These days, publishers are putting out loads of new, internet-based material. One such publisher has recently started creating internet-based material called “Groove Me,” which bases its lessons on the music of popular artists such as One Direction, Shakira, and Katy Perry. Its users are enthusiastic because the children enjoy singing popular songs, they learn what the songs mean, and it’s easy for teachers to use.
The growing popularity of this music-based material indicates that there is a desperate need for new, modern material that connects with the children’s life experience. Popular music is hot, and therefore a logical means of connecting language lessons with the children’s own experiences.
Not all popular music is useful for the classroom, however. When selecting music for the ESL lesson, it’s important to keep a few things in mind, such as appropriate language use and topic. Unfortunately, numerous songs out there make sexual references that many teachers don’t catch on to – but their pupils might, and many do. Other songs – which shall remain unnamed – employ a notably scant breadth of vocabulary, constricting how much they contribute to the language development of the listener. Yet other songs are too fast or too slow, again, making them less than ideal for use in the class.
The ideal song for the ESL lesson meets certain qualifications, including but certainly not limited to the list below:
- the topic and the vocabulary used is appropriate for the children – not too childish, but also not too adult
- breadth of vocabulary – not too little, but also not too many new words at one go
- tempo – not so slow as to make everyone fall asleep, but certainly not too fast for young ears still learning the sounds of the language
Over the years, I’ve collected a number of favorite songs, some of which I’ve collected on this symbaloo page. There is a range of songs, and I’ve used a number of strategies to find them. I’ll share these strategies with you, so you can find (and share, please!) songs you enjoy using.
Strategy #1: youtube.com Search terms ESL + song + topic got me pretty far. Most often, however, I’ll find many songs for the very young learners, leaving the older grade schoolers out in the cold. (young learners being about 4 – 8 years old, and the older learners 9 and above)
Strategy #2: find a useful channel on youtube, for instance Sesame Street. The American version of Sesame Street has a lovely knack for picking up on the latest pop music, and getting the actual artist to come in and sing a child-friendly version of their music. One such example is Katy Perry singing “Hot and Cold” with Elmo. It’s amazing how many artists have found their way to Sesame Street, happily adapting their sometimes questionable lyrics for the younger audience targeted by Sesame Street. Sesame Street also has, incidentally, a way of turning their songs into social lessons, a nice side-effect many teachers can appreciate.
Another useful channel is Super Simple Songs, good for the younger learner. What I’v done in the past is had older children listen to a song, then ask them to create another verse that they can teach the younger learners. That way, they get the pleasure of listening to something easy without getting the feeling of being babied.
Strategy #3: try out this site: Songs for Teaching. It’s got links through to various subject areas, listing topics and finally songs that you can listen to and order online.
Other music worth finding out about:
Hap Palmer: very old-fashioned, slow, and therefore perfect for the young ESL learner.
Tumble Tots: hipper, space for moving to the music, and therefore perfect for young ESL learner. With a bit of enthusiasm, you can push this into the older grades, but don’t overdo it.
Alain Le Lait (It’s so good): simple, funny songs with just enough repetition to allow children to sing along and even make up their own verses.
Jim Cosgrove (Stinky Feet): funny stuff that any child can relate to and sing along with. Good for the somewhat older ESL learner.
I’m sure there’s more out there, so feel free to share your favorites!