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(Work unit: College of Foreign Languages of Henan Agricultural University, P.R. China )
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1.In what way songs are unique teaching tool?
Songs present opportunities for developing automaticity which is the main cognitive reason for using songs in the classroom. Gatbonton and Segalowitz define automaticity as “a component of language fluency which involves both knowing what to say and producing language rapidly without pauses.” Using songs can help automatize the language development process. Traditionally, it was believed that automatization would occur through repetitive exercises in a non-communicative environment. However, the major shift towards the communicative teaching methodology requires that automatization occur in a different manner. Gatbonton and Segalowitz state that we must “place students in an environment in which it is appropriate to use target utterances in a genuinely communicative fashion.” The nature of songs is fairly repetitive and consistent. For example, a song such as Sailing by Rod Stewart provides ample opportunities for students to focus on the present progressive tense. The repetitive style of the song lends itself to an activity in which students create their own present progressive sentences based upon their own interest.
Besides automatization, there is also a linguistic reason for using songs in the classroom. Some songs are excellent examples of colloquial English, that is, the language of informal conversation. A song such as My Best Was Never Good Enough by Bruce Springsteen is a prime example of a song that demonstrates colloquial language use. This song is full of phrases like “Every cloud has a silver lining” and “Every dog has his day.”
Of course, the majority of language most ESL students will encounter is in fact informal. Using songs can prepare students for the genuine language they will be faced with The questionnaire investigated the prevalence of pop music in the lives of EFL students. The result shows that music is often the major source of English outside of the classroom. The exposure to authentic English is an important factor in promoting la nguage learning. It relates directly to both the affective filter and automaticity. If students are exposed to songs that they enjoy, more learning is likely to occur since they may seek out the music outside of the classroom. The repetitive style of songs then helps to promote automatization of colloquial language.
2.How is it possible that they are more effective than memorization in isolation ?
It is known to us all that the cerebrum has two hemispheres. In the great majority of people, the left hemisphere is concerned with language and the right hemisphere is responsible for recognizing visual and rhythmical patterns. But this does not mean the division is complete. The main connection between the two halves is a bridge called the “corpus callosum,” which consists of 200 million or more nerve fibers. They carry information both ways. Therefore the brain acts as an elaborate system of interconnected parts and operates by simultaneously going down many paths.(Guo Hen &Song Yueli, 1995)
Don G Campbell is an author who has studied the musical brain and who is the director of the In institute for Music, Health and Education in Boulder, Colorado. He(1992,cited from Arkins,1997)states that music has a way of connecting the two hemispheres by utilizing the left for language and the right for distinguishing musical intonations through consistent integration via the corpus callosum. Millions of neurons can be activated in a single musical experience. It is through the activation of these neural connections that learning takes place. The more neurons that can be connected, the greater the learning potential.(L azear,19 91,cited from Arkins,1 997)The more connections that can be made in the brain, the more integrated that experience is within memory( Campbell, 1992,cited from Arkins, 1997).
3. I know that it is possible to teach vocabulary on the basis of English songs, but don't you think that very often they are dialects, slangs?
Indeed, songs are especially good at introducing vocabulary because songs provide a meaningful context for the vocabulary. In this context, words could be understood better and other related words could be extended by visual images or some other methods. Some songs tend to use lyrics with high-frequency vocabulary that have emotional content,which makes them strong candidates for word study or for reinforcing words already learned through written means.
Without any doubt, songs may have dialects and slangs in them. Never mind, the students may utilize the chance to master the authentic materials so that they can use them when communicating with the native speakers of English.
4. How can teachers teach grammar while listening to songs?
Here is an example. When I was teaching a grammatical item: the concessive clause one day in class, I couldn't help recalling the lyrics of the song Right Here Waiting. “Wherever you go, whatever you do, I will be right here waiting for you, whatever it takes, or how my heart breaks, I will be right here waiting for you”，the moment I sang the song out and elicited the words: “whatever, wherever”. I found that the students got excited, and after they had learned the song, the grammatical rules stuck in their mind. At that moment, I realized that using English songs in teaching English grammar might be an instructive approach.
From my point of view, it is advisable that EFL teachers make the most of English songs in teaching grammar in the right time. The methods may vary from teacher to teacher. But one point is very important, that is, the teacher should get well prepared for the class.
5.How about culture and history?
English songs also reflect a great variety of foreign cultures. They often contain words and expressions connected with history, culture or tradition of different nations, so the teacher should explain to the pupils the embedded culture elements of English speaking countries. Songs also give new insights into the target culture. Furthermore, through using traditional folk songs the learners’ will broaden their knowledge of the culture reflected in those songs.
6.How to choose the best song for the lesson?
When a song is selected, the song that has a good topic and beautiful music is perfect, but which is not enough. The lyrics of it should be easy to understand and close to the daily life. What is the most important is that there should be few broken sentences and little slang in the lyrics. And songs that are selected should be suitable for students' age and the aim of the teaching.
7.Are there any special techniques of teaching English songs?
There are many techniques of teaching English songs. It is hard to say which techniques are special. EFL teachers can use predicting, gap-filling, spotting the mistakes, translation, piecing together, dictation, comprehension questions, discussion of song theme, role-playing and so on.
8.Can you present a typical classroom activity using English songs?
Before listening to the song, the teacher can show a series of pictures that the song depicts to the students. The pictures can be prepared beforehand, if you are not confident about drawing on the board. And then ask the students to describe the pictures according to their imagination and prediction. This activity supplies the students with so much information that they may have little difficulty understanding the listening material.
This is possibly the way that most teachers use songs. Choose a song that has some connection with the structure or part of speech that you are teaching. Delete a few words from the lyrics and hand the incomplete lyrics to the students. For lower levels, you can include the deleted words in the bottom of the page ( of course, in a different order). Play the song a few times,depending on the level of the song. Students listen to it and then fill in the missing words. Then hand out the complete lyrics (or write the missing words on the blackboard)
There is a strategy for the placing of the blanks. Depending on the grammatical content of the song, the teacher can place the gaps where there are either nouns, verbs, adjectives, or adverbs to practice a target grammar point, such as past tense verbs, prepositions, or compound nouns, or to identify key words. Thus the students will know specifically what to look for. For example, learning a grammar point like Simple Past. Pick up a song that has many verbs in the past tense, blank them out and give in parenthesis the verbs in their base form. Have the students complete the song with the correct form of each verb. This will help them memorize the past form of regular and irregular verbs( it can be used with any verb tense).
(3) Spotting the mistakes
Write out the lyrics of the song, but make some mistakes e .g., change the tense, write an opposite or synonym instead of the correct word. Then let students listen to the song. The first time, ask them to underline the words that are different and the second( or third) time actually write what they hear above the word or phrase that is wrong. After each hearing they can check with each other - in a mixed ability classroom this ensures no one is left behind and gets demotivated. After they have checked that they got the right words, ask them to go through and see if the mistakes were words or phrases that were the same, similar or opposite in meaning: a good focus on vocabulary and/or grammar.
9.What else can make our English lessons nice and funny?
Other than songs there are many materials in form of other media around us in the informative society for teachers to choose, such as news, movies, magazines, humors, and so on. As long as they are carefully selected for the teaching and learning, they can be used as an effective source for EFL teaching.
Holding a speech, a debate, making a role-play, and so on are good ideas to make our English lessons nice and funny.
10.Is the old method using a course-book still effective?
Yes. The old method using a course-book is still effective. EFL teachers should utilize the songs in class appropriately. Just select some beautiful songs for each semester, for too many songs to be used in class may bore the students.