There is magic in music. You know that all you have to do is sing a song and you have a child's attention and interest-no matter what your voice sounds like! No wonder teachers and parents have used music as a teaching tool for years. Some of the oldest children's songs we know have taught everything from character building to the alphabet and numbers. You can use songs during group time as a fun and effective way to develop vital language skills.

Building Vocabulary Skills

Popular songs such as "The Wheels on the Bus" can introduce words for objects as well as sounds. By inviting children to add their own verses, you expand their vocabulary. Here is how to do it:

  • Take the song and sing the standard verses.
  • Then suggest other things (silly as well as logical) that are on the bus.

Eventually children will get the idea and come up with their own funny ideas!

A great way to extend the learning is to write children's suggested verses on chart paper for reference. They can "read" and sing the song again and again the new way. Provide mural paper with the outline of an empty, giant bus for children to cut out and draw pictures of all the silly things they sang about in the bus.

Building Rhyming Skills

Singing and rhyming are a natural combination. Most song phrases end with rhyming words. You can encourage children to build rhyming skills by leaving off the last word of a phrase for them to "sing-in." You will also be strengthening listening skills. Take a song such as "This Old Man" and leave off the rhyming word. "This old man he played one. He played knick-knack on my Expand children's skills by asking them to suggest rhymes for verses 11 through 20! Remember that nonsense or made-up rhyming words are just as wonderful as real ones-the focus is on hearing the sound that matches. What rhymes with 20? (Plenty!)

Other rhyming songs you can include: "I'm Being Swallowed by a Boa Constrictor" and "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly". Change the fly to something else and see how the rhymes develop. Or try changing the lady to a "red rooster who swallowed a rock" (what a shockit swallowed a rock!). Not only will you be working on rhyming skills, but you will also be inviting children to work with the initial consonant sound of R (as this red rooster can only swallow things that start with the R sound!).

Creating a HomeSchool Link

The songs children bring home from your class create a warm home-school literacy link. Children delight in "teaching" a new song to family members; in the process, they are exercising their vocabulary, rhyming, phonemic awareness, and listening skills all at once.

Singing school songs is a bonding experience for children and their families. You might want to write out the words (and invite children to illustrate!) to the new songs you are teaching and encourage children to take them home to share with the family. Children will get extra literacy practice in "reading" the words too! Here is one of my favorites to share with families as they prepare for the busy family holiday season ahead. Children can add their family members' names and ways to get there to personalize the song.

Out the Driveway

(Tune: Over the River and Through the Woods)

Out the driveway and down the street

To (family member's name) place we go,

Our car knows the way to carry us there

Past homes and the trees that blow.

Out the driveway and down the street

For soon we will be there,

With hugs and smiles we'll greet each one

Our best clothes we shall wear.