Thank you to those of you who attended my session at the IH Torun Teacher Training Day, April 18 2015. You will find a link to the handout at the bottom of this post.
Literature is full of references to the efficacy of music as a tool for both first and second language acquisition, but are songs and chants utilized as much as they could be in the second language learning classroom? I’ve loved singing and music for as long as I can remember, and been interested in using them in the classroom since I stepped foot in one.
How do you feel about using songs in the YL Classroom?
YL coursebooks are full of songs and chants. And why not? Using songs and chants as a pedagogical tool to teach children language is a natural and logical choice. Singing is a natural and popular medium for both parent and child and by the time children come to us in the second language learning classroom, they are often already equipped with a catalogue of songs, chants, and rhymes. Children live in musical worlds. In fact, according to research, babies as early as in the womb pay more attention to singing than speaking and it’s suggested that from very early ages there is little distinction between singing and speech.
Are you happy to sing? Why? Why not?
According to Trinick (2012), Lee believes songs are not being used as much as they should be in the classroom and suggests the root may be that they are viewed purely as entertainment, or that teachers lack understanding into the theoretical underpinnings or application and methodology. Could it be as Carless and Douglas (2011) surmise that the significance of the ubiquity of songs goes unnoticed? Trinick (2012) concurs and cites Tracey, ‘there is a tendency to overlook familiar, everyday materials and resources’. As Rogers (no date) attests, literature ‘abounds with positive statements regarding the efficacy of music as a vehicle for first and second language acquisition’. Indeed countless resource books for teachers, coursebooks, TESOL websites and blogs proffer advice, activities and encouragement*. *See handout link for resource list
Are you ruling the TEFL world Beyonce style in your classroom? Or are you pressing play on the CD and hoping for the best?
Maybe you do want to sing in class, and it’s not that you’re afraid to, but you just:
• can’t be bothered • don’t have time (you do one at the end of the lesson if you need to fill in time)
• aren’t sure what songs to sing
• aren’t sure how to sing the songs
• aren’t sure how to teach the songs
• have never done it before
• hate the songs in the coursebooks
• would rather teach grammar and other important things
• are actually a T-rex and therefore can’t sing. Or clap.
I urge you to think about using songs and chants in the YL classroom.
‘Children love rhythm, music and movement, and it is widely recognised that the use of rhymes, chants and songs contribute to young children’s overall social, linguistic, physical, cognitive and emotional development. When starting to learn a foreign language, rhymes, chants and songs play a special role in drawing children into producing language in ways which are natural, spontaneous and enjoyable. As well as enhancing children’s learning and acquisition of language, the use of rhymes chants and songs promotes the development of positive attitudes and motivation towards learning a foreign language in both immediate and longer term. Give their many potential benefits for learning, there is a strong case for making rhymes, chants and songs a fully integrated component of any programme to learn English.’
It’s all about confidence, enthusiasm and having fun. Songs and chants are perfect for the YL classroom as they present language in a fun and memorable way and allow our students to experiment with the sounds of English. Many teachers, however, despite being fully aware of the potential of songs and chants fall a little short because they lack the confidence to pull it off in the classroom. Confidence and enthusiasm is key. Students need to know the teacher feels good about the song in order for them to. It really doesn’t matter if you’re a little off key and no Mariah Carey. Chances are your students won’t notice or will feel more comfortable knowing you are normal just like them. What will stop your students joining in is if they see you aren’t 100% comfortable. It’s fine to have a CD player for back up. But don’t rely on it, and whatever you do don’t stand at the front of the class lip syncing and conducting (but not actually singing) expecting them to do all the work. If you are enthusiastic and singing along you are more likely to get them to join in.
Want to know more?
You can read my 5 tips for using songs in my YL Column in the next issue of the IH Journal here ihjournal.com
You can get a handout on Using Songs and Chants in the YL Classroom here Boomchickaboom_handout_April2015
I’d love to know how you feel about using songs and chants in the YL classroom.
Until next time!
CARLESS, David and DOUGLAS, Kitrina (2011). What’s in a song? how songs contribute to the communication of social science research. British journal of guidance & counselling, 39 (5), 439-454.
READ, Carol (2007). 500 activities for the primary classroom. Oxford, Macmillan. Macmillan Books for Teachers.
TRINICK, Robyn Margaret (2012). Sound and sight: The use of song to promote language learning. General music today, 25 (2), 5-10.