ESL songs are a fun and engaging way to teach English as a second language. Young learners especially enjoy singing and dancing in class and music can be a great way to motivate your students and create a fun and interesting learning environment.
In this article you will find practical hints and tips on how to teach songs to young ESL learners, and a list of the BEST ESL SONGS, arranged by topic. If you are looking for songs for older learners, check out our other post on the best pop songs for ESL students to sing.
Alphabet and Phonics Songs; Hello Songs; Weather Songs; Color Songs; Number Songs; Food songs; Body Parts Songs; Preposition Songs; What time is it? Songs; Family Songs; Jobs Songs; Possessive Pronouns Songs; Present Progressive Songs.
Why Teach ESL Songs?
ESL Songs Aid Language Learning
When used properly, ESL songs can be a highly effective teaching strategy. Not only does using songs in the classroom create a fun atmosphere, songs can aid in language learning. The music and rhythm of songs naturally help us to remember the words, and singing repeatedly enables us to commit the words to long term memory.
For example, I can still remember the months of the year song that I sang in French 20 years ago. You can probably still remember the songs and nursery rhymes you sang as a child, too.
ESL Songs for Motivation
ESL songs are also a great way to motivate students. Young learners often have difficulty concentrating and can easily get bored and distracted.
Using a catchy ESL song in the classroom will grab and keep their attention. Singing and dancing to a fun ESL song will get students up out of their seats and students will feel like they are having fun rather than studying.
ESL Songs to Establish a Classroom Routine
Having a classroom routine is essential when teaching young learners. A classroom routine helps young learners to know when it is time to start the class, time to listen to the teacher, time to play, etc.
As part of a classroom routine you should start each lesson in the same way. One very effective way is to start each lesson is with a song. This will grab students attention and get them ready, focused, and energized for the lesson. See below for some recommended ‘Hello’ songs to start your class with.
How to Teach ESL Songs to Kids
Before listening to the song for the first time, ask students what vocabulary they already know about the topic. For example, if the song is about weather, ask them what kinds of weather they already know, and ask them to look outside and see what the weather is like today. This will activate their existing knowledge and put the song in context, which will help students to better understand what the song is about.
Teaching The Song
Ask students to listen carefully to the song. Then after the song has finished, ask students to tell you what words they can remember in the song. Following this, teach the lyrics of the song little by little by playing and pausing the song and asking the students to repeat (sing) after you.
Once you have sang through the song one time, you can teach the students a simple dance or actions to the song. It’s quite easy to make up actions to most of the songs below. To make it even more fun, why not ask your students to help you create the dance moves?
Practice Makes Perfect
It will take some time for young learners to master the lyrics of a new song. Luckily, kids will sing and dance to the same song over and over again if it is fun. Sing the song again and again over the next 5 or so lessons and song and the lyrics will be stuck in your students’ (and your) memory for years to come.
Best ESL Songs for Kids
These are the best ESL songs for kids that our students have enjoyed most over the years.
Alphabet and Phonics Songs
Songs are essential when teaching the alphabet and phonics to young learners. The music and rhythm will help kids remember the names, sounds, and order of the letters of the alphabet.
#1 ‘Phonics Song‘ – This song practices the sounds of each letter in a really catchy way. This song can be used with absolute beginners.
#2 ‘Phonics Song 2‘ – From the same creator, this song includes both the names and sounds of each letter of the alphabet. This song helps students to associate each letter sound with the letter name, and is great to use after students have mastered the letter sounds.
#3 ‘Letter A Song‘ – This is the first in a series of 26 videos (one for each letter of the alphabet) that introduces words using the letter a. The songs are in a ‘rap’ style and introduce the letter sound and 8 words.
TIP: As there are 26 separate letter songs, you can play one every lesson for 26 lessons. After seeing the words in the song, pause the video and ask students if they can remember the words.
This will encourage learners to recall the word and letter sound and to practice speaking the target language. After a few lessons the kids will get used to this routine and will really concentrate while listening to the songs as they try to remember the words.
‘Hello’ Songs / ‘How are you?’ Songs
These songs teach greetings and are a great way to start your class as part of your routine.
#1 ‘How Are You Today?‘ – This is the easiest of the hello songs and easy enough for very young students to master. TIP: To make it more fun and easy to understand, encourage learners to make a happy / sad / hungry face while singing and dancing to the song.
#2 ‘What’s Your Name?‘ – This is great for getting to know the names of your students and teaching kids how to ask and answer about someone’s name.
TIP: Ask for some volunteers to come to the front of the class then the rest of the class can sing “Hello, hello, what’s your name?” and the volunteers can answer using their names.
#3 ‘Hello Hello! Can You Clap Your Hands?‘ – This song contains some difficult vocabulary for very young learners (e.g. ‘stretch up high’, touch your toes’, etc) but it is a great song to get students up out of their seats and to get students energized for class.
#4 ‘Hello Song by Perter Weatherall‘ – This song video has singing penguins and is great for practicing vocabulary to do with feelings.
It may take learners a few times to master all the key words ( I’m great / fine / okay / happy / wonderful / tired / bored / angry / very sad today). Kids love to sing this song and dance like the penguins in the video.
#5 ‘Good Morning Song For Kids‘ by The Singing Walrus – This song is great as a morning warm up song.
The lyrics include ‘How are you?’ and ‘Good morning’ as well as many actions. This song is upbeat and a wonderful ‘hello song’ for ESL kids.
#6 ‘Hello!‘ by Super Simple Songs – This is a wonderful hello song for young kids. The lyrics are very easy and it is easy to make up a simple dance for this song.
#7 ‘The Greetings Song‘ by Maple Leaf Learning – This hello song practices other greetings like ‘Good morning.’, ‘Good afternoon.’, etc. So, it is a great hello song to teach once the kids have mastered the basic greetings.
‘How’s the Weather?’ Songs
Once your young learners have learned weather vocabulary, asking about the weather can become part of your daily classroom routine.
#1′How’s the Weather Song‘ – This song is very simple and catchy and easy enough for very young learners to master.
TIP: After students are used to the melody of the song, you can use flashcards to review weather vocabulary while singing the question and answer. For example, the teacher would show a flashcard and sing ‘How’s the weather?’ and the students would sing the answer – ‘It’s rainy.’
#2 ‘It’s Rainy‘ – This is my absolute favorite song to teach weather. It is also quite simple and easy to dance to.
TIP: For each each type of weather, make up a dance move (i.e. ‘It’s sunny’ = students make a circle above their heads with their hands, etc).
Once students have mastered the dance moves, make the song faster using YouTube’s built in tool (click on the gear icon at the bottom right of the video and change the playback speed). As the song gets faster, the students must dance faster and it becomes crazy and a lot of fun.
#3 ‘Rain Rain Go Away‘ by Super Simple Songs – This weather song shows a family stuck inside on a rainy day.
This song features a lot more lyrics than the above weather songs, so is a good song to sing once students have learned basic weather vocabulary.
#4 ‘Sun, Rain, Wind and Snow‘ by The Singing Walrus – This song is a little difficult to sing for young kids, but it is great to listen to and has a great ‘feel good’ melody.
These songs will help kids to memorize the names of the different colors while having fun at the same time.
#1 ‘The Train Colors Song‘ – This song is a lot of fun, but it is quite fast and a little hard for young learners to master. However, after practicing many many times, students will love singing this song.
TIP: After you have practiced many times as a whole class, ask for volunteers to try to sing the fastest part of the song. It’s a lot of fun as students get tongue tied as they attempt to say all the colors of the train as quick as possible.
#2 ‘I Can See a Rainbow‘ – This version of the ‘I can see a rainbow’ song is from Maple leaf learning and has the fun cuddly character in the video which very young learners love.
It is quite slow and relaxing, so it’s a good song to sing if you have a particularly noisy class as it will naturally calm them down.
#3 ‘Color Song For Kids‘ by Dream English – This very simply song is great for very young learners who are starting to learn colors. This song teaches nine different colors while displaying colorful balloons.
#4 ‘I see Something Blue‘ by Super Simple Songs – In this color song, students are asks to find something blue in the classroom. It’s incredible fun. This song is one of many color songs from Super Simple Songs.
#5 ‘Rainbow Colors Song‘ by The Singing Walrus – This is another great song from the Singing Walrus. This colors song asks students ‘What do you see?’ and helps to teach kids how to begin describing things with colors.
Mastering numbers will enable students to talk about things such as ‘How many?’ and ‘How much is it?’. These songs are very catchy and will help students to commit number vocabulary to their long term memory.
#1‘How Many?’ – This song includes numbers 1-10 and the expression ‘How many?’. It’s very easy and catchy and suitable beginners. TIP: To dance along with the song, ask students to show you their fingers as they count along to the song.
#2 ‘The Big Numbers Song‘ – This song covers numbers from 1 to 1 trillion. So, it is perhaps too difficult for very young learners as they can’t count that high in their native language, let alone in a foreign language.
But, for grade 3 students and above, this is a great song that students love. TIP: Pause the video before 20/30/40/100/1000 etc and ask students what the next number is.
Food / ‘Do you like..?’ Songs
You will often find textbooks will use food vocabulary to talk about likes and dislikes. These songs are great for these lessons as they teach ‘I like../ don’t like’, ‘Do you like…?’, ‘Yes, I do. / No, I don’t.’.
#1 ‘I Like Chicken‘ – This song uses sentences such as ‘ I like chicken / ice cream / fish’. It is very catchy and your students (and you) will be singing it long after class has finished.
TIP: This song is great for a project. Students can make posters for the different foods, and when that food comes up in the song, students can hold up their poster. Give it a try. It’s a lot of fun.
#2 ‘Do You Like Broccoli Ice Cream?‘ – This song is a lot of fun and will have your students screaming. This song takes two foods and puts them together to make a strange food.
For example, broccoli ice cream, banana soup, popcorn pizza, etc. This song is great to practice ‘Do you like…? – Yes, I do. / No, I don’t.’
This is one of about 5 songs that this creator made with the same concept, so you can play a different one for 5 lessons.
TIP: Ask your students to create their own strange food combinations.
#3 ‘Are You Hungry?’ by Super Simple Songs – This ESL food song is great for teaching simple grammar to talk about food and being hungry. This song features fruit vocabulary.
#4 ‘Vegetable Song‘ by The Singing Walrus – This food song will teach kids the names of vegetables in a fun way.
#5 ‘Cook‘ by Pinkfong – Once students have learned food vocabulary, this song is great for practicing expressions to do with cooking.
These songs are great to teach prepositions vocabulary such as on, in, under, in front of, behind, next to, between, etc.
#1 ‘On In Under‘ – This song is the easiest of these songs here with relatively easy vocabulary. The lyrics are also quite funny as it includes on my ear, in my nose, etc.
TIP: Using your hands, make a simple dance to show on, in, under. For example, for ‘on’, make a fist with your left hand and place your right hand on the top of the fist.
For ‘in’, place fingers from your right hand in the fist. And for ‘under’, place your right hand under the fist. Once students have mastered the dance, speed up the song on YouTube to make song more fun.
#2 ‘ In On Under‘ – This song is a little harder as it includes more prepositions, so may be a little too difficult for very young learners. It includes in/on/under/in front of/behind/next to/ between.
TIP: Again, it is easy to make up a simple dance with your hands to represent the different prepositions.
#3 ‘Prepositions Memory Game‘ – Not a song, but this game is a lot of fun to review prepositions. Students see a scene for 5 seconds and must remember the location of all the objects.
#4 ‘Where is it?‘ by Maple Leaf Learning – This prepositions of place song is incredibly catchy. It is the first in a series of prepositions songs. Kids really love singing this song and it will be stuck in your head all day.
‘What Time is it?’ Songs
Once students have mastered numbers 1-12 these songs should be easy enough for them to sing. They great for practicing how to ask and answer ‘What’s the time?’
#1 ‘ What Time Is It?‘ – This song is easy and includes just the times 1-12 o’clock.
TIP: To dance to this song, simple ask students to use their hands like the hands on a clock. That is, start with both hands above your head together (12 o’clock) and then move your left hand to the one o’clock position while keeping your right hand pointing at 12.
#2 ‘What’s The Time?‘ – This song is a little more difficult and includes numbers 1-12 o’clock, but also 15 / 30 / 45 minutes.
Body Parts Songs
ESL songs are a very effective way to memorize body parts vocabulary.
#1 ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes‘ by Super Simple Songs – This classic body parts song is great for learning basic body parts vocabulary. Follow the simple dance in the video.
TIP: To make it more fun, once students can sing well, speed up the song in YouTube and see if the kids can keep up.
#2 ‘This Is Me!‘ by ELF Learning – This body parts song uses the expression ‘This is my (arm).’ and is a great chant to warm up and start your body parts class.
#3 ‘Rap 32 Parts Of The Body‘ by Fluency MC – This body parts rap may be a little too difficult for very young kids, but it’s great for older learners. This is a really energetic song and great to get your kids up and moving their bodies.
These songs are great to use when teaching vocabulary to do with members of the family, and sentences such as ‘This is my father.’
#1‘Baby Shark’ – I am sure you have heard of the baby shark song. This song has over 3 BILLION views on YouTube and is still going strong.
It is a great song to introduce young and very young learners about family vocabulary. Family vocabulary includes baby, mommy, daddy, grandma, and grandpa.
#2 ‘The Family Song‘- For students who are too old for baby shark, this song is a fun way to introduce the topic of family members, and the expression ‘This is my ….’
Jobs and Occupations Songs
As there are so many occupations, learning this vocabulary via song is an effective way to memorize many job names.
#1 ‘People Song‘ – This song may be a little difficult for very young learners, but for grade 3 and above, this song is perfect for memorizing the names of many jobs and occupations.
#2 ‘Jobs – Word Song‘ – This song, from the same creators as baby shark, is very fast and fun and sure to get your young learners energized.
Possessive Pronoun Songs – ‘Whose is it?’
The below video is a great song to practice expressions such as ‘Whose is it? – It’s mine / yours / his / hers’.
#1′Whose Puppy Is It?‘ – This song is a fun chant to practice all the main possesive pronouns. This song asks ‘Whose puppy is it?’ and includes responses such as ‘It’s mine. / It’s my puppy. / It’s your’s. / It’s ours. / It’s theirs.’
Present Progressive Tense Songs
This song is great to practice asking and answering ‘What’s he/she doing?’/ What are they doing?’, etc.
#1 ‘Present Continuous Verb Song‘ – This includes practice sentences for What is (are) he/she/you/they doing?. The video is very funny and guaranteed to make your students laugh.
TIP: After watching one time, play the video again and pause the video after the sample sentences and ask your students ‘What’s he/she doing?’ to drill the target language with the whole class.
Thanks for reading. I hope you have as much fun in your classes as I have with these songs over the past ten years. Don’t forget to check out Games4esl on YouTube for ready to use games and activities on many different ESL topics. 🙂 For songs for older ESL learners, check out our other post about the best pop songs for ESL students to sing.