Popplet and the Learning Power of Song

Humans have been treading the earth for around 200,000 – 300,00 years. We developed the ability to speak to each other some 50,000 years ago. As the human voice is considered to be the very first musical instrument, most evolutionary biologists believe that speaking and singing are inseparable. This makes song a deeply innate instinct, and a powerful learning tool.

Most parents begin singing to their children in the first weeks of life and infants usually learn to sing songs before they develop intelligible speech. Through song and music, children first experience and learn about letters, numbers, colors, animals, and everyday objects and events Using songs as a part of learning activities outside of the music classroom for teenage learners is rare. Perhaps teachers believe that music and song are the realm of the music classroom, or that the songs they choose might not interest the students, but songs are as universal as language and can, therefore, be used to develop skills in a wide range of subjects.

  • Literacy: songs can teach vocabulary, improve reading skills, highlight idiomatic language in context, clarify complex ideas with reverse learning filtering through to a student’s writing.
  • Language learning: songs have become a language classroom staple.
  • Structure: songs are poems and they follow set patterns. Essential skills can be learned from studying songs and applied universally.
  • History: almost all periods of modern history have songs attached to them. Romantic, patriotic, rebellious…whatever the subject, the songs are memorable and evoke strong emotions and leave a record of the time.
  • Social commentary: popular songs document significant current affairs and issues are popular and can form the basis for discussions and projects.
  • Emotional intelligence and self-awareness: learners often identify strongly with certain songs. Exploring why can lead to a better understanding of ourselves and others.
  • Songs are fun and generate activities that are naturally collaborative. Some learners might respond better to song-based learning activities than more traditional ones.

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Popplet Ideas for ESL Teaching

Popplet is a user-friendly tech tool that is popular with teachers and students of all ages and disciplines.  It is a mind-mapping application for the iPad and the web that lets you capture and organize your ideas. Popplet is versatile, with an easy to use interface and a comfortable level of functionality, but with robust features that are especially suited to learning environments.


With Popplet you can instantly add editable text, links, images, colors and drawings to connectable bubbles called popples, and connect these popples to create visually informative landscapes of information. Teachers and students can collaborate in real time, and finished work can be presented using one of Popplet’s Presentation modes.

Popplet has steadily been gaining traction with ESL educators and language teachers. It’s hands-on, visual nature lets students form connections between facts and ideas in various ways. Dynamic and fun, it has the ability to make even the dryest of grammar points much more palatable – students become a lot more interested in the finer points of the Reported Speech  if they get to make a Popplet about it on their iPads or laptops!

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