What does a good TESOL song look like?

The ancient Greeks used to hand down their history and culture using songs and poetry. I think the reason for this is that songs are very ‘sticky’, by which I mean that they’re very easy to remember. Everybody knows the lyrics to Kanye West’s ‘Golddigger’  their favourite song, but would they be able to recite verbatim a paragraph of their favourite novel ? Singing is also a lot of fun. I’m sure that adults enjoy singing too, but they’re often too sober shy to do it in front of their peers. If you work with very young learners then they probably also love to sing in front of their peers.  Shy students who are too scared to speak in English on their own often open up when they’re singing and their voice is one of ten. For me working in kindergarten, songs are a HUGE part of what I do because it’s both fun and a good way of remembering English.   I want to do a short series on singing because there’s lots to talk about. We’ll start by thinking about what makes a song good for English class.

A song you know the lyrics to because song lyrics are easy to remember.

Song lyrics are ‘sticky’, so you probably singing the rest of this in your head right now.

What does a good TESOL song look like?

  1. There is probably lots of repetition: If you’re singing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ for the first time you can join in easily because only the name of the thing on the bus and it’s noise change each verse. If you’re teaching a song to very young learners then you should expect them to pick up the repetitive bits easily but to take a lot longer with the rest.
  2. It teaches useful vocabulary: If it doesn’t, it’s really easy to change the lyrics to an existing song to fit what you need to teach (more on this in the future). Useful also means that it teaches language at the right level for the learners. For beginners it might mean that it teaches some classroom english.
  3. It’s fun: You weren’t going to pick a boring song were you?
  4. You can do actions to it easily: If you are pointing up and down as you’re singing ‘The wheels on the bus go up and down’ it’s easy to understand what ‘up’ and ‘down’ mean, even if you’ve never heard those words before. Doing actions is also fun (see point #3).
  5. It’s of a good length: Too short is a bit of a waste as there’s not enough chance for repetition. Too long is boring (see point #3).
  6. It might have an extra purpose: ‘Bingo’ is a good song for teaching concentration. Lots of teachers use a song to signal the beginning and end of a class. This creates a routine. The students end up knowing these songs really well; and it’s nice to start and end on something they’re confident with.

In the next few blog posts we’ll be learning about how to prepare for singing in class, what to actually do in class and looking at some examples of songs I love.