Using Music in the ESL Classroom

2 Oct

Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE to sing.  I sing, hum, whistle and work my vocal chords through any song of any pitch from morning to evening, silently or aloud.   It hasn’t always been this way, although I’ve always loved singing.  But, mostly this singing fiesta started when I became pregnant with our little daughter.  Knowing the growing soul and mind inside of me was listening and feeling the vibrations of my voice, I sang.  Now, she’s a toddler and sings along with me.  It’s great!

Here are some creative ways to use song and music in the ESL Classroom.  Please feel free to add a comment with your ideas.

Ways to use music in the ESL classroom:

  • Create atmosphere – Help make your students more engaged in a lesson with music that compliments the theme of your lessons.  For example, if you’re learning about a particular culture, play some of that music.
  • Cloze activities – Create your own or find some online to your favourite songs.  The Beatles are always popular in my classes, because enough people have heard their songs to know a few words or at least hum along.
  • Play the guitar – Playing a musical instrument in class is one of the BEST ways to engage your students, motivate them to participate or generally just make them laugh.  I’m not a stellar guitar player although I can work my way through a few songs, but that doesn’t matter to my students who appreciate that their “foreigner teacher” is a little more “human.”  Even just a little bit of strumming in the background of a lesson or while students are free-talking and you’re walking around definitely makes for a more comfortable space.
  • Teach about music – Teach your ESL students the real-life, practical vocabulary for music such as the different kinds of music, musical instruments, expressions about enjoying or not enjoying music, etc.  This can be very helpful for those interested in socializing with those who speak the language they’re learning, English.
  • Translating songs – This can be a difficult task, but having students translate simpler songs such as nursery rhymes from their native language into English could be an interesting group activity for them.
  • Teach about culture – Traditional music, musical instruments, song and stories can all be taught through music in an interesting way.
  • Teaching syllables – Have students drum beat the syllables in a word: music = (mu)(sic)! Good for beginners and young students.
  • Free Writing – This was a popular activity for some of my adult students… I played two or three different kinds of music (especially without lyrics) and had them just write down anything that came to their mind about how the music made them feel.   For example, for a classical baroque song some students would write sunshine, bright, cheerful, beach, party, meeting friends, and so on.  When the music was finished they could share some of their thoughts if they felt comfortable doing so.
  • Discussing a song – Using a song as a starting point of a lesson on a specific grammar point used in a song, vocabulary or topic.
  • Arranging the song – Print out the song lyrics in strips and have students organize them as they listen to the song.  Great for listening and a good group activity.
Hope this inspires you and your students to sing, sing… sing~! ^^
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