Songs in vocabulary learning

elt music songs vocabulary Oct 22, 2021

By Dr Jeremy Koay

Using songs in language classrooms is not a new idea. They are generally used to practise listening and spelling skills. For example, words from a song are left out and students are expected to fill in the blanks while listening to the song. Ideally, students write the correct words with the correct spelling in a handout.

While this activity is useful and perhaps entertaining, let’s consider two questions to guide a purposeful selection of songs and words.

1. Does the choice of songs reflect teachers’ or learners’ interests?

Learners can take turns to select songs and prepare handouts under their teacher’s supervision. Teachers can provide guidelines for selecting songs. For example, a song should not have too many words that are unfamiliar to the class, and the lyrics should be audible in the recording.

Depending on learners’ age and cultural background, songs that contain themes such as violence, and drugs and alcohol use, may be inappropriate.

2. What words should be left out?

Deciding which words to leave out from a song depends on learning goals. They should be selected purposefully. Selections may include high frequency words (e.g., feel, hope), collocations (e.g., look inside, comes along), or grammar points. Selection of words can also be driven by a particular theme that is being covered.

In the theme of friendship, for example, teachers can use the song You got a friend in me from the animation Toy Story, and select words like rough, pal, troubles, together and friendship.

Dr Jeremy Koay is a New Zealand-based Independent Researcher and a Research & Development Consultant at EduMaxi. He obtained his PhD in Applied Linguistics from Victoria University of Wellington in 2015. His research interests include Discourse Analysis, Genre Analysis and TESOL.

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