Using Songs in the Classroom: Learning Opportunity

On a regular basis to exchange didactic and pedagogic ideas, concerns and insights, teachers use songs in language teaching for several reasons. One of the main reasons is the friendly atmosphere songs create in the classroom. A teacher of English need to be imaginative, creative and innovative and songs in English Language Teaching (ELT) will certainly assist to make the process of teaching and learning more interesting and effective. Besides, there are numerous reasons for using songs effectively in your classroom, so I’ll enlist them:
• Songs provide a break from classroom routine which develops a non-threatening and low anxiety atmosphere.
• They provide authentic material and real examples of the target language which promotes language learning and makes it creative, innovative, fun and interactive.
• They help learners develop automaticity “a component of language fluency which involves both knowing to say and producing language rapidly without pauses.” (Gatbonton and Segalwits: 1988)
• They are a great way to teach and revise grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, spelling, reading, writing and listening skills.
• They set the tone of your entire class. i.e., you can use songs to change the pace of the lesson (slow or fast songs will completely change the classroom atmosphere by decreasing or increasing energy level.
• They are also an excellent tool and powerful source for language teaching. Learners relate to songs as part of entertainment rather than work, which often means that they find learning through songs entertaining.
• They expose young students to different culture s and histories of country of the language, so they augment our students’ cultural, social, historical aspects as well as art.

Songs provide a valuable source of authentic language and there are hundreds of ways to exploit them in ELT. We can get students to listen to songs which describe people, places or emotions. Our young learners can write stories or poems of their own. When it comes to songs, teacher can ask students to put lines in order or simply to fill the text with single words or phrases that are missing. Teacher can also ask students to listen to a song and predict what the title might be or to tell the story described in the song in their own words. Furthermore, here is a list of exploiting songs in the classroom.
• Song Building.
• Oral Song Project.
• Contrasting/ Comparing two styles or themes.
• Ear Training and Pronunciation.
• Spot ting the mistakes.
• Comic strip.
• Ordering the verses.
• Discussion.
• Translation.
• Writing the next verse.
• Vocabulary.
• Dictation.
• True/False Statement.
• Comprehension questions.
• Role playing.

There is strong evidence supporting the use of songs tied together with pitch, rhythm and symmetrical phrasing in the ESL classroom. All of this help familiarize students with connections and provides a fun way to acquire English. Using songs in the classroom has pros and cons. What are they?
Pros:
• They are fun and motivating
• They contain linguistic information including pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and rhetoric and language sense
• They are communicative teach them the language, the culture as well as art.
• Most learners like using songs
• They are relaxing which attenuate intensity of the language-learning phobia
• They provide authentic text or material.
• They invoke learners’ curiosity
• They are a whole brain activity – visual, audio, verbal etc. – multiple intelligences
• They are good means for pronunciation, spelling, writing , reading, and dictation practice familiarity with common and real language
Cons:
• Learners don’t think songs are academic – too frivolous
• some learners may not like the songs we have chosen
• grammar, syntax etc. may not be correct morally dubious texts and language
• unclear vocals or ‘slangy’ pronunciation

Choosing a suitable song is probably one of the most important issues. When it comes to using a song, first of all I always want to make sure if the singer has a nice clear voice. No matter what their level of English, learners are easily frustrated when they cannot understand a word. The recording should also be of a good quality. A studio album would be a better choice than a concert version of a song and what is more a CD will obviously give much better sound than a cassette. Another very important point is whether or not the language and also the subject matter is a suitable level of difficulty. It is very great if you ask your students what types of songs or favorite artists from the beginning of the semester they like or penchant.

Songs can be a very interesting and motivating source of real life material for your students and one that particularly reaches into students’ world. There are lots of useful exercises that can be built around songs to help develop your learners’ English. In my classroom, I most often used to use songs eternally occupied with variations on themes and topics of love, friendship, joy, sorrow, dream, jealousy, money, family ties, and many others. So I, like increasing number of EFL teachers, begin to take interest in the use of culture, history and social studies in foreign language teaching and learning. The value of English songs in motivating students to learn English and enhancing their involvement is universally acknowledged by us. In our language classes, we have adopted richly meaningful English songs which take up the whole class period instead of only being used as warm-up activities, time-fillers or games.

Conclusion

Songs can serve as a stimulus not only to increase students’ interest, motivation and self-confidence in language learning, but also to maximize their involvement (involving themselves in classroom activities), interaction (talking to each other), and production (using their own language). Using songs has always been my passion and I have always been happy, both as a learner and a teacher, to take the challenge of working with songs whenever possible. I would strongly recommend using songs in ELT as I know students also enjoy it a lot! Good luck and have fun!

References:

Gatbonton, E and Segalowits, N. 1988. Creative Automatization: Principles for Promoting Fluency within a Communicative Framework. TESOL Quarterly, 22.

Griffee, D. 1992. Songs in Action. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Hock, M. W. 2001. Sing along with the Internet: Making Use of the Internet in the Language Classroom [J]. Fremd Sprachen Unterricht, 6/2001, 411-15.

Lopera , S. 2003. Useful Ideas When Taking Songs to a Class. Ikala, 8(14)

Murphey, T. 2000. Music and Song. Oxford University Press.

Academic articles debating the use of songs for language teaching:

Allan, D., 1995. Using songs in the Communicative Classroom. ELT News & Views, 2:3, 94-103.
Domoney, L., Harris, S., 1993. Justified and Ancient: Pop Music in EFL Classrooms. ELTJ, 47:3, 234-241.
Porto, M., 1996. Songs in Language Teaching: A Response to Dave Allan. ELT News & Views, 3:1, 37.

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About shamali288

Faisal Ibrahim Al Shamali is a teacher and teacher trainer for more than 27 years. He got TEYL and E-Teacher Professional Development Certificates in 2010. He had "Shaping the Way We Teach English" certificate from Oregon University, USA, 2011. He got E-certificates in Webinars by Washington DC, American Embassy Jordan, etc. He has been teaching English Language since 1994 in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Thailand. In 2004 and 2007, he held Mythology Festival in Jordan. He attends and presents papers at international conferences. He published papers in Universities proceedings, Websites and Omani Newspapers. Also, the papers are translated into Arabic and published in Omani Newspapers. He is a member in TESOL. He is joining an online course on: Shaping the Way We Teaching English by University of Oregon. Now, I am joining webinar series 2 and series 3 by Washington DC and webinar by American TESOL. Currently, he is appointed to be a team leader and global associate director for IETTI. @shamali288
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