Thursday, 10 July 2008

USING SONGS IN THE ENGLISH CLASSROOM (part of paper presented at UTM Southern Regional ELT Seminar, 2001)

1. INTRODUCTION

Motivating learners of English in ESL situation is often a daunting task for the English teacher. Teachers resort to numerous ways and means to encourage their students to like to learn English. One way which is not uncommon is the use of songs. Songs provide a non-threatening atmosphere for students compared to speaking formally in English in the classroom for example. They offer teachers the much needed change from a routine procedure. They provide valuable language and cultural input in the classroom. However the value of songs as a teaching tool in the ESL classroom has not been fully explored by teachers. Teachers still have reservations on what they can do with a song and how much.

Whatever those reservations may be, the use of songs in the language classroom is one of the ways to motivate students to learn English. Students love listening to music outside the language classroom and songs become a major source of English for them. Notice how those who are usually quiet become very talkative when discussing songs. Songs then, have the “power” to capture students’ attention. In addition, ESL practitioners (Reeve & Williamson, 1987; Giudice, 1986; Grifee, 1991) have widely acknowledged the role of songs in enhancing learner involvement. Together with the teachers’ ability to present songs meaningfully in the classroom, we have an inspiring way of motivating our learners to learn English.

This paper aims to look at ways teachers can work with songs (old and new) particularly in terms of vocabulary extension and listening development. The materials developed have been tried and tested with my students.

2. SOME REASONS WHY TEACHERS DO NOT USE SONGS

a) Administrators/teachers/students do not take music and song seriously.
b) It disturbs neighbouring classes.
c) It does not help the normal syllabus-time is lost.
d) Pop songs have poor vocabulary – too much slang and bad grammar.
e) Students just want to listen, not to work.
f) Teachers do not like to sing or are not musical.
g) Poor quality cassette /video recorder.
h) How do you get other teachers involved?
i) How do you share in materials production?
(Murphey, 1992:8)

3. SOME REASONS WHY TEACHERS SHOULD USE SONGS

a) Affective reasons – teachers need to provide a positive atmosphere if language learning is to take place. Based on Krashen’s (1982) Affective Filter Hypothesis, optimal learning will only take place if the affective filter is weak. A weak affective filter means a positive attitude towards learning .The use of songs can help create a weak affective filter to promote language learning. Songs can be used to

· To present a topic, a language point, lexis, etc.
· To practice a language point, lexis etc.
· To focus on common learner errors.
· To encourage extensive and intensive listening.
· To stimulate discussion of attitudes and feelings.
· To encourage creativity and the use of imagination.
· To provide a relaxed classroom atmosphere.
· To bring variety and fun to learning.
(Eken, 1996:46)

b) Cognitive reasons – The main reason for using songs in the English classroom is for developing automaticity. Automaticity is “a component of language fluency which involves both knowing what to say and producing language rapidly without pauses” (Gatbonton & Segalowitz, 1988, p.473). Songs can definitely help automatise the language development process, particularly because they provide samples of authentic language and they are fairly repetitive in nature. Songs that tell stories are springboards for discussion too.

c) Linguistic reason – Some songs provide good examples of colloquial English i.e. language used in informal conversation. Hence they prepare students for the genuine language they will be faced with.

4. WHAT SONGS?
There are no specific rules but there are several things to take into consideration:

a) The class : No. of students and age group
: The time of the day
: The SS language level
: Their musical interests
b) The teacher : Teacher’s age and musical interests
: Classroom support
: Purpose in using the song used
d) Classroom opportunities
: How much freedom do you have?
: Can you supplement a lesson?
d) The music : What is your lesson plan?
: Will the music be noisy?
: Do you have a collection of music?

5. TEACHING PROCEDURE

The use of songs in the English classroom is flexible – can be used at any stage of the class. For example, as a presentation tool, as a controlled practice exercise or as a free production activity. They can function as enhancers, reinforcers to supplement a textbook or as the text itself. However, to maximise its usefulness and to achieve the lesson objectives, activities need to take into account the following criteria:


a) promote a relaxing atmosphere
b) encourage SS interaction and participation
c) correspond to the main lesson
d) start from easy to more difficult and slow to moderate to rapid
e) allow SS to wok in groups or individually
f) take no more than 15 minutes

(The activity selected should have at least 4 out of 7 of the above criteria)
(White, 1988:48)

Samples I've used in the classroom:

A.
FOCUS : Grammatical structures (verbs) and vocabulary words
SONG : “Rhythm of the rain” (The Cascades)
LEVEL : Very low to low intermediate
PURPOSE: Intensive listening

PREPARATION

1. List some words from a song e.g. vocabulary words in the order they appear in the song.
2. Add some distracters throughout the list which sound similar to the items in the song (to encourage close discrimination)

IN CLASS

1. Distribute task sheet with the list of words.
2. Play the song twice and ask students to circle the word on the list if they hear it.
3. Teacher can play the song for the third time to confirm students’ answers.



(RHYTHM OF THE RAIN)

TASK SHEET

Circle the words you hear as you listen to the song:

listen
rhythm
falling
pouring
telling
tearing
been
bin
let
vain
rain
let
care
dare
looking
start
know
left
took
heart
cart
fair
pair
steal
won’t
ask
blow
grow

(Full song lyrics)


RHYTHM OF THE RAIN (THE CASCADES)

Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain
Telling me just what a fool I’ve been
I wish that it would go, and let me cry in vain
And let me be alone again

***The only girl I care about has gone away
Looking for a brand new start
But little does she know that when she left that day
Along with her she took my heart

Rain please tell me now does that seem fair
For her to steal my heart away when she don’t care
I can’t love another when my heart’s somewhere far away

Repeat***

Rain, won’t you tell her that I love her so
Please ask the sun to set her heart aglow
Rain in her heart and let the love we knew start to grow

Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain
Telling me just what a fool I’ve been
I wish that it would go, and let me cry in vain
And let me be alone again

O listen to the falling rain
Pitter, patter…..


Note: Underlined words are the words SS should circle

B.
FOCUS : Grammar and listening
SONG : “This I promise you” (N Sync)
LEVEL : Low to intermediate
PURPOSE: Detecting mistakes
Consciousness-raising

PREPARATION

Prepare the common mistakes your SS make in class e.g. spelling, s-v agreement, verb tenses, incorrect prepositions. Insert the mistakes in the lyric.

IN CLASS

1. Distribute task sheet with the lyrics containing the mistakes.
2. SS listen to the song and underline any unusual or ungrammatical items they hear.
3. Discuss any mistakes SS find.
4. Play the song one more time to confirm or to find additional mistakes.

Variation:
You could ask SS to underline the mistakes first before they listen to the song.


TASK SHEET (THIS I PROMISE YOU)

1. Look at the lyrics below. Listen to the song and underline any mistakes you find. e.g. spelling, subject-verb agreement, verb tenses and incorrect prepositions.

When the visions around you
Brings tears to your eyes
And all that surround you
Is secraets and lies

I’ll be your strength
I’ll gives you hope
Keeping your faith when it’s gone
The one you should called
Was standing here all along

CHORUS
And I will take you in my arms
And hold you right where you belong
“Til the day my life are through
This I promise you
This I promise you

I’ve loved you forever
In lifetimes before
And I promise you never ever
Will you hurt anymore

I give you my word
I give you my heart
This is the battles we’ve won
And with this vow
Forever has now began

CHORUS
Just closed your eyes
Each lovin’ day
And know this feeling won’t go away
“Til the day my life is through
This I promised you
This I promise you

Over and under I falls
When I heard you call
Without you in my life, babay
I just wouldn’t be living at all

CHORUS

I will take you in my arms
And held you right where you belong
“Til the day my life are through
This I promise you

Just close your eyes
Each loving day
And know this feelings won’t go away
Every word I say is true
This I promise you
Every word I say is true
This I promise you
I promise you


(Full song lyrics)

THIS I PROMISE YOU (N SYNC)

When the visions around you
Bring tears to your eyes
And all that surround you
Are secrets and lies

I’ll be your strength
I’ll give you hope
Keeping your faith when it’s gone
The one you should call
Was standing here all along

CHORUS
I will take you in my arms
And hold you right where you belong
“Til the day my life is through
This I promise you
This I promise you

I’ve loved you forever
In lifetimes before
And I promise you never ever
Will you hurt anymore

I give you my word
I give you my heart
This is the battle we’ve won
And with this vow
Forever has now begun

CHORUS
Just close your eyes
Each lovin’ day
And know this feeling won’t go away
“Til the day my life is through
This I promise you
This I promise you

Over and over I fall
When I heard you call
Without you in my life, baby
I just wouldn’t be living at all

CHORUS
I will take you in my arms
And hold you right where you belong
“Til the day my life is through
This I promise you

Just close your eyes
Each loving day
And know this feeling won’t go away
Every word I say is true
This I promise you
Every word I say is true
This I promise you
I promise you




8 comments:

  1. Hmm...i prefer the lesson to be taught partly by song...it creates a non-threatening and peaceful atmosphere to the students...plus filling the gap between teacher and students...right, pn rahmah?!

    As one of your students, i would like to take this oppurtunity to explain why our class(5SC1)behaves that way...To be frank, most of the girls are shy...and i guess...scare to make even a small mistake...so...teacher...u can try to bring our spirits up before continue the lesson...for example...tell your own embarassing experience or just make fun of one of the girls(in a control manner)...however...teacher must bear in mind that women are usually more sensitive than men...well...must be extra careful...hehe*@*

    I sincerely hope that teacher can get along with the girls...Good luck and beat wishes...

    Best regards,
    Michelle

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  2. Thanks for the tips Michelle.Will surely bear them in mind!!

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. THE GIRLS IN THE CLASS WILL NEVER CHANGE I GUESS BECAUSE OF THE IMBALANCE DISTRIBUTIONS. PAST 5 YEARS, THE SCENARIO IN EACH AND EVERY 1ST CLASS OF PARTICULAR FORM THE STUDENTS WERE MUCH MORE DIFFERENT. THEY KNOW HOW TO ENJOY LIFE.( THIS IS BASED ON THE INTERVIEWS MADE BY MYSELF WITH ONE OF EX-CONVENT STUDENT). WELL, NOTHING IS PERFECT IN THIS WORLD. AND LIFE IS JUST SO UNPREDICTABLE. PN. RAHMAH, HOW IF YOU TRY TO DISPLAY HINDI SONGS ONCE IN A WHILE. HAHHAHAH.

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  5. Yeah I guess it's not easy to change some things..Hindi song eh? Hmmm...we'll be dancing the Bhangra non-stop girl!! I lov eht Bhangra dance by the way especially if Amitabh Bachan does it. No one can beat him!!

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  7. Hi teacher...hmm...actually i want to leave a comment on "where is the love"...but i cnt...there is no special link to it...HOW STRANGE@#$%...

    Pn Rahmah...can we have a double-period singing session tomorrow?! Like the one you had done for the 5SC2 girls...To be sincere, when teacher was on the next door...we were not paying attention to the teacher in our class...this is simply because we were attracted by the songs...I'M LOVING IT!! Almost all the girls were singing softly...hehe...including me.

    Well...hope teacher can bring a big surprise tomorrow!! I can't wait any longer...^~

    Best regards,
    Michelle

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  8. hi michelle,
    sorry i've been busy lately. couldn't get near my blog. will do the activity with your class as soon as am ready. Meanwhile, be good!

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