Vysotska M.I. Songs as a valuable pedagogical tool in teaching English of primary school students

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Висоцька Марія Іванівна – студентка Педагогічного інституту Київського університету імені Бориса Грінченка, спеціальність «Початкова освіта», кафедра іноземних мов і методик їх навчання Київського університету імені Бориса Грінченка

У статті розглянуто роль пісень у навчанні англійської мови учнів початкової школи; розкрито важливість пісень як цінного педагогічного інструменту в поліпшенні навичок аудіювання та вимови молодших школярів; обґрунтовано використання пісень у навчанні лексики і структури речень; розкрито можливість ознайомлення з культурою народу, мова якого вивчається, та підвищення мотивації учнів до вивчення англійської мови за допомогою пісень.

Ключові слова: пісні, педагогічний інструмент, навички аудіювання, вимова, словниковий запас, учні початкової школи.

В статье рассматривается роль песен в обучении английскому языку учащихся начальной школы; раскрыто важность песен как ценного педагогического инструмента в улучшении навыков аудирования и произношения младших школьников; обосновано использование песен в обучении лексики и структуры предложений; раскрыто возможность ознакомления с культурой народа, язык которого изучается, и повышение мотивации учащихся к изучению английского языка с помощью песен.

Ключевые слова: песни, педагогический инструмент, навыки аудирования, произношение, словарный запас, ученики начальной школы.

The article outlines the role of songs in teaching English of primary school students; the importance of songs as a valuable pedagogical tool in improving young learners’ listening skills and pronunciation is revealed; the use of songs in the teaching of vocabulary and sentence structures is substantiated; the potentiality of familiarization with the culture of the people whose language is studied, and enhancing of students’ motivation to learn English through songs are revealed.

Key words: songs, pedagogical tool, listening skills, pronunciation, vocabulary, primary school students.


Problem setting

Songs are part of daily life for most people and play an important role in the development of young children learning a second language. A testament to this is the frequency with which songs are used in English Language Teaching classrooms all over the world. Throughout the centuries, experts in different fields – philosophers, scientists, teachers, and therapists have recognized the place of music for therapeutic and developmental functions. Over the last two decades, researches have made great advances in the theory of foreign language acquisition. Many of them find the didactic conjoining of language and music surprisingly convincing as there are numerous historical and developmental proofs of music’s relationship with language learning. Language and music are the two ways that human beings use to communicate and express themselves through sound [3, p. 1].

Most children enjoy singing songs, and they can often be a welcome change from the routine of learning a foreign language. For the teacher, using songs in the classroom can also be a nice break from following a set curriculum. Songs can be taught to any number of students and even those teachers with the most limited resources can use them effectively. Songs can play an important role in a second language development of young children.

Last scientific researches and publications analysis

Analysis and research of contemporary scientific, educational, and methodological literature suggests that many investigations are devoted to certain aspects of songs use in the English language teaching of young and adult learners.

The positive effects of music on first and second language acquisition have been studied by N. Bazhenova, Zh. Vereninova, O. Yephimova, V. Kostenko, O. Kudravets, I. Laschykova, O. Mykhailova, O. Nekrutenko, Z. Nykytenko, L. Petko, H. Synkevych, L. Khaletska, N. Petrovska, Y.S. Jolly, M. Jalongo, K. Bromley, W. McCarthy, M. Martin, M. Mitchell and other scientists. Thus, N. Bazhenova and L. Khaletska in their investigations reveal the potential of the song in the formation of aesthetic and moral component of personality. The use of songs in teaching English phonetics is the subject of scientific inquiry of Zh. Vereninova. The role of music in enhancing memorization is the research subject of such scientists as K. Gfeller, D. Schuster, D. Mouzon, M. Glazner, W. Shepard, L. Ascher, P. Weener, B. Isem, S. Botarri, J. Evans.

Formulation of the article’s purpose

As we can see, the problem of songs use in English classes of adult students is widely observed in scientific investigations of both foreign and native scholars. However, the analysis of the scientific literature shows that the use of songs as a valuable pedagogical tool in English classes in primary school needs further development. This concerns the psychological preconditions of use of the songs in the process in teaching English of primary school, the conditions for the selection and operation with songs, organization the process of learning a foreign language with their application.

Significant academic potential and the lack of development of the mentioned aspects of the use of songs in the process of teaching English in primary school, the lack of a coherent concept of the formation of skills of primary school students with the use of songs have caused the relevance of the theme of our research. Thus, the aim of the article is to highlight the role of songs in teaching English as a second language of primary school students.

The statement of basic material of investigation

Songs are one of the most enchanting and culturally rich resources that can easily be used in language classrooms. Songs offer a change from routine classroom activities. They are precious resources to develop students’ abilities in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. They can also be used to teach a variety of language items such as sentence patterns, vocabulary, pronunciation, rhythm, adjectives, and adverbs. As stated by R. Lo and H.C. Fai Li, learning English through songs also provides a non-threatening atmosphere for students, who usually are tense when speaking English in a formal classroom setting [2, p. 8].

One of the advantages of using songs in teaching English of primary school students is their flexibility. Songs can be used for a number of purposes and there are many reasons why songs can be considered a valuable pedagogical tool. Songs can help young learners improve their listening skills and pronunciation, therefore potentially helping them to improve their speaking skills. Songs can also be useful tools in the learning of vocabulary, sentence structures, and sentence patterns, not to mention their reflectivity of mother tongue culture [4, p. 95].

As we have mentioned earlier, songs can help young students improve their listening skills. Young learners can become bored by repeatedly listening to a narration or dialogue as they attempt to understand the meaning of new words or phrases in context. In contrast, listening to a song over and over again can seem less monotonous because of the rhythm and melody [5, p. 194]. Some songs, such as Hello, contain common expressions and can be used as good listening activities. For example, a teacher can sing the first three lines of the song below, and students can respond with the following three lines: Hello, Hello, Hello, how are you? I’m fine, I’m fine, I hope that you are, too.

Songs can also help improve listening skills because they provide students with practice listening to different forms of intonation and rhythm. English has a stress-timed rhythm, for which songs can help establish a feeling. T. Murphey believes that music has the power to engrave itself into our brains, stating that “songs work on our short- and long-term memory” and is therefore an adequate tool for using in the language classroom [4, p. 47].

Songs may be helpful in improving pronunciation. Moreover, songs can allow young learners to practice a new sound without producing the same level of boredom. Songs also have a natural rhythm with a recurring beat that is similar to the stress patterns of spoken English. These patterns make some songs useful for practicing rhythm and stress. The song Girls and Boys Come out and Play could be used effectively to teach English rhythm and stress: [6, p. 165] Girls and boys come out to play, The sun above is bright today. Leave your work and leave your sleep, Come and join us in the street. Come with a shout and come with a call, Come with a smile and bring your ball. Down the steps and up the path, All the fun will make you laugh.

Songs can provide a teacher the opportunity for vocabulary practice. They are usually based around a topic that can provide the context for vocabulary learning. The song Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, for example, can be used to review body parts, or the song I Can Sing a Rainbow may be useful for reviewing colour names. Most children’s songs are characterized by monosyllabic words, many of which are frequently repeated. This repetition offers greater exposure to these words and can help improve vocabulary acquisition.

Some of the vocabulary and language used in traditional and popular English songs, however, can cause difficulties for language learners due to their use of low frequency and archaic words. The song and the lyrics need to be selected carefully by a teacher to complement the target vocabulary.

Many children’s songs have a simple sentence structure or sentence pattern that can become set in the mind of the learner. Songs could be used to reinforce questions taught in the classroom. The length of a phrase in a typical children’s song is short and often uses simple conversational language. T. Murphey states that the pauses after each phrase are typically longer in comparison to the phrase itself, which can allow learners to process the language and shadow in real time. Though, a teacher needs to take care when selecting a song because some songs have irregular sentence structures that are not typically used in English conversation [4, p. 49].

According to Y.S. Jolly, using songs can also give learners the opportunity to acquire a better understanding of the culture of the target language. Songs reflect culture. C. Shen states, “language and music are interwoven in songs to communicate cultural reality in a very unique way”. Although this is probably more applicable to songs for older learners, young learners can be given the opportunity to learn about seasonal or historical events in the target language through songs [7, p. 89].

Probably the most obvious advantage of using songs in teaching English of primary school students is that they are enjoyable. Most children enjoy singing and usually respond well to using songs in the classroom, but there are more significant benefits of using songs other than just being fun. First, songs can bring variety to the everyday classroom routine. This variety stimulates interest and attention, which can help improve student’ motivation, thereby helping learners to reach higher levels of achievement. Secondly, songs, in particular choral singing, can help create a relaxed and informal atmosphere that makes the classroom a no threatening environment. By reducing anxiety, songs can help increase student interest and motivate them to learn the target language. Students often think of songs as entertainment rather than study and therefore find learning English through songs fun and enjoyable.

Despite there are many reasons why songs can be considered a valuable teaching tool, there are some issues to consider. As mentioned above, a teacher needs to take care in selecting a suitable song for his or her class. Sometimes, the language, vocabulary, and sentence structure of some songs can be quite different from that used in spoken English [6, p. 168]. For example, the nursery rhyme called Jack Be Nimble is not likely to help the learner in the use of the verb be: Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candlestick.

In addition, there are other difficulties placed on a teacher. To maintain variety in the classroom, a teacher needs a good repertoire of songs. Although young learners are happy to sing the same song on several occasions, interest in the same song can soon fade if the song is used too often. Some non-native English-speaking teachers may also worry about teaching the stress and timing of songs correctly, and are therefore probably more likely to only use certain songs that they feel comfortable with or avoid using songs completely. Finally, T. Murphey points out that no matter how enjoyable or memorable, singing songs in itself will not teach anyone to use the language, and will not give students the ability to communicate in another language. The words in songs unfortunately do not transfer into use [4, p. 45].

As we consider, one way to maximize the advantages and minimize some of the limitations mentioned above might be to develop songs into language learning tasks. Although this alone will not help teachers develop a greater repertoire of songs, it can help turn a song into a useful tool for language learning and teaching [1, p. 96]. Developing a song from an activity into a task with preparation, core, and follow-up stages might be one way to help transfer the words in a song into use and maximize the potential of songs as teaching and learning tools.

There are thousands of children’s songs. So selecting, learning, and using a suitable song for a particular class or purpose can be a real challenge for language teachers. With a little initiative and imagination, a children’s song can easily be adapted. Any teacher can create original songs. By slightly altering the vocabulary, grammar, or sentence structure whilst maintaining the original rhythm, a traditional song can be adapted to suit a particular theme or part of the curriculum. By adapting the song in this way, a teacher has the advantage of being able to select a particular language feature and incorporate it into the song. This feature could be an item of vocabulary, syntax, phonology, or a simple conversational expression. This allows a teacher to incorporate more songs into a curriculum and save time searching for and learning new songs.


Therefore, we can state that songs appear an effective means of the English language teaching namely of primary school students, because song materials develop emotional-sensory perception of the world that is typical for young learners.

Numerous children songs can be used as a valuable teaching and learning tool. Using songs can help learners improve their listening skills, pronunciation, and memorization. They can also be useful for teaching vocabulary and sentence structures. In addition, they can help improve young students’ motivation towards learning English, thereby helping learners to reach higher levels of achievement.

Undoubtedly, the article research material does not exhaust all aspects of the problem under our consideration. The prospects for further scientific research in this field we see in the development of an exercise set for teaching English through songs of primary school students.


  1. L. Cameron. Teaching Languages to Young Learners. – Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2001. – 276 p.
  2. R. Lo, H.C. Fai Li. Songs Enhance Learner Involvement. – English Teaching Forum, 36, 1998. – Pp. 8-11.
  3. S. Medina. The Effect of Music on Second Language Vocabulary Acquisition. – National Network for Early Language Learning, 6(3), 1993. – Pp. 1-8.
  4. T. Murphey. Music and Song. – Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1992. – 151p.
  5. J. M. Purcell. Using Songs to Enrich the Secondary Class. – Hispania, 75(1), 1992. – Pp. 192-196.
  6. J. Richards. Songs in Language Learning. – TESOL Quarterly, 3(2), 1969. – Pp. 161-174.
  7. C. Shen. Using English Songs: An Enjoyable and Effective Approach to ELT. – English Language Teaching, 2(1), 2009. – Pp. 88-94.

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