Music is a very effective tool to teach a language to any age group, especially to children. Through music, children can explore different sounds and grammatical structures, learn new vocabulary, and in some cases learn about different cultures. Music allows language to be presented in a context. When teaching young learners, music can also be a way to extend learning at home and invite parents and caregivers to become active in their children’s learning process – something that is particularly helpful to make a second language more accessible and less “foreign.”

Young learners also like to move a lot. Since they often have shorter attention spans, it’s important to use short songs that allow space for plenty of movement and repetition. Since their language skills are still very limited in the second language, using gestures and movement makes it easier for them to understand and engage in learning the new language. Using American Sign Language instead of creating our own gestures makes it even more interesting when teaching and opens our children’s minds to a new language in a context of familiarity.

Music and movement are great teaching tools to aid memory and help young children’s short attention spans grow longer – a real kind of mental endurance workout.

Tips to teach a language through music:

Use native singers: Since young children are very good at imitating sounds, get music CD’s where singers are using the right pronunciation. This is not a set rule, but will help children explore the real, nuanced sounds of the language.

Move a lot: Create movements to go along with the song. Association of movement with words will help memory retain not only words, but full sentences.

Use visual aids: Use visual aids and cues to help understanding, instead of translation. Young minds have the ability to decode a language according to the given context.

Always make it fun: Making it fun and relaxed provide a safe environment for any learner. Children love playing and singing, so enjoy along with them.

Every moment is for learning
: Little children are very open to learning at any time. Sometimes they are the ones who might choose the theme of your class. Find a song to go along with what interests them to get them engaged.

Have fun trying these songs in Spanish with your class!

La Danza del Paracaidas (Parachute dance)

Los números (Numbers)

La mariposa (Butterfly)

About the Author: Carolina grew up in Colombia, South America. She holds a Bachelors degree in Modern Languages from La Universidad del Valle in Colombia and a Masters in Intercultural Relations from Lesley University in Boston. Carolina enjoys teaching children her language and exploring the vibrant cultures of Latin America in a fun way and has been teaching languages to children for over 12 years in Colombia, Guatemala, and the United States – in private schools, public schools, and out-of-school settings. She is now a classroom K-3 Spanish teacher in Buckingham, Browne, and Nichols (BB&N) in Cambridge, MA. She is a member of MaFLA (Massachusetts Foreign Language Association) and ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages). In 2005, Carolina founded 1-2-3 Spanish Together, an early language music and curriculum designed to teach Spanish to children and their families and help other teachers learn the trade. She also shares a lot teaching tips on her new website for teachers Fun for Spanish Teachers and her blog.

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