More About Learning to Read Using Songs

I created a tab at the top Called Learning to Read Through Songs with links and lyrics. I wanted to expand on that and tell you why this is important and why it works.

I am not a musical teacher. I don’t sing to the kids about cleaning up or starting with a capital. I DON’T sing anything. But teaching little ones to read is not about what I like or how I learn or what I’m comfortable with. It’s about them. Lots of children learn through music.

Why it Works:

  1. Kids remember song lyrics and can learn them quickly. By having the lyrics in front of them, they are connecting what the words sound like with what the words look like.
  2. It increases fluency. Songs can’t be sung in that stoic robot voice kids often read with.
  3. It increases vocabulary. Songs have bigger words than “cat” and “like”. Early readers LOVE big words. Some songs really provide an opportunity for conversations about new words.
  4. It increases their Sight Words. Last year my class became OBSESSED with Mary Poppins songs. Because of that, *every* kid, regardless of their reading level, recognized words like “spoonful” and “sugar.” And “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” but that’s valid.   
  5. It challenges the kids who are reading above grade level.
  6. It makes non-readers feel successful.
  7. It allows them to take control of their learning. “DJ for the Day” was one of the rewards in our class. The student who chose that award got to pick the songs they wanted to hear all day. If a student made a request for lyrics for their song book, I gave it to them (provided they were child-appropriate).
  8. It exposes them to songs they may not have heard before. Some of my favorites from childhood, and old folk songs like “This Land is Your Land,” became some of their favorites.

Tips for Teaching with Songs:

  1. Sing every day. Even if it’s just 5 or 10 minutes, or 2 or 3 songs. It can be done during snack, after they’ve packed up.
  2. Give them a Song Book. I used a 1 inch binder, printed songs on both sides and hole-punched. 
  3. Give them new songs, but keep playing the old songs. By the end of the year, they usually have between 50 and 60 songs, and about 15 we listened to regularly.
  4. Read over the lyrics periodically with them.
  5. Encourage them to point to the words while they’re singing.
  6. Create word searches. Look at the songs they have in their Song Book and create a game. I did this because I wanted to make sure they were READING the songs, not just singing them. See my examples here: Song Word Search 1 Song Word Search 2 These examples use our school song, so you probably won’t be able to use them unless you can convert from PDF to publisher and change it.
  7. Let them read their Song Book during Silent Reading. We did this on Fridays and called it “Loud Reading.” They got to sit with friends and sing their favorite songs (with quiet voices). This was the time I’d really see them reading and decoding the words in the lyrics.

Songs my Class has LOVED 
Phineas and Ferb–Gitchee Gitchee Goo with lyrics                     Gitchee Goo Lyrics
This Land is Your Land
I Can Sing a Rainbow                                           I Can Sing a Rainbow lyrics
I Just Can’t Wait to be King                                   I Just Can’t Wait to be King lyrics
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious                          Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious lyrics
The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers
Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
The Bare Necessities                                             The Bare Necessities lyrics
Mr. Grinch                                                            Grinch lyrics
Step in Time–Mary Poppins This one’s long!      Step In Time lyrics   

**Side Note: All the Mary Poppins songs had my classes singing with English Accents. Hilarious**

*Always preview YouTube links before showing them to your kids. Check the video for words changed into inappropriate words as well as foul language in the comments. I don’t know what’s wrong with people. *Also beware of ads placed on some of these videos as they can also be inappropriate. **ALWAYS PREVIEW!

Muffin Songs Channel Some have lyrics, some don’t. Some phonics songs, some classic songs.
Schoolhouse Rock Channel Some of these will definitely be over the heads of the little ones, but my first graders LOVED the Noun and Adjective songs
HooplaKidz Lots of really cute songs here, some with lyrics, some without. (Although I really hate it when something specifically for children is purposely spelled wrong. Pet peeve.)
*For More Check out The Learning to Read Through Songs tab.

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