with pop songs
by Sarn Rich
use of songs
puts forward some good arguments for using learners' own songs,
such as the time it can save the teacher in finding songs
and keeping up with learners' tastes, the equality which this
establishes between teacher and learner (Each is giving something
to the other.), and of course the motivation it is likely
to draw from the learner. I have followed this suggestion
on a number of occasions and though I cannot say I have enjoyed
the 'Offspring' tape proffered by some Italian learners I
have known, it was very popular in class and maintained their
complete attention when we went through the language. On the
other hand an Ozzie Ozbourne song presented by a learner in
Poland was less successful, as nobody else in the school liked
it either. (Murphy's sample handout for the collection of
student-selected material is in Appendix A3).
tend to be exploited in class with gapfills, the learners
filling in the blanks using their knowledge of vocabulary,
grammar, appropriacy, rhyme, etc. (A gapfilled 'No Reply'
in Appendix El focusses on the past simple.). In variations
on the gapfill there may be options to choose from, picture
clues, or inappropriate words substituted for the right ones.
Another common approach is to chop up the song for learners
to put in order (A chopped 'For No One' in Appendix E2 requires
learners to be aware of the third person singular 's' and
to put together a coherent text).
any of these activities it is usually best for the learner
to attempt the task before listening, since to do so while
listening only requires the learner to listen for the odd
word, requiring no comprehension and little authentic listening.
activities if we do want the learner to listen out for specific
words while listening include
Listing. As they listen the learners list all the words or
expressions they hear to do with something, or of a particular
kind, or with a certain sound, or whatever we
o want to focus on.
Spot the words. Learners circle, cross out or grab words as
they hear them. This could be followed by a gapfill activity
in which the learners put the circled words in the blanks
in the song.
suggests that specific songs may be subjected to poetic analysis
(picking out items like verse-chorus structure or rhyming
scheme) (1992:81-2), language analysis (looking at poetic,
colloquial, archaic, slang and non-standard usage) (ibid:84-5),
discourse analysis (Appendix A2), or genre analysis (examining
stereotypical language and images) (ibid:88-9).
Learners may manipulate or rewrite lyrics, perhaps to make
a song describe a particular situation (ibid:74-5) or to practise
specific language. Rinvolucri (1996) suggests getting learners
to exercise their musical intelligence, for example when looking
at the present perfect, by hanging the words of 'Where have
all the flowers gone' onto another tune, or fitting new words
to the original.
can also rewrite songs to make them reflect their own personalities
or outlooks, and then discuss them with one another. I have
explored this technique successfully with a class of upper
intermedate Polish learners, using 'El Condor Pasa' (Appendix
approaches discussed so far involve listening only for individual
words, or are based around reading the text, requiring little
of the learner in terms of developing the listening skill.
Activities more directly tied to listening are:
Listening to answer specific comprehension questions.
Learners listening and filling in a form to record their reactions
or how they would describe the song, or to compare songs with
each other (Appendix A3).
Songs used for dictogloss.
Learners controlling the pause or rewind buttons, or working
in a language laboratory, writing out the lyrics to their
chosen songs (ibid:95-6).
Griffee's collection of pre-listening, while-listening and
follow-up questions is in Appendix D.
on from songs
pop song might usefully set the groundwork for
Dialogues invented by learners in which they incorporate language
drawn from the song.
Roleplays. Pop songs do not tend to be set in a specific time
or place, and are often imprecise about the people involved.
This makes it possible to relate them to a lot of different
circumstances, and often for learners to play the part of
characters in the song. For example after using 'No Reply'
(Appendix El) for the past simple we might practice past tenses
in a roleplay involving the boyfriend questioning a private
detective hired to record the girlfriend's movements over
the last week ('Well, on Monday she went to Canterbury, where
she met Alonso...'). 'For No One' (Appendix E2) can be followed
by a roleplay involving a rowing couple seeking the help of
a relationship councellor to patch up their differences.
Some songs lend themselves to starting discussions. For example
after using 'El Condor Pasa' to examine comparatives and the
second conditional, learners might ask each other what they
would rather be, out of pairs like 'a colour or a sound',
'a rainbow or a star', 'a candle or a lightbulb', 'a beach
or a wave' and their reasons for their replies. Such a follow-up
requires considerable imagination on the part of the learners,
but I have found it to work very well, helped perhaps by the
way that the imagination is stimulated by the music itself.
songs, dealing with such issues as class (e.g. Pulp's 'Common
People'), slavery (Bob Marley's 'Buffalo Soldier), domestic
violence (Tracey Chapman's 'Last Night I Heard the Screaming'),
homelessness (Phil Collins' 'Another day in
Paradise'), war (John Lennon's 'Give Peace a Chance'), politics
('Imagine', or Morrissey's 'Margaret on the Guillotine), racism
or the environment, can provide vocabulary, or start learners
thinking in preparation for other discussions.
Writing. Learners might take the part of characters in the
song (e.g. girlfriend and boyfriend writing to each other
after 'No Reply'), act as observers reporting on what has
been said (e.g. in a column in a newspaper), or create compositions
inspired by a song or by ideas they associate with selected
snippets from songs.
Songs cart he inspiring and enjoyable, lending themselves
to the classroom as tools for drawing ideas and sensations
out of the learner. Murphey (1992:15) suggests: 'What we are
doing is insearch not input: we ask students to use their
feelings, experiences, and thoughts, stimulated by the music,
as the primary materials for our teaching.'
caii also be interesting, providing an insight into L2 culture,
and motivating, forming complete authentic texts which learners
can feel they have succeeded in getting under t[tcir belts.
song's positive associations can turn language work drawn
from it into a more enjoyable experience. And by presenting
a whole story or argument in a brief and accessible form,
they can lay the groundwork neatly for roleplays, discussions
and writing activities.
have to he careful, bearing in mind that the learner will
not necessarily react to a song in the same ~vay as the teacher,
or in the same way as other learners, but, properly used,
pop songs can be a useful and versatile resource for teaching.
1991. English Puzzles. Heinemann.
D.T. 1992. Songs in Action. Prentice Hall.
T. 1992. Music and Song. Oxford University Press.
T. and J. L. Alber 1985. A Pop Song Register: the Motherese
of Adolescence as Affective Foreigner Talk. TESOL Quarterly
M. 1996. The Seven Jntelligences and Grammar Teaching: Js
There a Role for Multi-Sensory Teaching in ELT? EL Gazette,
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