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Using music in the classroom

Whether you listen to music in the car while driving; while doing your shopping; during your gym workout; or on television at home, you cannot escape the fact that it forms part of your daily life. Songs have become an essential part of our language experience, and if used in conjunction with language, they can be quite powerful. A number of studies have shown that music can help enhance academic performance; aid in problem-solving and decision-making; and also reduce emotional and physical stress.

Music is therefore an amazing tool for teaching languages, especially to children. Good songs will remain with a learner long after a lesson is over, and tend to be picked up very easily during lessons. By getting your learners to sing along to catchy tunes, they will be able to pick up vocabulary, grammatical structures, and the rhythm of the language more easily than trying to read it or study it from a course book.

Have you thought about using music to create a warmer and more inviting atmosphere in your classroom? Entering a classroom for the first time can be intimidating and daunting for people of any age, therefore, why not use music as an icebreaker. Music is highly pleasurable and sustains most people’s attention.

Music can be used to:

  • Maintain students’ attention and concentration
  • Encourage interaction and facilitate positive relationships within the classroom
  • Create appropriate emotional connections to the information being taught, enabling triggers for recall
  • Motivate and inspire students
  • Raise students’ energy levels

The more relaxed the students feel, the more receptive they will be to learning. Learners are also exposed to authentic examples of the second language through music. Often students associate the study of language with exams, frustration and corrections; therefore, using music can alleviate all these associations.

Considerations for selecting appropriate music for your learners

  • There are many types of songs which can be used in a classroom, ranging from nursery rhymes to contemporary pop. Choose songs that are popular and that your students will relate to. It is also important to choose songs that are easily comprehensible. Make sure you find appropriate music for the age and competence level of your learners.
  • Choose songs that are uplifting and that elicit positive emotions.
  • Songs should have a cultural component so that you can apply them easily. They should act as a complement to your course material.
  • There are, however, some disadvantages to using music in the classroom which include the following:
  • Some teachers do not take music seriously and are not able to execute lessons appropriately.
  • Music can disturb other learners in adjacent classrooms.
  • Teachers can lose control of learners very easily.
  • The vocabulary may not be suitable.
  • Expressions may be different to the rules of grammar and this can be misleading, resulting in mistakes.
  • Teachers do not know how to develop material successfully.
  • A teacher may not enjoy singing or teaching with music.

Lesson Ideas:

  • Fill in the blank spaces
    For example, if your grammar point is on adjectives, you could blank out all the adjectives in a song, and ask students to fill in the words as they hear them.
  • Scrambled lyrics
    Cut up all the lyrics of a song and separate them by line or phrase. Divide the class into teams or pairs and get them to order the lyrics as they listen to the song.
  • Identify the verb/s
    Write down the verbs that you are wanting to focus on. Whenever the students hear the verb in a particular tense, they need to do something, like put up their hands or jump up and down.
  • Musical chairs
    This game can be played as an opener or icebreaker. Choose a song that has a theme relevant to the topic you want to focus on.
  • Sing along
    Get students to sing the song after you have taught the lesson. Let them sing it using the words, and then practise singing the song from memory.

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