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Efl teaching through music
Scris de mihaiela lazar   
Luni, 08 Mai 2017 21:58



Şcoala Gimnazială “Ion Ionescu”, Valea Calugarească

Oneț of the big problems we all face, whether teaching English to children or adults, is maintaining learners’ interest throughout our lessons. Consequently, we often have to be very creative in the techniques we use. Songs represent an important tool for language learning being examples of authentic listening materials as well.But what makes music such a great teaching tool is its universal appeal, connecting all cultures and languages. This makes it one of the best and most motivating resources in the classroom, regardless of the age or background of the learner.

The idea of using music in the foreign language classes has received considerable attention from both researchers and teachers of language ever since they became aware of the fact that music succeeds at speeding up the process of acquiring a second language. It allows teachers to expose students to a diversity of authentic L2 audio resources.And it has the additional benefit of being enjoyable for learners and teachers.

The implementation of this method of language learning is worth thinking over given the fact that it facilitates the process of learning by heart, it helps reinforce vocabulary and practise pronunciation, it leads to learning linguistic structures by using repetitive songs, it provides motivation by emotional involvement. Beyond these issues, this work method leads to the improvement of listening skills, influencing behaviour and emotions and has a positive effect on motivation. In almost all English textbooks one can find poems and songs, because the use of music in English classes offers many advantages:

 music makes learning an enjoyable experience;

 the use of music in teaching foreign languages is a way to activate or to relieve the atmosphere of the class;

 this method supports teachers in teaching grammar and vocabulary in a fun and relaxing way;

 the vocabulary used within songs extends beyond the colloquial language known by most people;

 in most cases the lyrics of the songs are easily retained;

 this type of activity is a great way to practise pronunciation and intonation;

 songs become set language models (listening to some memorable songs facilitates memorization and retention of vocabulary and grammatical structures for the rest of one’s life);

 learners will learn about the culture and people of countries whose languages they study and this information can become very interesting discussion topics.

Obviously, not every song is suitable for teaching or learning. However, there is a wide range of available songs (especially online) that are helpful for this purpose. For the selection of relevant songs teachers should consider a few useful tips. First of all, the songs must be authentic (they should not have been created in order to be subsequently used in language teaching). About 80% of the grammar and vocabulary should be at the same level or slightly above the learners’ level of language skills. There should be some repetition of structures (chorus, subordinate sentences, etc.). All this facilitates storing structures, which allows teachers to create models of sentences for practice and future use. There must be no grammatical structures of too great a diversity within the same song. Also, it is better to use songs that are known by most learners because this helps raise the motivational level. As for the lyrics, they should be clear so that learners should understand them properly (there must be a correspondence between content and the overall form of the text).

Within a foreign language class there are numerous stages during which teachers can use songs for different purposes. For example,songs can be used at the beginning of the lesson to encouragelearners to initiate discussion and to get to know each other better.Later, during the lesson, teachers can use songs to enter a new topic(for example: Christmas, feelings, colours, adjectives describingpersonality, expressions etc.). Also, the use of songs can be veryuseful for teaching and strengthening vocabulary, writing rules,pronunciation and intonation, more difficult grammar structures and,of course, for practising the reading and understanding skills (both inorder to get details and to grasp the main information out of the text).

The use of songs within a foreign language class gives teachersthe opportunity to provide learners with varied and dynamic lessons,which integrate pre-listening, while-listening and after-readingactivities.The pre-listening stage is very important for the futuredevelopment of the listening task, especially because when thelearners are exposed to recorded listening material they have feelingsof inhibition due to such speech phenomena as: speed, pronunciation,etc. which characterize the spoken text itself. Therefore, theimportance of the before-listening procedure is essential to reach theaim of the lesson. Teachers have a variety of techniques at hand tohelp them prepare learners for the listening activity. Here are some ofthem:

 Anticipation. The teacher writes the song title on theblackboard. Learners must work in pairs to guess what thesubject of the song is. They write their ideas on paper. Afterthat, they must exchange sheets with the pair on the left sideand read the new ideas that they have received. The point ofthis activity is to allow learners to discuss the similarities anddifferences between their thoughts.

 Using images. The teacher provides learners with a pictureof the interpreters. They then must create a story about theseperformers or find another image that they think might berelevant to the subject of the song.

 Context. The teacher presents a short text about theperformer or other relevant issues (the origin of the music,the cultural context of the song). The text can be used in theframework of some activities or just in order to achieve theatmosphere needed for audition or discussions about the


 Finding synonyms and antonyms. The teacher writes a fewwords on the blackboard and the learners’ task is to find theirsynonyms and antonyms in the text of the song.

The pre-listening activities being carried out successfully, thelearners move on to the next stage, which is listening to the song.Here, the teacher’s task is to guide learners to grasp the maininformation out of the text. In order to reach this objective, thefollowing while-listening activities are recommended as a choice,depending on the learners’ ages and levels:

 Text completion (Gap filling). This type of exercise can beused both in vocabulary and in grammar practice. If the songhas simple lyrics, with a repeating structure, more words canbe deleted. If, on the contrary, the lyrics are rather difficult tounderstand, fewer words will be deleted.

 Strips of paper. The teacher can prepare lyrics on separatestrips of paper to be used in a contest. Learners will bedivided into two groups. The objective of this activity is toorder the song lyrics. The group that manages to assemblethe song text with the fewest mistakes after the secondlistening (or even after the first listening, depending on thelevel of the group) receives a reward (any idea that fits thecontext).

 Matching. This type of activity can be used to matchsynonyms, phrases, expressions with words corresponding inmeaning, or to retrieve the right half of a word.

In cases where songs are used in teaching lessons, after-listeningactivities are just as important as the first two stages. They involvethe return to the original text and its perception to another level (a

higher one) of understanding. Here are a few useful and relaxingideas which can be put into practice in order to make the best of theprior listening stage.

 Discussions. The teacher writes on the blackboard questionsabout the subject of the song that later will be discussed withthe learners, either in pairs or in groups. He or she can alsosuggest topics for conversations or writing activities: amessage or an interesting theme on which learners couldconverse, provide explanations, organize debates or on thebasis of which writing activities could be organized.

 Jigsaw listening. Jigsaw listening is one of the mostvaluable communicative activities. It is an audio informationgap activity which requires different groups of learners tolisten to different parts of the song and then to exchangeinformation with each other to complete a task - piece theinfo together, establish the mood/ attitude of the artist, etc. Itis great as the centerpiece of an integrated all-skills lesson.

 Games. Quizzes. Crossword puzzles. These are very goodways to use or practise vocabulary or grammar elementstaught through the song.

Teachers should feel confident using music in order to facilitatethe language acquisition process and the activities above serve toillustrate the many ways in which they can maximize the effects ofmusic with their second language learners.


 Dimensiuni europene moderne în predarea- învățarea limbii engleze, Suport de curs, Proiect POSDRU 62665, Bucuresti, 2011

Harmer, Jeremy – How to Teach English, PearsonLongman, 2007

 Stânişoară, Codruţa Maria – Interactive English LanguageTraining Course For Learners And Not Only, EdituraAramis, 2003


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