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Author Topic: Choosing songs for students  (Read 380 times)

Offline DeeDubb

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Choosing songs for students
« on: October 23, 2018, 10:05:08 AM »
Finding good songs to introduce to students can be challenging, because you are not only looking for good songs, but also songs that the students can understand and sing along with, and hopefully, transfer the vocabulary and pronunciation over to their speaking.

That's where the problem lies. Many songs have vocal effects and music that muffles the lyrics to the point of unintelligibility for a non-native speaker. Also, bands singing in harmony tend to be harder to understand than solo singers. So we're looking for songs with minimal vocal effects, sung solo, with music where the vocalist is the emphasis over the instruments.

However, that's only half of the battle. Singing English and Speaking English are generally pretty different. The way vowels and consonants are produced in a song tend to be quite different from how we speak them. In looking for songs to introduce to my students, I've been trying to find singers who sing in a way similar to speaking, where they strongly articulate their syllables and intonate in a way similar to speaking patterns.

Barbra Streisand does this amazingly well
Don't Rain on my Parade
of course the "putt-ah" and "butt-ah" are exaggerated dialects and not an example of inarticulate singing.

Billy Joel isn't bad either (Though many of his songs have echos on the vocals that can hinder understanding)
Piano Man

I'm looking for other suggestions of songs/singers who fit these requirements well. Thanks!

Offline hightowerra

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Re: Choosing songs for students
« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2018, 11:55:06 AM »
I decided to make my extra class that I teach a listening practice class this semester so I've been using songs like what you're describing every week. The ones I've used have gone over pretty well so far. And while my 3rd and maybe 4th graders can't always sing along right away, most of the 5th and 6th graders pick it up faster than I thought they would actually. I've used 4 songs so far and I have 4 more I'll use.  *=used

"Never Enough" - Loren Allred (The Greatest Showman OST) *
"Count on Me" - Bruno Mars (a lot of my students love this song already and knew a lot of the words) *
"Tiny Voice" - Lexi Walker *
"Perfect" - Ed Sheeran *
"Summer Love" - One Direction
"I Was Made For Loving You" - Tori Kelly ft. Ed Sheeran
"Half a Heart" - One Direction
"Na Na Na" - Pentatonix (this song is kinda fast but I think the words are slow enough and clear enough to use)

Online rufus947

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Re: Choosing songs for students
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2018, 01:35:36 PM »
My kids in fourth grade really enjoyed Charlie Puth 'one call away'. Everyone sang along to it. Justin Bieber's 'Baby' is also really popular too.

Online fishead

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Re: Choosing songs for students
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2018, 01:54:03 PM »


"Lemon Tree" Fools Garden.

" My love " by Westlife.

" The Show" by Lenka.

" I have a Dream" Westlife

" Love Yourself" Juston Beiber

Online Aristocrat

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Re: Choosing songs for students
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2018, 02:50:16 PM »
My opinion, it's best to have your students spend a little bit of time learning the chorus of 10 songs than to force to learn one song over and over till they get sick of it, because at that point, it just becomes sounds they have to copy.

1 - Next, it's just a fact of English that it's a global language. The kids are going to have to get used to hearing words spoken with different accents etc. 

2 - It's best to use gap fills for songs. Leave one word out of each line and the students have to use comprehension and context to understand the missing words. Spend some time explaining the meaning of the lyrics too.

3 - These kids are visually oriented, a cool music video to go along with the song helps keep their attention and understand the
     context of the lyrics.

Lemon Tree, Let it go etc. are easy to learn, but have probably been drilled to death.

Here are two which I found worked great

A-Ha - Take on Me (Kids absolutely went apesh*t over the music video and the melody)

Greenday - Boulevard of Broken Dreams (lyrics are very relatable to the kids once explained and mine loved it)

For example you could either do gap fill as a class, or individually with worksheets

"I walk a lonely road, the only one that ____ have ever _____" etc.

Remember, if you're teaching this song to multiple classes, you're going to have to listen to iit for at least 2-4hrs... you really want to listen to Westlife for 4hrs?

Online fishead

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Re: Choosing songs for students
« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2018, 02:07:52 PM »
 " It's my Life" Bon Jovi. Very simple song lots of repetition. Easy to pick up.

 " See you again" Wiz Khalifa.

 " Price Tag" Jessie J

 " How far I'll go" Moana- Has very long sentences but students eventually pick up on it.

 " Try Everything" from the movie Zootopia. by Shakiro. This is a great motivational video. It's on Youtube
a great video with lyrics on screen.
There are other songs on the Frozen movie such as" Do you wanna build a snowman?"

Online alexisalex

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Re: Choosing songs for students
« Reply #6 on: October 25, 2018, 06:34:13 AM »
How do you go about teaching a pop song to students?  Do you ask your coteacher to translate the lyrics and then give them a worksheet or something?

Greenday - Boulevard of Broken Dreams (lyrics are very relatable to the kids once explained and mine loved it)

Yeah the lyrics are quite interesting in this song.  So did your coteacher explain the meaning of the lyrics to the students and then you provide the activity?

Online fishead

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Re: Choosing songs for students
« Reply #7 on: October 25, 2018, 07:11:29 AM »
How do you go about teaching a pop song to students?  Do you ask your coteacher to translate the lyrics and then give them a worksheet or something?

Greenday - Boulevard of Broken Dreams (lyrics are very relatable to the kids once explained and mine loved it)

Yeah the lyrics are quite interesting in this song.  So did your coteacher explain the meaning of the lyrics to the students and then you provide the activity?
Better to get a copy of already translated lyrics and give out the handout. Some co-teachers will spend an eternity translating the lyrics

Online orange6ur1

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Re: Choosing songs for students
« Reply #8 on: November 10, 2018, 11:59:50 PM »
Grenade - bruno mars
Marry you - bruno mars (kids loveeed this)
Lucky - jason mraz and colbie calliet (ok i butchered her last name sorry too lazy to look it up now)
All i want for xmas is you - mariah carey
Sugar - maroon 5
One call away - charlie puth
We don’t talk anymore - charlie puth *only taught to middle school 3rd graders

**i pick songs with clear enunciation by the singer OR i pick songs that are pretty popular and students really seem to want to learn.

I make a quick “fill in the blank/circle the word” worksheet/ppt (and on the back, i have the korean translated lyrics that i picked on a naver blog)

I actually find songs a little tedious to teach at times probably because of the way i teach them. So studetns can get kinda impatient but they end up memorizing a lot of the verse.

Also for those who wanna get a lil fancy and wanna cut up/edit their mp3 song (i insert the splices directly into the ppt) you can download audacity.com

And thanks to whoever mentioned “take on me”. I will definitely teach that...i can see my 1st graders going nuts. They’re also really into “billie jean” and didn’t believe me when i told them michael jackson is not a woman, he is a man. Lol

Offline nzer-in-gyeongnam

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Re: Choosing songs for students
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2018, 07:58:55 AM »
I picked up 2 books Pops English

These books are supposedly aimed at Elementary Grades 3&4 and 5&6 respectively. However, I use them at middle school level too.

The book recommends teaching the song to the students first and having them listen several times and learn the words that are key words in the song and then look at the grammar and do a quiz and then go to the workbook and do the cloze listening activity.

However, I use this a little differently. I give my students the workbook worksheets first. I play the song for them 4 times and then we go over a lyrics version of the song so they can self-correct their work. We then look at the translations (which are provided at the back of the book, and I type into the PPT's I create for these activities). We then have a singing competition for the whole school - They get 1 practice chance, and I will sing with them, and give them tips about the parts they find difficult, then I record the class singing the song, and the best class each week gets a point. The class with the most points at the end of the semester gets a pizza party. Then we do the quiz from the front of the book and that's a 45 minute lesson.

My students say the Pop Song class is their favorite class of the week. Even my low level students really enjoy it. For the low level students I give a list of the missing words from the worksheet (in alphabetical order) so they have the spelling and the words in front of them to help boost their confidence. The class is told they may use Korean OR English and spelling is not important so there is no pressure. They just have to listen and find the words.

I use the pop song class as a listening class and it has improved the listening over all for most of our students in the time I have been doing this. I began teaching pop songs at my 2nd school last year, and my 1st school heard about it and wanted to follow suit so we have been doing it here this year too.
« Last Edit: November 12, 2018, 08:02:44 AM by nzer-in-gyeongnam »
"It's better to have tried and failed, than never to have tried at all!"
Teach this to your students... they'll thank you for it later!

Online Mr.DeMartino

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Re: Choosing songs for students
« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2018, 08:13:33 AM »
Of course, everything is age-dependent.

I'd recommend anything that has a commonly well-known melody. Most well-known songs are easy to sing as well. By well known, I mean songs that existed, for the most part, before recordings and electronics. Kids songs. Folk songs. Stuff you'd know from commercials, movies, and TV shows as a motif. If you want to make it interesting, find versions that tell a funny story or something. Other options are really (and I mean REALLY) well-known pop songs that aren't a challenge to sing or songs from musicals. Motown works well.

Avoid like the plague: Rock, rap, obscure crap that isn't catchy.

Online biancaapato

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Re: Choosing songs for students
« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2018, 10:35:51 AM »
Right now I am teaching "Happier" by Marshmellow and Bastille. Marshmellow became huge at my school for his song "Friends." "Happier" is pretty easy to teach students because it repeats a lot and I like it because the music video is not what you would expect from the song lyrics. I first teach the song to students, we discuss different things about music, and then we watch the music video and compare and contrast.