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Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme!

During my time as a TEFL teacher, many people have tried telling me what works, what doesn’t work and so on, usually what they advised was always wrong. That’s usually the case with most people too because, as we all know, everyone’s different. I found TEFL sites were especially good at getting advice wrong. Blogging sites like www.lovetefl.com/tefl-blog/ teflbloggers.com/ and http://www.theteflcertificate.com/blog/ were the only sites I came across that actually offered relevant information. Amongst one site, I can’t remember which one, I came across an article on music classes, I read it for about 2 mins before I jumped straight into lesson planning. So here’s my take on why music can help your ESL class!

It’s a well know fact that learning lyrics to a song is a load easier than learning words to a speech. Even though they may be roughly the same length, singing just feels more natural. Why is that? Rhythm. So, mix things up in class, bring your iPod, computer, whatever you play music on and drop a beat in the classroom. Students, especially the younger ones, love hearing music in class and you’ll find that without breathing a word, they’ll be dancing and trying to sing along to the song. 

Tying music into classes...

Young students

Now listening to music that’s relevant to the class topic is the first step. When you are creating your lesson plans try to find space for the occasional song, it doesn’t have to be amazing or a chart topper but something catchy and relevant. I tried this a few weeks back for teaching the months of the year, a particularly difficult topic as there is a different word for each month, whoever came up with that idea should be…you know the rest, anyway, it was tough to get the students to remember all 12 so I went song searching and found this:


They already knew the tune and the chorus was embedded in their mind almost instantly. It really saved my class and they were singing it next week when they arrived. 

Elder students

This kind of thing is great for young kids but for the elder ones it can be a bit childish and boring, they tend to find it a chore. So, change the tune for a beat and have them make a rap about the subject. It is very interesting and the whole class loves to get involved. I taught a high level grade 6 class in China where they were learning about modern farming. I gave them the ‘make a rap’ challenge and it killed. The winning teams rap was:

Moo, Moo, Moo,

I’m coming for you,

Have you cleaned the barn, yet, Lucy Lu?

Bark, Bark, Bark

I’m cleaning in the dark,

I need to collect the eggs first, Mr. stark. (Iron man – very creative)

There was more but I’m struggling to remember. They won a bag of sweets and got a pretty average trophy that I made from paper and cardboard and then colored. The trophy wasn’t important though, they had remembered all their new vocab in a fun and creative way, which included lots of teamwork and laughs, what more could you ask for?

Language schools

During my time in various language schools I’ve done my fair share of ‘social corners’ or ‘English corners’. What ever your school calls them, I’ve done millions. There comes a time where you hit a creative wall and you’re all out of ideas, you’ve already searched all the TEFL forums you know of and it’s just a list of things you’ve already done. So one day, plucking atstraws I decided to begin an ‘all my favourite things’ series, including…all my favourite things. Very low indeed. I covered; films, cars, sports, foods, just about everything until I hit a winner…song. My favourite song seemed to grab the concentration and attention from every single student. The song I chose was ‘Ironic’ by Alanis Morissette (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jne9t8sHpUc), a catchy song with some powerful lyrics. First I played it twice, then asked if they got the meaning, obviously not, otherwise it would’ve been a fast class. Once we took some guesses from the class I handed out the lyrics and we went through them. They took a lot away from the class and shortly after the school started a music class with one of the full time teachers doing the same thing. It really hit home.

Music can be a really fun and interesting way to get the students to be more creative when using English. Beware though, before starting a music class, be prepared to do some singing and be prepared to be laughed at too. Once the students see that you can do it and it’s fun to laugh at yourself sometimes, they will open up much, much more!


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