Songs and stories are some of the most effective teaching tools ESL and EFL educators can deploy in just about any classroom level. This is especially true for kids who will not only pile up their stash of English words but will also improve their listening skills.
Language educators focusing on young learners often use a hybrid narrative form that melds different elements of songs, poems and stories into one piece that can be recited or sung with the accompaniment of music. Such tools — whose usual objective is to eventually compel students to sing or recite the whole material — have been found to be very effective in getting kids to participate in class. The more delightful, enjoyable or funny the material is, the easier it will be memorized and articulated by students. To get to this point, however, the ESL or EFL teacher must be prepared to describe the images and situations being conveyed by the material. Colorful and intriguing visual aids will substantially help in accomplishing this task and will raise the class’s interest level about the topic or lesson.
Successful Outcomes: Empirical Evidence
In a paper written by California State University’s Suzanne Medina, music has been shown to have a positive impact on language acquisition, suggesting a higher degree of effectiveness in terms of vocabulary building compared to traditional stories that are just illustrated and directly spoken.
The research statistically compared the rate of vocabulary acquisition of a group of 48 third-grade second language students based on scenarios where stories are 1) sung, 2) spoken, 3) illustrated, and 4) not illustrated. The study shows that illustrated spoken and sung stories were equally effective in terms of aiding language learning. However, in terms of word acquisition, the empirical results favor stories that are illustrated and sung, with students exposed to this scenario acquiring an average of 1.5 words at the end of the experiment, compared to just 1 word acquired by students exposed to stories that are illustrated and spoken. Over the course of four weeks wherein the story was not heard by the group, the gap surprisingly widened, with students exposed to a musical rendition of the story acquiring an average of 3.3 new words compared to an average of just 1.5 vocabulary words acquired by learners exposed to the traditionally narrated story.
How to Integrate Story-Songs in Your ESL/EFL Classes
You may want to use illustrated story-songs in your language classes given their proven effectiveness in generating highly positive learning outcomes. The following guidelines should help you deploy this method:
Select an appropriate story-song.
Make due preparations for the story-song presentation.
Days before the actual presentation, play the story-song whenever possible, allowing students to do other activities while listening to the story-song.
Present and discuss the story-song.
Spin off the story-song lesson into other engaging activities such as art and role-playing.
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