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In my experience, using songs in the classroom is an effective and enjoyable way to study english. It provides an experiential element to language learning and uses “real life” materials, helping students to connect with the world of the language. Additionally, it can provide a fun break from the normal routine and the normal textbook. Songs in the classroom can be used as a learning tool for several reasons. Students are able to hear the language in a “real life” context, spoken by native speakers, at a real speed. It can develop students' listening and comprehension skills as they listen to the stories of different songs. Students can also practice and improve their pronunciation and intonation. Songs can be chosen that are appropriate to the level of students. The teacher should not overwhelm the students with a fast paced, lengthy song containing difficult vocabulary. Songs with simple and repetitive lyrics can be used for young learners and beginners (e.g. “Hello, Goodbye” by The Beatles),
while more advanced english learners can listen to songs with more complex lyrics. In my personal experience, using a Lady Gaga song as a warm up in a Junior High school class in japan proved an interesting and (200)fun start to the class. This was a “fill in the blanks” activity, where some key words where blanked out, and students had to listen and choose which word fitted in which space from the list of words. This song was an interesting topic for the students to relate to and the use of a contemporary artist caught their attention. The students were amused to learn the meaning of the lyrics, as the japanese teacher and students discussed the japanese meaning together. This was an effective way for the students to learn (300) about another culture and understand the contents of the song. Songs can also be useful in teaching specific vocabulary or grammar points. I have used the
“Hokey Kokey” song to teach body parts and “left” and “right” to japanese primary school children. Students would listen to the lyrics, for example “You put your left foot in, your left foot out” and sing and dance along. Furthermore, new complex grammar patterns may be easier to remember by having a rhythm to go along with them. Additionally, students may be able to learn interesting idiomatic phrases. Using songs can help develop creativity. When (400) I taught at an english evening class in japan (a mixture of adults and Junior High school students, levels ranging from beginner to intermediate), songs were a big and popular part of the curriculum. Every week, I would bring a piano in and teach one verse of a particular english song, discussing its meaning. The students thoroughly enjoyed singing along,
and eventually we could sing the whole song together. Allowing the students to select songs meant we had the most interesting popular songs. At this class, I and the other teacher began a project where we took a famous (500) short simple song from japan (“The Tulip song”) and made up simple english lyrics to go along with it (about various topic). We then taught it to the class, singing it together. As well as trying to understand the meaning of the pre-written songs in groups, many students went home and wrote their own song. It could be about anything they wanted - some wrote about school, others about learning english. The class would then learn it together. Students had to creatively think in the english language and write about something they cared about. Use of songs, as well as developing creativity and (600) enhancing the english
learning process, can importantly add an extra “fun” factor to learning english. I have found in japan that the primary school children generally have no inhibitions and will happily dance and sing along to a song that is being played. The song is an effective warm up and gets them excited and interested in learning english. While japanese Junior High school students may be a little more self-conscious, they too have enjoyed singing along or simply listening to a song, for pleasure or in order to fill in the gaps, or do “song bingo” (having a grid of words (700) in the song and crossing out a word when you hear it being sung). In my english conversation class, songs helped to motivate the students and added interest and inspiration.
Music often seems to be able to touch people and break down barriers, regardless of the language. In conclusion, songs can play a major role in the classroom and have been an important, fun and effective part element of my teaching experiences in japan. I think songs are an important way for students to enjoyably experience the english language for themselves, rather than simply learning about it.
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