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Best Ways to Apply Songs and Music to English Teaching

Best Ways to Apply Songs and Music to English Teaching | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Teaching a group of new students can, and frequently is an intimidating challenge. Working with students who are just meeting you, and have unknown skill levels often creates a chaotic environment. By incorporating pieces of music that are familiar to the teacher and students we can increase rapport, improve confidence, train listening skills, and engage students quickly and more effectively. There are multiple ways to use music in the classroom and to teach English as a foreign language, and each should be tailored to the needs of the students.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Everitt G. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Easy and Familiar

Songs used in the classroom should be familiar, easy to understand and have lyrics that can be used to teach grammar when possible. Using pieces that students have heard before invokes a sense of comfort for students and can help them become familiar with the teacher by aiding to lower their guard. The lyrics for each piece should be easy to hear and be sung slowly enough for students to understand them. For this reason, high-speed rap songs such as Rap God by Eminem should be avoided for lower level students. A piece such as Hello by Adel is more appropriate. This song incorporates the past perfect tense several times, so it can be used effectively as a tool to teach this as well.

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Authentic

The use of songs can be especially helpful when giving students authentic material about idioms. The use of idioms varies from culture to culture, and how they are used can often be found in local music. American country music often sings about times that are difficult to endure, so we call it The Blues. This is, in itself an idiom that can be explained to students and provide a clear link to a specific culture and better understanding of how English changes depending on your environment. When country music singer George Jones sang, “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” he wasn’t talking about actually wearing shoes. He was talking about who will take the place of the legendary singers who are now getting old and passing away. I used this specific example recently with a group of students and received a clear reaction that they at first did not understand the idiom, but after listening to the song and hearing my explanation, they understood it.

Engaging

By combining the use of idioms with a grammatical lesson, we can create a fairly well rounded and engaging lesson. A lesson can be started by talking for several minutes about music or themes in music just to get students thinking in English. Students can then be given the lyrics to a song and should be instructed to read them and identify any vocabulary they do not understand. Listening to the song as a class and following along with the lyrics should follow this so they can hear and read the lyrics at the same time to ensure maximum retention. Afterward, the students can be split into groups and told to identify any idioms in the song and try to identify their meaning. To incorporate grammar, they can also be instructed to identify a specific verb tense. Finally, the teacher and students can discuss the idioms and grammar point, and correct anything that was misunderstood.

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