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Improving Grammar and Fluency with Songs

Some of the greatest writers in history have composed song lyrics and used the oral tradition to share their stories. Bob Dylan recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature. His lyrics provide a valuable resource, and analyzing the lyrics of writers like Bob Dylan exposes kids to compelling examples of poetic writing that tend to be much more rhythmic and symbolic than other styles of writing.

Here's a sample of Dylan's work from his 1966 song, "Just Like a Woman":

And she aches just like a woman

But she breaks just like a girl

In this example, students are introduced to rhyming, as well as the skill of making contradictions (i.e. being a woman, yet also a little girl) more apparent by applying similar language in both lines. Therefore, skillful lyricists don't just demonstrate grammatical rules, but they can provide excellent models for more complex writing skills.

August House award-winning author and professional storyteller, Heather Forest, likes to sing her stories before she writes them down. The discipline gives her an opportunity to explore the pace, inflection and word choice as she weaves together words to draw the reader or listener into her tale. Heather's creative techniques enriches her stories with a lyrical feel that is loaded with rich descriptions and makes reading her stories out loud a treat for the listener.

Music Provides Motivation to Practice

Everyone enjoys music, even children who have trouble keeping a beat or singing on key. In fact, Howard Gardner, at The Harvard School of Eduction, Project Zero, says that musical intelligence is the first intelligence that children acquire. Music is a fundamental skill for all of us, and if we don't use it regularly, it tends to atrophy.

There's most likely a specific song out there that resonates with every child, and almost everyone has a favorite song. It's no accident that music is known as the universal language; people from all over the world enjoy exploring different musical arrangements and sharing musical traditions from other cultures.

I Scream, You Scream Cover

Songs can be used to celebrate even mundane pleasures like food. In I Scream, You Scream: A Feast of Food Rhymes, Lillian Morrison offers a collection of entertaining verses, jingles, and rhymes that can be chanted or sung by kids to celebrate their favorite foods. Children become so engaged in the play of words that they don't even realize that they're actually practicing grammar and building their fluency skills.

Similarly, in The First Music, Dylan Pritchett models his story on African folktales using rhyming words that help us discover that we all have music inside just waiting to come out. The story practically begs for children to join in and sing the different parts.

Listening to music is a pleasant, enjoyable task and this means practicing grammar and fluency through singing feels less tedious than other more structured exercises. Every musical genre has talented and innovative musicians who have mastered their skills through countless hours of dedicated practice. So, no matter what musical preferences someone wants to explore, there are a wide range of songs for every taste and culture background.

Integrating music into learning environments is a natural and effective way for children to

The First Music Cover

improve their core language and reading skills. Song lyrics give listeners the opportunity to break down words into smaller and even slower groups of sounds. When kids learn how sounds are used to form words, it can help them improve their fluency and comprehension skills.

They can even learn to speak quickly through rap music and learn how different artists play with language to create a song. A real benefit from using music this way is that it can make learning much more engaging than more traditional assignments.

Another tangible benefit of using music in the classroom is that it offers collaboration. When kids are singing, they are working together and supporting one another. So rather than focusing all of their attention on completing a worksheet, they can experience the joy and rewards of collaborating with a group.

Later when children need to learn more advanced writing skills, they can apply the lyrical analysis they used when they were younger to study the origin and structure of songs, and then apply their knowledge to their writing assignments. Whether students deconstruct popular music, timeless folk songs or contemporary children's lyrics, the results can provide valuable learning experiences they can draw upon to expand their skills.

Some of the world's greatest writers have also been accomplished musicians who committed thousands of hours to mastering their craft. The combination of music and language probably enriched their writing skills, or at least made the writing process more fun and less tedious.

Hopefully, this blog post will inspire you to explore some new ways to integrate music and singing into reading and language assignments. It will not only make learning more interesting for kids, it will also expand their appreciation of the rich world of sounds around them. Check out some of these must-know songs to get started.

About the Guest Blogger:

Natalie Wilson, Guest Blogger

Hi, I'm Natalie. I work as a professional musician, session guitarist, and guitar teacher and would like to use this blog as a personal outlet to share my six-string knowledge with the world. I'm also the owner of You can reach me at

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