Music and song in the classroom The use of music in classrooms today is


The use of music in classrooms today is widespread, but it's educational value is in debate. This article will discuss the importance of music and song when teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). It is my opinion that music is a vital tool that a teacher can utilise to enhance language retention as well as student motivation and enjoyment.

Music helps create positive feelings about learning English (Uchida, 2003). Music and song are universal as is the enjoyment of music and students will already be experiencing music in their own culture. Therefore, the introduction of music into the classroom can be a very non-threatening way of creating a comfortable classroom atmosphere, establishing a link between the student's background and the language they are about to learn. Uchida (2003) suggests the use of the same piece of music at the beginning of every lesson in order to establish a connection and sense of familiarity with students early on. It is also an effective way to introduce the language topic for that particular lesson ' 'Using music'is a great way to activate vocabulary' (Beare, 2006). While it is generally agreed that music is an enjoyable part of classroom life, many argue that it has little or no educational value when it comes to language retention (Medina, 1993). However, studies have shown that music is in fact a 'viable vehicle for second language acquisition' (Medina, 1993, p.3). Songs can be used to acquire vocabulary, learn spelling patterns, improve reading and writing as well as providing the learner with realistic contexts in which to learn through. Medina (2002) provides several reasons why music and song is so useful in the ESL classroom. She first states that music is first and foremost an enjoyable experience. This is in turn confirmed by Beare (2006) who affirms 'the use of music in the classroom can make the entire learning process more enjoyable'. Because students enjoy music, they are more attentive, focused and therefore receptive to learning. They tend to relax, losing their inhibitions as they repeatedly sing songs, resulting in a rise in confidence levels and a desire to continue singing and therefore learning (Medina, 2002) Krashen (1982, cited Medina 2002) puts forward a relevant hypothesis regarding second language acquisition that highlights the critical importance of meaning, which can be directly linked to the use of music in the classroom. Music provides students with an alternative meaningful context to oral or written stories in which to learn language through. Medina (2002) states that 'story songs may motivate and captivate the attention of second language learners in ways that oral stories cannot' (p.2). Medina (2002) also discusses Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences, stating that music in the classroom is consistent with his ideas about eight distinct intelligences. Through the use of background music, listening to story songs or singing songs containing specific language features, students are 'cultivating the musical intelligence which Gardner speaks of' (Medina 2002, p.4). A teacher can use music as another vessel with which to engage their learners, furthering the ways to meet the varied needs of the students in a classroom.

The theoretical justifications for using music and song in the classroom are clear and compelling. Music has strong educational value in terms of second language acquisition, assisting with language retention, vocabulary, spelling and grammar. However, in my opinion, the greatest argument for music in the classroom is the enjoyment the students get out of it. Music stimulates the mind and relaxes the student, providing an inspiring and motivating vessel of instruction.

References:

Beare, K. (2006). Music in the ESL Classroom. http://esl.about.com/library/lessons/blbrainmusic.htm.

Medina, S. (2002). Using Music to Enhance Second Language Acquisition: From Theory to Practice. In Lalais, J and Lee, S. (2002). Language, Literacy and Academic Development for English Language Learners. Pearson Educational Publishing.

Medina, S. (1993). The effect of music on second language vocabulary acquisition, National Network for Early Language Learning; Volume 6, Number 3.

Uchida, H. (2003). Music in the English Classroom. http://www.eltnews.com/features/kids/032_hu.shtml