Disclaimer 1: I am a Mac girl from way back. My true preference of tool for this purpose is GarageBand, but my district moved from the Mac platform a number of years ago, so I adapt....until I get home. Also, Audacity is free, therefore that is what I will blog about.
Disclaimer 2: Audacity breaks the second of my rules about tools I blog about -- it requires a download. I am making this exception because I rarely use Audacity with students, but more as a tool for myself to prepare lesson materials for them.
3/1/12 -- I just found a way to run a web-based version Audacity. Sadly it is only available for Windows machines, but one step at a time!!
With that out of the way, I don't remember the first time I used music with my students, but it was about three years ago that I really kicked it into high gear and began researching, collecting (special thanks to Deb Blaz), writing, and enlisting students to write songs to help my students learn vocabulary and grammar concepts. The majority of the songs I use are under a minute long, some under thirty seconds. The tunes are familiar -- almost all children's songs -- so the melody and rhythm do not have to be taught. Many of the songs are just plain corny. My students frequently tell me they get "stuck in their heads", to which I respond with a victory dance. The songs are rarely forgotten. When students ask questions during the writing process, I break into song, rather than offering a dry grammar explanation. Does it work for all students? Of course not, but what does? It gets to the point where if I introduce an irregular verb, they ask for a song, and get all over my case if I don't happen to have one.
So....from pedagogy to technology. I found most of the background music I use by doing Google searches for midi files of children's songs. I import these into Audacity, and then record the vocal track with a headset mic. Audacity allows you to export the completed product in a variety of formats, although I usually use mp3 files. I make the songs and lyrics available to students via our school website, and (believe it or not) some students have been known to put the songs on their ipods.
As an example, I'm posting my favorite original -- The Song (obviously I didn't spend any time coming up with the song titles).
What do you think?