If you are teaching English Language Learners (ELL), music is such a useful tool!
Changing a word or two within the structure of familiar songs is a great way to make new words meaningful and extend learning.
During the early stages of my teaching experience, I worked with toddlers in a preschool that was predominantly populated by children whose families spoke Russian at home, so I regularly welcomed toddlers who spoke little to no English into a fully English-focused environment. I did my very best to learn as many key words in Russian as I could, and incorporated what I learned into little songs, to help my new students feel understood and safe.
Once I gained my students’ trust, I noticed how eagerly they tried to learn the words to my circle time songs, which we sang every day. After they had mastered the words and meanings to my songs, I would extend the lyrics into meaningful games and experiences…”Hello, Hello, Hello, what do you know…Do you know where Alina is?” and point to Alina, using the music from my song, “Hello, Hello” (“Do you know where your head is”, and pointing). The students themselves also enjoyed making up their own lyrics (especially silly ones, like “…do you know where the BATHROOM is?”, which was always followed by hysterical laughing).
If you are using my music to teach English Language Learners, this post shares 4 of my songs with extension suggestions.
English Language Learner Songs and Extensions
Song: The original purpose of this song is to learn the parts of the body. It is what I like to call a “Back Tracking Song”, where words are added and repeated as the song progresses, like “The 12 Days of Christmas”. A very effective way to practise new words:
“Hello, Hello, Hello what do you know? Do you know where your head (shoulders, tummy, etc) is?”
1. Name Circle
Have a student stand in the middle of a circle. Turn around during “Hello, Hello, Hello what do you know?” Stop when we sing “Do you know where Alina is?”, and point to Alina. Say “There she is!”, then spin and sing again. Use a different child’s name each time. It’s fun to hear your own name used in a song, and this is a great social activity!
2. Object Point/Find
Teach the names of a few items (spoon, fork, napkin, plate, cup). Place the items together (or use a pocket chart) and sing “Hello, Hello, Hello what do you know? Do you know where the spoon is?”. The student picks up or points to the spoon.
3. No Peeking Guess
Using the same items you learned in Object Point/Find above, close your eyes, use a blindfold or hold each item behind your back one at a time. Sing “Hello, Hello, Hello what do you know? Do you know what THIS is?” as you place the object in the student’s hands. Say the word, or say the whole sentence “This is a spoon”. You could also play this with the pocket chart or flash cards.
Song: The original purpose of this song is to teach commonly used animal onomatopia…but the farm is a great place to learn lots of meaningful and useful words in English…another “Back-Tracking Song” for practising words.
“Come and see my animal farm, where you will find a cow. The cow says ‘Moo’, ‘Moo’, ‘Moo’….”
Extensions: Use a felt board, slides or photos of the different objects/scenery you find on the farm, focusing on descriptive words.
Example 1: OBJECTS and COLOURS: “Come and see my animal farm where you will find some grass. The grass is GREEN, GREEN, GREEN. The barn is RED, RED, RED. The Sky is BLUE, BLUE, BLUE. The clouds are WHITE, WHITE, WHITE (etc)”
Example 2: OBJECTS and SIZES: “The barn is BIG, BIG, BIG. The bucket is SMALL, SMALL, SMALL. The Horse is BIG, BIG, BIG. The lamb is SMALL, SMALL, SMALL (etc)”
Example 3: ANIMALS and FOOD: “Horses eat OATS, OATS, OATS. Birds eat SEEDS, SEEDS, SEEDS. Goats eat PLANTS, PLANTS, PLANTS. Sheep eat CARROTS, CARROTS, CARROTS (etc)”.
Example 4: VEGETABLES: “My farm grows CARROTS, CARROTS, CARROTS. My farm grows potatoes, potatoes, potatoes (etc)” (Use flashcards, pocket chart or slides of vegetables growing outside with this extension).
Song: This song’s original purpose is to teach the different sounds we can make with our bodies…another “Back-Tracking Song” that can easily be extended to introduce and reinforce new words.
“I can clap my hands–clap, clap, clap. I can pat my knees–pat, pat, pat”.
1. FOOD PREPARATION: “I like to make pizza, yes, I do. I like to make pizza….with you. I can PAT the DOUGH: Pat, pat, pat. I can ROLL the DOUGH: Roll, roll, roll. I can SPREAD the SAUCE: Spread, spread, spread. I can SPRINKLE CHEESE: Sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle (etc)”. Take it as far as you’d like, there are so many useful words–BAKE, CUT, SERVE, EAT….
2. GARDENING: “I like to plant gardens, yes, I do. I like to plant gardens….with you. I can DIG the DIRT: Dig, dig, dig. I can PLANT the SEEDS: Plant, plant, plant. I can WATER the SOIL: Water, water, water (etc).”
3. SWIMMING: “I like to go swimming, yes, I do. I like to go swimming….with you. I can KICK my FEET: Kick, kick, kick. I can BLOW some BUBBLES: Blub, blub, blub. I can TAKE a BREATH (inhale and exhale)….(etc)”
4. UNDER THE SEA: “I see ocean animals, yes, I do. I see ocean animals….do you? Do you see a WHALE? Do you see a FISH? Do you see a TURTLE? (etc)”.
Song: This song’s original purpose is to teach different modes of transportation and the sounds they make. Extending this song might require some planning out before you teach it, but there are lots of ways in which you can change the theme/words. The easiest extension is to add as many “extra” modes of transportation as you can!
“I see a little car….its wheels go round and round….I like to watch the car drive all around the town.”
1. ANIMALS, PARTS, MOVEMENT: “I see a little BIRD, its WINGS fly all around, I like to watch its FEET hop all around the ground, and it goes HOP, HOP, HOP…” or “I see a great big ELEPHANT, its EARS flop all around, I like to watch its TRUNK sway all around the ground, and it goes SWAY, SWAY, SWAY…(etc)”.
2. PEOPLE, PARTS OF THE BODY, CLOTHING ITEMS: “I see a lot of PEOPLE, their FEET walk all around, I like to watch the people all around the town, and they wear HATS HATS HATS (SHOES, PANTS, COATS, etc)”
3. HOMES/ROOMS IN A HOME: “I see a little HOME, with WINDOWS and with DOORS, I like to visit each ROOM, walking on the FLOORS and I see a LIVING ROOM (DINING ROOM, BEDROOM, BATHROOM, etc).”
You may need to get creative with some of the rhyming, but hopefully, you’ll find my music helpful in your lesson planning for English Language Learners. Let me know what you think–and please share your suggestions and experiences!