Why is teaching English through music more effective?

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Music has no boundaries and builds bridges. It is also one of the very few things that when it hits you, it doesn’t hurt. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a good singalong once in a while? Singing, playing, or listening to music have the power to lift moods and bring joy that can last infinitely longer than the actual piece of music. 

Why is it that people enjoy music so much? What effects does it cause to the brain? It turns out that music is a complete workout for our grey matter. Listening to music can help you relax and unwind, by improving the quality of your sleep and reducing stress and anxiety. But there’s more. Music stimulates your brain in a way that it enhances your memory. No wonder why many teachers worldwide include music elements in their lessons.

Music in language learning

Songs and music play a key role in children's lives. Since kindergarten, toddlers sing songs that help them learn the months of the year, colours, and numbers. This process is similar to what happens in foreign language classes.

The English language is an essential tool to international communication and business. All over the world, there is an army of learners who invest money, time, and effort to master the English language hoping to find a job or get a promotion. However, language proficiency doesn’t happen overnight - music can facilitate the learning process.

The are a number of reasons why music and songs have broad potential:

  • The fun element: Children of all ages enjoy singing. Teachers make the most of this and use songs to teach language and concepts in a fun and memorable way.
  • Association to positive feelings: Contrary to music, language learning doesn’t always leave a positive long-lasting memory on students. For this reason, some adults attending language classes might struggle more than others, due to previous experiences. However, adults love music because of the positive association they had with it as children, who love singing, dancing, and all-things music. Therefore, the introduction of music to language classes can improve motivation in adult language learning by breaking down learners’ psychological barriers, such as apprehension, low self-esteem, and fear of failure.
  • Repetition: As well as language pattern repetition, which consolidate the assimilation of vocabulary chunks, singing songs improves pronunciation, including features of speech such as intonation and rhythm, and develops listening skills.
  • Versatility: While some teachers play mellow music in the background to help learners focus, others use songs as fillers and warm-up activities as well as materials for the main part of the lesson.
  • The cultural aspect: Foreign languages are learnt to better communicate with individuals from different cultures. As well as their language, it is important to understand their cultures in order to communicate and interact effectively. What better way to learn about other cultures than through music?

How to use music and songs in the English language classroom

Before looking at classroom ideas, let’s see some tips on how to use music effectively:

  • When introducing a new piece of music, expose your learners to an instrumental version (if possible). This will help them familiarise with the sound and the rhythm, facilitating the understanding of the lyrics. Alternatively, play the song in the background while they are doing an unrelated activity. Repeat this over a few days.
  • Make the most of interactive songs. The combination of movement and speech helps language retention.
  • Prepare a vocabulary list and go through it with your learners before introducing the lyrics of the song.

Songs in the English language classroom can serve many purposes:

  • to break the ice
  • to teach vocabulary
  • to develop listening, reading, and speaking skills
  • to review materials
  • to set a friendly atmosphere

Here are some practical ideas on how to use music in your classroom:

  • Teach the national anthem of the language you are teaching. Use songs that focus on a specific grammar point, e.g. All Summer Long by Kid Rock for the present perfect continuous
  • Get your students’ creativity going by writing their own songs
  • Introduce slang expressions and idioms
  • Practice reading comprehension with cloze exercises with song lyrics

Fancy having a go at teaching English through music?

If you have a passion for the English language and love music, teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) is for you - especially if you enjoy working with kids.

Teaching English to international children offers endless opportunities to use music in the classroom - in-person or online. Here are some countries where the demand for TEFL teachers for young learners is high:

  • Thailand

This country is a stunning location where you can start your TEFL career. A work-week in Thai schools is around 40 hours, but only 18 of these are spent teaching. If you want to teach English in Thailand, you’ll find that this country is a very affordable country to live in. While an average salary between $800 and $1,200 won’t make you rich, it will give you enough money to lead a comfortable life and explore the country.

  • China

China is a country that puts great emphasis on teaching English to children from a young age. This is such a wide country that offers plenty of teaching opportunities to suit your lifestyle. From busy and ultra-modern cities to quiet and remote villages, you are bound to find a location that meets your requirements.

  • Spain

This is among the most popular destinations for TEFL teachers, not only for its fascinating culture, friendly atmosphere, and beautiful surroundings, but also for the teaching opportunities it offers. 

Ready to teach English through music?

There’s no denying that music has a positive effect on people’s mood, but it can also be beneficial to language learning. By using music and songs effectively, you - as an English language teacher - can make your lessons more effective and enjoyable for everyone, from young to adult learners across the globe. Why don’t you give it a try?

Kellee Maize Team

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