Bring Art into your class

Using songs in class - for teachers; personal experience - Ekaterina Bodrova.

USING SONGS IN CLASS

We have talked about using different realia in class before but it’s time we discussed it in detail. Occasionally students come to class asking about some song lyrics or may even request going through a song together in class. Knowing how to approach doing this will help you use this opportunity to its fullest. 


Why should we use songs?

This is a fantastic exposure to culture

Your students may hear things that are clear to only native-speakers like references, homages and quotes, things that may confuse them if they have no background knowledge. This is a great opportunity for you to study your target culture with them even further. 

Grammar and vocabulary context

One of the best ways to make students understand and start using a language exponent (grammar or vocabulary) is by contextualising it. Songs can work perfectly well here. You can teach talking about plans by using “Never gonna give you up” by Rick Roll or introduce comparative structures by listening to Lenka’s “Everything at once”. Songs are catchy and memorable and we are hardwired to remembering things better if they are rhymed. 

Break from routine

Having established dynamic is crucial for continuous growth and improvement, but when it becomes repetitive and monotonous, your students’ motivation may wane. Listening to songs will cheer you up, bring you back on track and help reinstate the interest in learning. 

Authenticity

Songs are a great way to listen to real unadapted language, learn some slang and common colloquial expressions that may come in even more handy than some typical course-book word list. 

The do’s and don’t’s

  1. Think of your objectives
    Decide which aspect you are going to focus on - grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation or something else. Don’t try to do everything at once, or it will take you a very long time. 

  2. Don’t make it boring
    This point comes from the first one - if you try to squeeze too much out of a song you will squeeze all fun out of it, too. Remember, listening to songs should be fun and engaging.

  3. Think about your students’ level and age
    Don’t choose songs that will be inappropriate to your students’ age, and take their interests into account. Also, the lyrics shouldn’t be too hard to understand. All time classics are the best choice, songs that everybody has heard and that many people love.

  4. Don’t make it awkward
    Not everybody will feel comfortable to sing along, so don’t make them do it. You may also ask your students to close their eyes while listening to the song for the first time and imagine a music video, or maybe focus on their emotions and emotions of the singer. This way you won’t have to sit there just listening to a song together but not feeling comfortable to dance or sing. Music can be a personal experience to many people, so take that into account. It is also possible to watch a music video straight away and ask student to order pictures based on it. 

An example plan 

1. Do a lead in - show the singer/band; ask questions about them. Give the song title and ask questions about it, discuss what the song may be about; if they have ever heard it. Show screenshots from a music video and describe them. Pre-teach some difficult vocabulary. 

2. Listen to the song or watch the music video. As a possibility - ask students to order the screenshots from the video or answer a question. Discuss what they understand about the song.

3. Listen again with lyrics. It can be a gap-filling activity, or simply a reading one. You can put lyrics on different sticky notes and ask students to order them. 

4. Focus on a particular verb tense or aspect of grammar. How many examples can you find?

5. Focus on vocabulary, idioms and expressions; discuss the tone and emotions of the song;

6. Read about the background to the song: maybe there is an interesting story behind it, maybe it won awards or some other similar thing. Discuss if students like the song after they have studied it in such detail.

7. Do a creative task:

- think of one more verse

- imagine a response 

- plan a music video


Personal experience

Rhythm and intensive methods of teaching

My name is Kate and I'd been teaching for more than ten years before I switched to management for my language school. I've always been obsessed with intensive methods of teaching in particular.

The fast-changing world and "need-it-all-now" requests have increased the popularity of intensive teaching more than ever. While many of them might bring stress along with results, rhythm and music make learning pleasant and subconscious.

Why do we remember vocabulary better when it comes from songs?

The answer is because of rhythm.

Here is a "music and rhythm" tip I've tried and found helpful when I was teaching (and learning) foreign languages, hope it will be useful for you, guys.

Whatever you are learning, e.g. a poem, a text, new vocabulary, try dividing it into syllables or rhythmical parts, walk around the room and say it out loud according to the rhythm you've developed. It helps remember even long texts, like your speech for a public event.

If you don't feel like walking, you can tap your fingers using the same rhythm and say your text/vocabulary aloud.

It's vital to pronounce everything you need to memorize out loud while you are walking or tapping your fingers because this is how our body and mind work together, it's a physical symbiosis.

As a bonus your family can get some fun from it :)


That’s all for now!
Stay amazing ❤