How to use Music to Develop Oral Language

Three Easy Steps

Step 1: Play music in the background

Before encouraging students to sing, it is important to allow children the opportunity to simply listen to the song as this strengthens listening skills.  You could play music in the background during quiet activities or during lunchtime.  You could also sing the song and have the class follow the actions before instructing them to sing-a-long.  Children will join in singing when they feel ready!  

Step 2: Sing-A-Long and Teach Vocabulary

After several exposures to the songs, the class should be encouraged to sing-a-long.  Sit together at the carpet while the teacher points to the words on the chart.  Have the words printed in big print and use pictures when possible to allow children to make meaning of the words.  It is also helpful to teach gestures or sign language to accompany the lyrics, as this will support vocabulary development.  It is important that the teacher explains the vocabulary so that children can make meaning of the words.  Often, the vocabulary is explicit – such as in the song “Head and Shoulders” where the teacher points to the body parts as the class sings each word.  Other songs, such as “The Mitten in the Snow”, needs props (such as a mitten, a toy rabbit, and hedgehog) or other visuals (pictures).

Step 3: Provide Copies of the Lyrics to Students – Follow-A-Long!

It is beneficial to provide children with a copy of the lyrics to keep in a duo-tang. Continue to sing songs together with the class and encourage the children to follow along with their finger or with a small pointer.  The children enjoy the fun, playful songs and they do not realize that they are participating in a reading activity.  Allow the children to take out their duo-tangs so that they can sing on their own as well!  Provide children with opportunities to “sing the room” in which they can use a pointer to sing songs that are posted throughout the room.  

How to Support Struggling Students

Students are unable to track the words should be paired with a big buddy (an older student who can easily read/sing the songs).  They can echo read - The big buddy sings one sentence or line and the little buddy echoes and follows along with his/her finger.  Once the student is ready, the big and little buddy can choral read together.  This helps support children who need more guidance.