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Using Songs in the ESL Classroom
Transcript of Using Songs in the ESL Classroom
Using Songs in the ESL Classroom
by Heather Barney (BLE 511)
Music and songs can have a powerful impact and play a vital role in the language development of students learning a second language (regardless of age or ability). The purpose of this presentation is to show the many benefits using songs in the classroom and how this can be achieved using practical examples.
How can students access stories, poems and other texts if their minds and imaginations are not fully engaged? I have found that immersing ESL students in a range of creative activities before reading or listening to a text means that they are fully prepared and excited about the reading journey ahead of them. Through activities such as songs and music in the classroom students have a chance to share vocabulary, ideas and concepts which gives their English fresh meaning and purpose.
What's the point of listening, speaking, reading and writing anything if you don't know why you're doing it?
When doing any activity (even fun or extracurricular) teachers need to have a clear purpose to all tasks used in the classroom. Before starting a new activity or unit, I always provide clear learning objectives and have my students actively involved so they can prepare and anticipate what they will be learning. Music and songs in the classroom can be an effective and fun way to teach in the classroom and can be used for a variety of learning objectives, purposes and levels including teaching listening and speaking, vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, culture and enjoyment.
Listening and Speaking
Songs in the classroom can help students improve their listening skills because they provide students with practice listening to different forms of intonation and rhythm. Many who study music and education believe that music has a powerful influence on our minds that affect not only our long-term but also short-term memory.
Lesson Ideas: Students listen to song once, then have them listen again and fill-in-blanks, match, or put the words in the correct order (chorus or refrain).
-Computer or laptop (preferably with projector)
-Music lyrics/worksheet or activity (copies)
-Music biography (or short presentation on artist/band)
Classroom activities and Lesson Ideas:
http://www.busyteacher.org (articles and song worksheets)
Songs can also provide the opportunity for vocabulary practice. They are usually based around a theme or topic that can provide the context for vocabulary learning. Before I teach a new unit or theme I usually choose a song that is relevant to the topic and have students listen and discuss the theme. Besides relevancy and theme, repetition is also helpful for students as it offers greater expose to words that are common in everyday English, especially idioms.
Lesson Ideas: After listening to the song once, have students circle new vocabulary words and have them look up words then write a sentence or draw a picture. When discussing a theme I have students listen to the song then put them in groups and have them answers questions about the topic.
Grammar can be a very difficult subject to teach and many students can become bored by repeatedly doing listening or writing exercises to practice grammar in context. Listening to a song (even if repeated) can seem less repetitive or boring because of its rhythm and melody.
Songs can be very useful when teaching grammar, as I believe that grammar cannot be taught as a stand-alone activity. What's the point of that? Students begin to understand grammar concepts, and start to apply them in their own writing when they start to read or listen to it an authentic text or song. Grammar rules and techniques are drawn from shared texts (or lyrics) which students have already been immersed in. Exploring English creatively is how the learning takes place.
Lesson Ideas: Can be used to review or practice grammar from previous lessons. To practice unreal conditionals I've used the song "If I were a Boy" by Beyonce.
Songs can also give students the opportunity to acquire a better understanding of the culture and language they are acquiring. Songs reflect culture, as it’s a way for society to reflect on news recent events, morals and values. Before choosing a song, I have my students first discuss what they think the song is about and if applicable have them research about the event or theme the song discusses.
Teaching Ideas: At the beginning of each term or class I discuss with students music and have them describe what kind of music they listen to. For homework, I have students listen to the radio or find a song on the internet and bring in the copy of the lyrics. They take turns discussing with a partner what they think the songs means and why it’s significant to them.
Songs can also give students the opportunity to acquire a better understanding of the culture and language they are acquiring. Songs reflect culture, as it’s a way for society to reflect on recent news events, morals and values. Before listening to a song, I have my students first discuss what they think the song is about and if applicable have them research about the event or theme the song discusses.
Teaching Ideas: At the beginning of each term or class I discuss with students music and have them describe what kind of music they listen to. For homework, I have students listen to the radio or find a song on the internet and bring in a copy of the lyrics. They take turns discussing with a partner what they think the songs means and why it’s significant to them.
Songs are a great, fun and creative way to get students motivated and learning English in a relaxed environment. From my experience even my shyest or oldest students have enjoyed singing and respond positively to using songs in my classroom. I usually reward my students after the unit test by having a “song of the week” where students choose their favorite song (in English) and we listen to and do activities in class. Some students get very stressed and I find that playing songs helps keep my students motivated, interested and relaxed. They are a fun and enjoyable way to help my students learn English whether it be grammar, pronunciation or sentence structures they tend to enjoy learning through music.
Songs and music in the classroom can be a useful tool when teaching ESL because it gives students the opportunity to listen to someone else other than the teacher and is a relaxing and fun break from daily routine. Songs can be enjoyed by students of all ages and serve to reinforce certain aspects of English such as grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary and culture lessons. As a teacher there is nothing more rewarding to see my students smiling and laughing while they are learning. I hope you have enjoyed viewing this presentation and that you’ve been able to glean a few ideas of how to incorporate music into your classroom.