The best songs for teaching English to kids
By Allan Sweeney
By Allan Sweeney
Engaging young learners can be challenging, but incorporating music into your ESL lesson plans can make all the difference.
In this article, we'll explore a selection of the best songs to teach English to kids, perfect for ESL teachers looking for creative ways to make their lessons fun and memorable.
We'll also share activity ideas to complement each song, ensuring you have all the resources needed to create dynamic, musical lessons that captivate your young students.
The Alphabet Song
One of the fundamental building blocks of learning English is mastering the alphabet. The classic version of this is set to the tune of the famous English lullaby "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star", like in this video by Super Simple Songs:
They also have a jazzy alternative with a modern-looking animation if you want something different:
Check out our free alphabet and spelling lesson plan for beginners. It contains several ESL activity ideas for teaching the alphabet.
Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
This lively and interactive song is perfect for teaching children the names of various body parts. Kids point to or touch the body parts mentioned, reinforcing their learning through physical movement and repetition.
Super Simple Songs have another video with an animation that kids can follow along to:
Body parts worksheet: After singing the song, provide each student with a worksheet featuring a picture of a person and have them label the different body parts in the picture. Have a look at this free worksheet on islcollecvtive.
Simon says: Use the classic game of "Simon Says" to reinforce the vocabulary learned in "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes." Instruct students to follow your commands only when you say "Simon says." This helps students practise the new vocabulary and sharpens their listening skills.
Old MacDonald Had a Farm
Teaching animal names and sounds becomes much more entertaining with "Old MacDonald Had a Farm." This popular nursery rhyme features a catchy tune that makes it easy for kids to remember, and the song's repetitive nature helps reinforce their learning.
Plenty of versions are online, but we'll stick with Super Simple Songs as their videos' animation and sound quality are fantastic.
Farm animal charades
- Prepare small cards with the names or pictures of various farm animals.
- Have each student pick a card and act out the animal without speaking while the rest of the class tries to guess the animal based on their actions and sounds.
- Have a look at our farm animals flashcard set to get ideas.
If You're Happy and You Know It
This song encourages children to express their feelings while engaging in various movements, like clapping their hands, stomping their feet, and shouting "hooray." It also helps to reinforce vocabulary related to body parts.
We have to credit Super Simple Songs again for this video. Who doesn't love creepy puppets?
- Create a set of flashcards featuring illustrations of different emotions, such as happy, sad, angry, and surprised. Check out our "Feelings and emotions" flashcard set for ideas.
- Show a flashcard to your students and ask them to identify the emotion, then have them mimic the facial expression and action associated with it.
Don't get emotional: In this activity, the teacher calls out a specific emotion, and students act it out by showing the corresponding facial expression and performing an action associated with that emotion. For example, if the teacher says "happy," students can smile and clap their hands. This activity fosters an understanding of emotions, body language, and feelings-related vocabulary.
Five Little Monkeys
The story of five little monkeys jumping on the bed and the consequences of their actions not only captures the attention of young learners, it also helps reinforce counting and subtraction concepts as the song progresses.
Credit to Super Simple Songs once again:
Counting objects in the classroom: After singing the song, ask your students to count different objects around the classroom. For example, you might ask them to count the number of chairs, books, or pencils. This activity helps children practise their counting skills and connects their learning to real-life situations.
I Can Sing a Rainbow
"I Can Sing a Rainbow" is a captivating song that introduces children to the colours of the rainbow. The version on this video by MyVoxSongs is sung beautifully:
Rainbow collage: After singing the song, provide students with various art materials, such as coloured paper, tissue paper, paint, or crayons, to create their own rainbow collage. Encourage them to incorporate all the colours mentioned in the song in the correct order. This activity promotes creativity, colour recognition, and fine motor skills while reinforcing the vocabulary learned from the music.
Colour hunt: Organise a colour hunt in the classroom or outdoors, where students search for objects matching the rainbow colours mentioned in the song.
After finding items for each colour, have them discuss their findings with the class and describe them using the vocabulary from the song. This activity encourages observational skills, teamwork, and the practical application of the song's language in context.
The Wheels On The Bus
A fun little tune that touches on several simple language concepts. The repetitive structure of the song and its catchy melody help young learners internalise new vocabulary.
This video by Super Simple Songs shows the actions that your students can copy for each part of the song.
Role-playing a bus journey: Set up a pretend bus in your classroom using chairs and props, and assign roles to your students, such as the bus driver, passengers, and even pedestrians.
Days Of The Week" (to the tune of "The Addams Family" theme)
By rhythmically introducing the days of the week, children are more likely to remember them and understand their sequence. "The Addams Family" theme provides the perfect background tune to do this. See the video below by Martin and Rose Music:
The classic song "B-I-N-G-O" is an excellent resource for teaching spelling and phonics to young learners. Children can practise their letter recognition and phonetic skills by spelling out the dog's name (B-I-N-G-O) one letter at a time and replacing the letters with claps.
Super Simple Songs have another fantastic animated version of this song and a free colouring worksheet.
The free colouring worksheet from Super Simple Learning is the perfect resource to accompany this song. You can play the music in the background while the children colour the worksheet.
The Hokey Pokey
The "Hokey Pokey" is a classic, interactive song that encourages movement and participation while teaching kids about various body parts.
The video below from The Wiggles has perfect audio and will show you the steps for the dance:
Hokey Pokey dance: Encourage students to stand up and participate in the "Hokey Pokey" dance as they sing the song. This will help them practise the new vocabulary and directions (right, left, in, and out).
Body parts worksheet: After singing the song, use a worksheet with an image of a person or character and labels pointing to their body parts. islcollective has a lot of options, like this Bart Simpson body parts worksheet.
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
The classic nursery rhyme "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe" is an engaging and rhythmic way to introduce children to counting from one to ten.
The Mother Goose club has a wonderful animated video with clear audio.
Counting with actions: After singing the song, have students practise counting from one to ten while performing the corresponding actions mentioned in the lyrics. This reinforces their counting skills and helps them associate numbers with tangible actions.
Rain Rain Go Away
"Rain Rain Go Away" is a charming nursery rhyme that strengthens concepts related to the weather and family. Check out the video by Super Simple Songs:
Weather-themed arts and crafts
After singing "Rain Rain Go Away", provide students with art materials such as coloured paper, markers, crayons, glue, and scissors. Instruct them to create a scene depicting the rain going away and the sun coming out.
They can draw or craft images of people enjoying outdoor activities, animals, and plants affected by the change in weather. This activity promotes creativity and reinforces weather-related vocabulary learned from the song.
Using songs to teach English to kids is a highly effective and enjoyable method that captures their attention and makes learning more fun. The songs in this article cover various topics, such as counting, colours and animals. These help children reinforce vocabulary and provide opportunities for interactive and hands-on learning experiences.
We would love to hear about your favourite songs for teaching English to kids, so please feel free to share them with us in the comments section below!
Allan is the Co-Founder & Lead Developer on the TEFL Handbook project. He spends his time building software and creating resources that support English teaching. You can learn more about his goals for the project here.