Songs in the classroom The use of songs in the ESL classroom


The use of songs in the ESL classroom can be a fun and innovative way of covering a range of English language topics. Songs can be used for vocabulary, grammar, dictation, pronunciation (stress and intonation), phonetics, speaking, writing, listening, integrative skills, and many other ESL points. Furthermore, songs can invite the non-native speaker into the English speaking culture. For instance, pop music gives the learner a taste of what is trendy at the moment. Meanwhile, the lyrics to classic rock songs can give a sense of history and the attitude of the country at the time of recording (for example, 'Give Peace a Chance,' John Lennon, 1969). Additionally, children's songs are crucially important for the young learner as they are an easy way to encourage memorization and pronunciation.

According to the website ESL through Music, maintained and created by Dr. Suzanne Medina (http://www.forefrontpublishers.com/eslmusic/index.htm), the use of music in the ESL classroom is a highly effective way of teaching English as a second language. However, very little empirical research has been done to support the use of music in the ESL classroom, and therefore its use has been criticized at times. Dr. Medina and many other scholars, fully support music as a means of language acquisition. As a result, Dr. Medina conducted a study to test the effects of music in the classroom. In her study of 48 Spanish-speaking students, she was able to prove that those students exposed to music in their language instruction were better able to remember and use the language afterwards (versus those students who were not exposed to music).

It is interesting to consider the use of songs to teach more than just a vocabulary point. Songs allow a teacher to cover specific grammar points in an effortless fashion. For example, one teacher, Loretta, who posted on Dave's ESL Caf', discusses the use of Cat Steven's, 'Moonshadow,' for a lesson on the future tense. She writes, 'it has many 'if clauses' and uses both 'will' and 'to be going + infinitive' constructions.' (http://www.eslcafe.com/idea/index.html). Loretta's lesson is exciting for students because not only do they get to hear the song, but they are also able to see their grammar lesson in action. Therefore, even if the student cannot construct the future tense by him/herself, the use of song allows the student to practice speaking (or singing) this grammar point until they have mastered the use of this technique for themselves.

The website, www.esl- lounge.com also provides an array of lessons with song. For instance, instead of just showing children how to use Comparatives/Superlatives and Can/Can't, you could accompany the lesson with the children's song, 'Anything You Can Do,' which has examples of both lesson points. According to the webpage, http://esl.about.com, 'the use of music in the classroom can make the entire learning process more enjoyable and can stimulate "right" brain learning.' This website commends music for its ability to activate vocabulary and grammar. Furthermore, they point out that NPR (National Public Radio) uses music after each story broadcast in the 'Morning Edition' to encourage listeners to reflect on the story they have just heard. Every time that piece of music is played, the listeners associate the music to the story and it encourages them to think about the story once again. Similarly, using music in the classroom allows students to make associations with something other than the lesson point itself. Music promotes memorization, listening and speaking skills. In conclusion, the use of music in the classroom is a fun and integral part of the ESL experience. As Joy Brown suggests, in her article on The Internet TESL Journal, ESL students 'are at a disadvantage when participating in conversations or watching movies if they lack the knowledge of cultural elements native speakers of English may take for granted' (http://iteslj.org/Articles/Brown- Rhymes.html). Therefore, by using song in the classroom, the ESL student is able to practice grammar and vocabulary points, but more importantly, they are exposed to how the native speaker uses the language casually and artistically.