teaching personality. But if you use us, we can shift you to another school right away without a gap period and give you different options, so you will eventually be comfortable and happy with the school of your choice that fits your teaching personality.
Lots of other agencies and schools do not have the experience in doing all visa requirements, but since we have ten years experience arranging visas we can assure you and your stay in China. Our experienced and comprehensive visa service will ensure your application goes through as smoothly as possible.
Most of Chinese people’s English is not good enough to communicate with you, but if you work with us, we will have one on one assistant service for you and to deal with daily life and different situations.
When you finish the one year contract with us, we provide you with a TEFL/TESOL certificate for free.
Our company has a great reputation in paying all our staff in a timely manner. If the school is late for any payment towards our teachers our company uses its our own money to pay you on time..
We have over 100 ESL teachers working for us, so whenever you need to meet other ESL teachers, we can always introduce them to you to make friends and have a really good experience during your stay in China.
We have lots of ESL teaching materials that can be used to help and assist you as well as provide free training and help so you can be familiar with the Chinese teaching method and give you lots of practical suggestions.