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Songs in the classroom Music is a powerful tool in any
Music is a powerful tool in any situation, but the use of songs in the teaching of English is one of the most useful and enjoyable activities a teacher can use. By using songs in their teaching, a teacher can encompass and make use of a wide range of teaching tools. These tools can be used effectively in a large number of topics and activities and in a variety of different ways.
It has been shown that in Multiple Intelligence Theory (MI), learners scored highest in musical and bodily kinaesthetic intelligences. This means that it is one of the most effective ways of learning and of retaining what we have learnt. We can all remember songs from a long time ago, even though it may be just snatches of that song, but our memories retain this for much longer than from non-musical ways.
Singing is an enjoyable activity (for most people) and it can be a useful tool to help reluctant students overcome their inhibitions and become more involved. Even a student unwilling to sing out loud will benefit from listening to songs and from being involved in some of the activities around them. Some students who are reluctant to speak in the lesson or to volunteer for any practical activities will often surprise the teacher by happily singing along to a song they know well or like. Using the rhymes and rhythms in songs can help to provide repetition of similar sounds and so help to consolidate the learning process.
Using nursery rhymes, action songs, nonsense songs, particularly with younger students helps them to build up vocabulary, learn pronunciation, and current idioms as well as providing kinaesthetic learning environments. Children love to move and to sing, and using English songs and rhymes helps with their learning. For younger children, teachers can create their own songs, setting subjects such as rules to well known tunes. Children remember this, even years later and it helps them to remember and use correct language.
Songs are useful for all areas of English learning ' it helps pronunciation, the development of vocabulary and for listening skills. It also helps those students from non-European languages to learn our stress and rhythm patterns. Most cultures have English pop songs as a major part of their musical background, so students can recognise them. Most students know English pop songs, can at least hum them if not sing them and the tefl teacher can make good use of this interest.
For older students, the lyrics from songs can be used effectively in the English language class, providing a great number of different activities for developing language. Teachers can use lyrics in a number of ways, in both writing and aural work. Written tasks can include cloze procedures, translation, dictation, jigsaws, prediction, reported speech and for creative writing, by asking students to compose their own words, or by finding alternative rhymes for the lyrics. Listening activities will help with developing their pronunciation of English and for developing their vocabulary. Copies of the lyrics are widely available from the internet or often come with the CDs which make it easy for the teacher to develop activities.
Songs are an enjoyable means for teaching and learning. They are a great 'leveller' too, providing poorer students with a comfortable vehicle for using a foreign language as well as providing enjoyment and fun for all. Even students with inhibitions will follow along with the words and find some element and degree of pleasure from the activity. They take account of students' interests and because so many countries play a large mix of English language pop songs they can provide some degree of reassurance created by familiarity in an otherwise unfamiliar environment.
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