Songs in Class: Getting Ready

This blog post is part two of a series of three looking at singing in the classroom. We previously looked at what a good song looks like and today will find out about getting ready to use a song in class.

The first thing is to find a song. You probably already know some and your school might have access to CDs or mp3 files you can use but a search online can find more. Super Simple Songs is the undisputed king of good ESL songs for kids. A few favourites are Open Shut Them and Do You Like Spaghetti Yoghurt? 

Spaghetti Yoghurt

Spaghetti yoghurt is actually a real and delicious looking thing though…

Another thing to bear in mind is that you can write your own songs, the easiest way to do this is to change the words for a song that exists. We had a unit that focused on animals so I changed the lyrics of The Wheels on the Bus ‘This little duck goes ‘quack quack quack’ all day long” with each verse having a different animal and noise.

Similarly if you’ve picked a song rather than made up your own lyrics you should be switching things up. Sometimes one verse of the song is much more fun* than the rest, you should put this near the end so the children have something to look forwards to and behave well for. You might also want to have a calm verse for the very end of the song so you can transition well into the next activity.

*Parts that kids find really fun are either funny or something they can jump, spin or hug to.

Another way to switch things up is to simplify the song. A lot of children’s songs are designed for native speakers. Their lyrics can be more complicated than they need to be. Something like “If you’re happy and you know it and you really want to show it.” can be replaced with “If you’re happy and you know it, if you’re happy and you know it” without confusing everyone.

Finally actions are really important for teaching. They make songs more fun to sing, help show the meaning of the words and make the songs more memorable. The first time I do a song I’ll take a sheet of lyrics, think of some actions and scribble notes all over the lyrics. There’s nothing wrong with taking these into class until you’ve got the hang of things.

Something to think about the song is going to be done sitting down. You can do more actions stood up and they can be more fun, but young learners can get over excited doing a song stood up. Spinning round, jumping, crawling on the floor or hugging each other can be really fun, but can give your class too much energy.

In the final part of this series we’ll look at what to do once you’re actually in the classroom and singing.