Using music in the English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom is not only an educational tool, it's a way to make learning more interesting and memorable for students of all levels. No matter what the age of your students, you can incorporate songs into your English lessons in a way that will help them improve their listening, speaking and overall comprehension skills. At the same time, the enjoyable atmosphere may reach students who are not stimulated by traditional teaching methods.
Review your lesson plan for the day and pinpoint the key concepts you wish to teach. This can be anything as specific as "progressive verb conjugations" to something more general, such as "improve conversation skills."
Decide whether you wish to incorporate songs that students will sing (best for working on verbal skills) or listen to (better for listening skills), or a combination of both. Select songs from your teaching materials, or create your own. The easiest way to create your own songs to teach English is to choose a well-known song with a simple melody, such as "Mary Had a Little Lamb" or "Three Blind Mice," then write your own words, incorporating the concept you wish to enforce. Repetition is the key, so make your songs simple and repetitive, focusing on the skill or skills you wish to work on in your lesson.
Have students listen to the songs at least once before attempting to sing. While some children love to sing, others may become shy and withdraw due to intimidation. Play or model the song for them and review the lyrics before having them attempt it themselves.
Intersperse the songs throughout the lesson. For example, for every five minutes you spend lecturing, spend one minute listening or singing. Not only will the song activity help students remember key concepts, it will help to "wake up" the class and ensure everyone is paying attention.
Choose popular songs (rather than nursery rhymes) and focus more on listening and discussion than singing for older or more advanced students, For example, if students are studying the challenging concept of phrasal verbs, provide them with a lyrics sheet with words to a well-known song and have them highlight all the phrasal verbs they see. Play the song, then discuss how those verbs were used in context to see if students can discern the meaning. Play the song again to help reinforce how those phrasal verbs were used, which will help the students remember.
Kara Page has been a freelance writer and editor since 2007. She maintains several blogs on travel, music, food and more. She is also a contributing writer for Suite101 and has articles published on eHow and Answerbag. Page holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of North Texas.