Using songs and movement with young learners of English | Статья в сборнике международной научной конференции


Рубрика: 5. Педагогика общеобразовательной школы

Опубликовано в

IX международная научная конференция «Педагогика: традиции и инновации» (Казань, январь 2018)

Дата публикации: 08.01.2018

Статья просмотрена: 12 раз

Библиографическое описание:

Халилова Г. А. Using songs and movement with young learners of English [Текст] // Педагогика: традиции и инновации: материалы IX Междунар. науч. конф. (г. Казань, январь 2018 г.). — Казань: Бук, 2018. — С. 60-62. — URL (дата обращения: 22.06.2018).

Children love singing songs. They love saying chants in rhythm. They enjoy repeating phrases that rhyme. They enjoy moving to the rhythm, clapping their hands, tapping their feet, and dancing to the beat. Music and movement naturally connect to children’s hearts, minds, and bodies.

Teachers of young learners (YLs) often use songs and movement to engage children in the classroom. Based on the learning styles of children, classroom instruction should be “enjoyable and interesting; active and hands-on; supported and scaffolded: meaningful and purposeful; and culturally appropriate and relevant” (Shin 2014, 557). Using songs and movement is one of the best ways to ensure that second- and foreign-language classrooms demonstrate all these qualities. However, are we as teachers of YLs making the most out of music and movement in the English language classroom? Are there missed opportunities for language learning and practice that we can add to what we are already doing in our English for young learner (EYL) classes?

A deeper understanding of the importance of music in children’s lives and their learning process will help EYL teachers use songs and movement more effectively. This article focuses on how music and movement can work naturally together to create an exciting and effective EYL classroom. It details why teachers should use music and movement to teach YLs by explaining the benefits for child development, language learning, and cultural awareness. To connect theory to the classroom, the article gives practical suggestions to help teachers improve their use of songs and movement in the EYL classroom.

Children often sing songs, hum melodies, and move and dance to music. Children are naturally inclined to sing and move to rhythms. In order to apply a developmentally appropriate approach to teaching YLs in ESL/EFL classes, instructors need to understand the importance of music and movement to child development and the benefits for language learning.

The connection between music and movement is inextricable and begins long before language learning begins. Starting with hearing the heartbeat in the mother’s womb, children have an innate kinesthetic sensibility to move to beats and rhythms.

Although many teachers know that songs are fun and can engage young English language learners, understanding more deeply the following benefits for child development and learning will help them use songs more effectively.

Psychomotor effects: Because of the positive effects of music on brain growth and bodily systems, children should have daily opportunities to interact with music in the classroom (Hirsh 2004). Music reduces stress and enhances the function of the immune system; it also affects the heart rate and blood pressure while improving blood flow (Jensen 2001). Music can be mood altering. If children are overexcited, the right song can be calming and relaxing. If children have been sitting down for a while, the right song can add energy and excitement to the class (Pica 2013).

Cognitive effects: Music helps develop attention span and memory (Bayless and Ramsey 1991; Pica 2013). As Hirsh (2004, 101) notes, music “develops the memory through melody and beat, and through its connection to the emotions.” Songs, movement, and musical games are considered “brilliant neurological exercises” that support intellectual development (Coulter 1995, 22). In fact, the combination of rhythmic movement with speech and song helps children further cultivate their minds, including development of “inner speech” and “impulse control,” which contribute to “self-management and social skills” (Coulter 1995, 22). Teachers need to know how to choose and teach a new song and integrate song activities that teach new vocabulary, check listening comprehension, allow learners to practice oral language, and refine pronunciation and intonation.

Most EYL classrooms use traditional children’s songs as part of the curriculum. These authentic pieces of culture are used to teach English-speaking children their first language and have been passed down from generation to generation. The following are examples of popular children’s songs in English:


“Hokey Pokey”

“London Bridge is Falling Down”

“Mary Had a Little Lamb”

These songs are morsels of culture used to teach children both language and content simultaneously. The songs embody a number of characteristics, making them attractive to children and effective for teaching language and content in a natural way. These songs work with children because they are catchy and easy to remember. In addition, they often have corresponding body movements and gestures that help develop children’s motor skills as well as retention.”

Step-by-step scaffolding

It is important for teachers to scaffold instruction; they need to break down tasks into smaller, achievable steps and give students a model to follow. Using songs and movement is no exception. Luckily, many children’s songs, like “Hokey Pokey” and “The Wheels on the Bus,” are short and simple and can be taught by singing the song with movements and encouraging students to follow along. Children easily pick up the melody and start understanding the words by using the cues given through movement and gestures. Shin and Crandall (2014) suggest steps teachers can use after introducing children to the songs through video, audio, or singing themselves:

Teaching Songs Step-by-Step

– Introduce the topic of the song.

– Review the vocabulary students already know.

– Pre-teach the new vocabulary.

– Listen to the song (with the teacher singing, or with an audio recording or video).

– Teach the song line by line.

– If there are multiple verses and a refrain, follow these steps:

  • Teach the refrain line by line.

– Point out words that rhyme at the end of each line and practice repeating them when teaching each verse.

When teaching each line, teachers need to focus on the meaning of the words, making it comprehensible through visuals, realia, and gestures. During this process, teachers should check comprehension often, making sure students can show they understand the meaning of each line. To learn to sing the song, students repeat after the teacher line by line. The teacher can engage students in choral repetition two ways: first by speaking each line and having students repeat; then by singing each line for students to repeat. After practicing each line, teachers and students put it all together and sing the song.

Songs and movement are effective at making EYL classes engaging and fun while using an authentic form of communication that is developmentally appropriate for YLs. YLs are still growing socially, emotionally, and cognitively, and songs and movement are important for their development in these areas. In addition, children learning a second or foreign language need meaningful, purposeful, and culturally relevant activities that interest them and encourage them to express themselves in English. With practical suggestions in this article, teachers should be able to choose the right songs, teach them step-by-step, and engage children in activities that will make repeating songs and practicing the language enjoyable and effective.

The more energy and excitement teachers have for music and movement, the more energy and excitement their YLs will have.


  1. Hirsh, R. A. 2004. Early childhood curriculum: Incorporating multiple intelligences, developmentally appropriate practice, and play. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
  2. Jensen, E. 2001. Arts with the brain in mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
  3. Pica, R. 2013. Experiences in movement and music: Birth to age eight. 5th ed. Boston: Cengage Learning.
Основные термины (генерируются автоматически): EYL, EFL, ESL.


Социальные комментарии Cackle
Задать вопрос