Songs for Young Learners

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Mus t a fa S e vik


Teaching Listening Skills to
Young Learners through
“Listen and Do” Songs


f it’s true that listening skills are
the most important outcomes of
early language teaching (Demirel
2004), that explains the constant
demand for methods that successfully
improve listening skills of learners.
Songs can be one of the most enjoyable ways to practice and develop listening skills. Any syllabus designed for teaching English as a Second/Foreign
Language (ESL/EFL) to young learners (YLs) typically contains songs, chants, and rhymes (Bourke 2006).
Musical expression is an essential part
of the human experience, and children respond enthusiastically to songs and welcome them.
Klein (2005) argues that teaching YLs is different from teaching adults. YLs tend to change their mood
every other minute, and they find it
extremely difficult to sit still. On the
other hand, children show greater
motivation than adults to do things
that appeal to them. It therefore helps
if the teacher is inventive and selects
a wide variety of interesting activities,
especially with songs.




The purpose of this article is twofold: I will first provide a theoretical discussion about listening skills and
YLs, and about songs and YLs in general; second, I will provide a sample lesson for what can be called “Listen and Do” songs for YLs at the beginning
level. These are the songs to which students physically respond by performing an action (e.g., a song contains the words “wake up,” and whenever
students hear “wake up” they perform
an action, such as raising their hands).
Teachers around the world can apply
this lesson to songs of their own choice
to make students active participants in
the listening activity from start to finish. Following the lesson plan is a short list of online song resources for teaching young ESL/EFL learners. Listening skills and young
Listening is the receptive use of
language, and since the goal is to make
sense of the speech, the focus is on
meaning rather than language (Cameron 2001). Sarıçoban (1999) states 3








that listening is the ability to identify and
understand what others are saying. For learners, listening is how spoken language becomes input (i.e., it is the first stage of learning a
new language). In the classroom, this happens
by listening to the teacher, a CD, or other
learners. It is the process of interpreting messages—what people say. Two theories of speech perception portray
listeners as having very different roles. In the
first view, listeners play a passive role and
simply recognize and decode sounds, and in
the second view, listeners play an active role
and perceive sounds by accessing internal
articulation rules to decode speech (Crystal
1997). Whether speech perception is active
or passive, or a combination of both, Phillips
(1993) says that listening tasks are extremely
important in the primary school setting,
providing a rich source of language data from
which children begin to build up their own
ideas of how the foreign language works. This
knowledge is a rich source that YLs draw on
to produce language.
Listening is the initial stage in first and
second language acquisition. According to
Sharpe (2001), the promotion of children’s
speaking and listening skills lies at the heart
of effective learning in all subjects of the primary curriculum. Therefore, ESL/EFL teachers have to make the development of children’s listening skills a key aim of primary teaching
and equip them with the best strategies for
effective listening.
Linse (2005) also considers the teaching of listening skills as foundational to the development of other language skills. We
should, however, be aware that any kind of
listening comprehension activity needs to be
well guided with clear aims. To this end, Ur
(1996) argues that a listening purpose should
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