Peculiarities of teaching vocabulary through listening to english songs (for future school teachers)
К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2009
Автор: Осколкова А. А.
Teaching vocabulary is the most essential
part in the whole process of language learning and teaching. Without knowing foreign
words or foreign vocabulary “items” a person will not be able to obtain four
main skills (these are writing, reading, listening and speaking) that he needs
in order to have a proper knowledge of any language. Vocabulary is supposed to
be defined as all the words, lexis that a person knows, increases and enriches.
Teaching vocabulary through songs is not a
new matter in TESL but it has always been actual and widely acknowledged by
teachers and their students.
Nowadays songs are available and its supply
is inexhaustible. Songs are important and invaluable tools in developing
students’ abilities in listening, reading, writing and speaking. Songs alone
are not able to teach anyone how to communicate in a foreign language but they
can motivate and provoke, inspire and encourage students to communicate and
practice their language skills.
A great number of research papers, articles,
and reference and resource books have been already written and published by
many well-known and professional methodologists, teachers and practitioners.
For example, Reeve C. and J. Williamson and Gaudice G.D. All of them researched
the very theme and developed their own means and ways how to use songs in a
class properly and effectively. Song is a universal tool for teaching a foreign
language as every nation has its own songs in their own languages. Songs are
sung everywhere. While researching the topic these scientists cannot formulate
one universal principle how to use a song for all the students as it is up to a
teacher what song he/she will choose and how he/she will present it. One and
the same song cannot be presented in the same way for different students. This
is the key point that song is just a tool for learning when students and their
teacher are responsible for the result of work with this song.
The aim of our master thesis is theoretical
and methodical development of methods of using songs in teaching vocabulary.
The object is the process of EFL teaching.
The subject is to develop peculiarities of
teaching vocabulary through English songs.
The objectives are:
- to analyze traditional and alternative
ways of teaching vocabulary;
- to find out the students’ main difficulties
with vocabulary perception through songs and enumerate the ways of their
- to compare the main types of work with
songs and develop some recommendations;
- to run an experiment and analyze its
Upbeat, inspiring, melodic original songs
happen to be thematic, grammar-specific, and vocabulary rich, with accompanying
lessons designed to complement and reinforce the teaching of English in
college, university, and bilingual elementary classrooms. Presenting the target
language through melodic music expands yet further the learning modality
options you are providing for your students (aural-musical) - variety is the
spice of life. Probably nothing imprints linguistic patterns better than words
wedded to memorable music. Students will retain grammatical structures and
vocabulary for the rest of their lives. Students' naturally high interest in
good music makes them 100% on-task during the lesson The accompanying learning
activities take full advantage of the song's thematic and grammatical aspects;
all exercises which are challenging and "classroom tested" support
what one is teaching and keep the students fully engaged. Recent studies show a
correlation between music in the classroom and improved academic performance
(and that was passive; this is active!) Creative culminating activities for
proficiency and fun take learning the language to the next level: 1) storyboards,
2) dramatic interpretations, 3) karaoke performances (instrumental tracks 7-12
provided). Songs and activities can be used either to introduce new material,
or re-enforce previously learned material.
Time spent in class might actually
stimulate more learning-per-minute than standard approaches, not only because
they are so tightly designed, but because all the multiple intelligences are
addressed. The songs are directed from every possible pedagogical angle and
presented to the students with activities that stimulate critical thinking and
are also fun! Activities can be done in cooperative learning groups, thus
promoting classroom cohesion. These combined skills help teach English to
students through music - which they love.
The original songs in English hold the
three indispensable keys to learning English through music the fun way:
1) The songs themselves are upbeat,
melodic, and catchy, and appeal to people of all ages;
2) The lyrics are clever and literary, telling
a story or painting a picture, yet at the same time emphasizing themes or
grammar that are always taught together, or in sequence, in formal English
texts and courses. Many songs are perfect listen to, at precise times during a
beginning English course, to reinforce learning.
3) Comprehensive and challenging exercises
which allow the student to demonstrate and develop understanding of the grammar
concepts and vocabulary found in the song. Once this translation work is done,
simple questions and answers are provided ("yes" or "no"
type), to be done orally with a partner or written if you are working alone,
followed by every conceivable exercise that takes advantage of the teaching
points in the song. The analyses of the recent EFL literature on the problem
in question (Graham, Murphey, Saricoban, Eken, Jedynak, etc.) makes it possible
to suggest that among the methodological purposes with which music, songs and
chants are used in class, it is possible to rank the following:
- Practicing the rhythm, stress and the
intonation patterns of the English language.
- Teaching vocabulary, especially in the
vocabulary reinforcement stage.
- Teaching grammar. In this respect songs
are especially favored by teachers while investigating the use of the tenses.
- Teaching speaking. For this purpose,
songs and mainly their lyrics are employed as a stimulus  for class discussions.
- Teaching listening comprehension.
- Developing writing skills. For this
purpose a song can be used in a variety of ways - for example, speculating what
could happen to the characters in the future, writing a letter to the main
Though the list of publications devoted to
the topic in question continues to grow yearly, and though no one would doubt
the potential of the songs and music as a springboard to students' creativity,
there are still several aspects in which music is overlooked in the classroom.
First, songs, especially chants, are very popular with teachers whose target
audience are young learners. Secondly, though a song is an inseparable unity of
the music and its lyrics, it is the musical part that is constantly overlooked
and ignored. Songs can be effectively used in an intermediate class for the
purpose of teaching speaking to prospective EFL teachers. The main reasons for
this are as follows:
- As a cultural phenomenon, songs can
introduce students to the musical and cultural patterns typical for the target
- Songs belong to a synthetic genre, which
includes both lyrics, and music and these two constituents may be used as a
good incentive for speaking English in class.
- Songs can effectively contribute to the
students' development of esthetic appreciation since they may help them shape
their artistic tastes in formulating a critical evaluation of the songs they
listen to and discuss.
- Prospective teachers of English, in order
to be able to effectively use songs in their own teaching in future, should
themselves be exposed to them in the context of a teacher training program.
The question that any teacher who is
willing to use music in class has to wrestle with is 'what kind of music and
what particular songs should we choose from the "ocean" of today's
music?' A quick glance at the musical picture of modern society shows how picturesque
and colorful it is. While using musical material in class for the first time, a
teacher should choose the songs he/she knows and loves him/herself. This
enables him/her to be more emotionally persuasive as he/she exposes his/her
students to the songs and their interpretation of them. Later, while encouraging
students to choose the songs for discussions, he/she should ask them to follow
the following criteria (though they are not free from being subjective):
- The song must be an example of a particular
- There shouldn't be any form of violence
- The song should contain a certain artistic
The songs by the "Beatles,"
though composed more than thirty years ago, generally appeal to the tastes of
19-25 year-olds since they deal with such eternal problems as love, commitment
and parents/children relationships. One must also not forget to mention that
the words are very intelligible and easy to distinguish. They are deservedly
considered to be classics of pop music, from which different musical trends
The main purpose of using songs in an
advanced class should be for the development of the students’ speaking skills
and the promotion of their cultural competence. The model of speech development
through songs was worked out with the tasks mentioned above in mind. This model
should be comprised of three stages - preparatory, forming and developing -
each of them having its own logistics (Natalia Orlova, University of Jan Evangelist Purkyne, Czech Republic):
- Introductory talk: Micro-texts about
different musical trends
- Activities aimed at vocabulary development
- Listening and discussing songs; 7-step
1. Pre-listening tasks.
2. Listening to the song.
3. Answers to the pre-listening tasks.
4. Post-listening tasks.
5. Presentation of the text of the song.
6. Second listening.
7. Song discussion.
- Discussing different problematic issues
and music genres
- Tasks for using songs in English language
The aim of the first stage is to form
lexical subskills of monological speech and to develop the speech content. For
this purpose students are encouraged to read texts, containing information
about different musical trends as well as musical reviews about various groups
and singers, to fulfill pre-reading and post-reading tasks. As an example may
serve the pre-reading and post reading activities that follow.
- Rank the musical trends you like most in
the decreasing order. Compare your list with the one by your fellow student.
- Read the beginning of the essays on
different musical trends and match them with the trend they refer to:
Classical, Country, Electronica, Folk, Hip Hop/Rap, Pop, Rhythm and Blues.
It is at this stage that students do the activities
aimed at vocabulary development, which also create the basis for song interpretation
at the next forming stages. Below follow some examples of activities of this
- Match the words in Column A with their
definitions in Column B.
1. Simple tune, melody or song.
b. Song cycle
2. Vocal or instrumental part that compliments
3. A group of related songs unified by theme or lyric.
4. Immediately memorable and appealing musical catch
5. Individual song on an album;(vb) to record a
6. A short melodic pattern or musical idea that runs
throughout a piece.
7. Segment of pop song that connects verses and
8. A song that tells a story; In popular music, usually
a love song in a slow tempo.
i. A cappella
9. Pop song from early ears.
10. (Slang) light, trendy, innocuous pop music.
11. Singing without instrumental backing.
12. Single instrumental lead played over rhythm
section usually in absence of vocals.
m. Lip-sync (vb)
13. To mouth lyrics in sync with recording during
• Music is an extremely powerful art. It
may evoke a strong emotional response. Listen to the song (choose any song you
like ) and determine the mood the song evokes as well as the feelings it
arouses. Useful vocabulary: quiet, peaceful, active, buoyant, calm, restful,
happy, dreamy, mysterious, self-pitying, intimate, sad, somber, festive,
- Music gives rise to our imagination and
feelings. Bring to class several instrumental pieces of different genres of
your preference. Play them and compare the associations caused by them among
your fellow students.
• Describe the voices of the singers you
know, using the words given below.
- Deep, gentle, soft, fresh, clear,
lyrical, expressive, nasal, guttural, hollow, resonant, gruff, harsh, raucous,
husky, mellow, metallic properly/not properly placed.
• It is possible to define the rhythm of a
song in different words. Study the list of adjectives below and use them in the
sentences of your own while speaking about the songs you prefer to listen to.
- Assured, distinct, crisp, regular, irregular,
dense, scattered, impatient, regular dance, abrupt, jaunty.
a) The song attracts me by its regular and
b) I like the regular dance rhythm of this
• Bring in class several songs you like and
describe their vocal part with the help of the useful vocabulary given below.
- Useful vocabulary: to sing lead; to be on
lead; to do lead; to sing backup; to be on backup; to do backup; to do backup
vocals; to sing harmony.
• Fill in the grid
with the phrases that follow.
Manner of singing and playing
Establishing rapport with the audience.
• Introduce a fresh style of melody, of
harmony, of rhythm; retain originality; have an outburst of new sounds; present
an entertaining stage act; satisfy audience tastes; tend to be detached while
singing; meet the tastes of the audience; put emphasis on vocal expression;
shift emphasis from drums to bass; establish contact with the audience; be
backed by drums; achieve variety of sounds; supply accompaniment; borrow old
tunes; use familiar verses in new contexts; present an unusual interplay
between vocal and guitar; echo one another; sing with high-pitched whoops.
The second stage is aimed at formation of
speaking skills while interpreting and discussing the songs under
consideration, with the 7-step sequence being used. As an example, let us
consider the tasks fulfilled while working with the song "Yesterday."
Pre-listening questions: Who is on lead vocal and what instruments accompany
- What mood do the melody and lyrics evoke?
- What is it about the song that makes it
sound like it comes from another time?
- What instruments contribute to this effect?
- Can you describe the person speaking?
- What kind of love is depicted in the
- Is the love story told emotionally or
with a tinge of detachment?
- How can you describe McCartney's manner
Listen to the song again. How would you
describe the interaction between the singer's voice and instruments in the
- What differences in the manner of singing
and in the song over all can you point out? Which singer is more dramatic?
- Choose a song you like most of all.
Design your own activities for the 7-step sequence (see above). Bring the song
in class and encourage your fellow students to interpret and discuss its
lyrics, musical part and the artistic image created in the song.
The aim of the third stage of the presented
model is to further develop speaking skills on the topic “Music” and to prepare
students for using songs in the EFL classroom. At this stage students are
involved in less teacher controlled activities, such as: discussions,
simulations and role-plays. The examples of the questions for discussion as
well as simulations might serve the following:
• Is it difficult to be an attentive and appreciative
• What should a person need to know?
• Why do young people gravitate towards new
• Should a teacher know and understand pop
music in order to be able to discuss it with the pupils; helping them to
differentiate between original and well-written music from second-rated ones of
newly formed groups?
The task "Support or challenge the following
statements" also serves the purpose of preparing students for discussion
about the modern perspectives of development in music:
• Nowadays, young people prefer only that
kind of music to which they can dance or just talk to friends. It should be
simple, cheerful and up-to-date.
• The pop music rhythms may be new and
vigorous, but they lack variety: it's the same monotonous beat again and again.
The tunes are mostly primitive and as easily forgotten as picked up.
• Today’s pop music is at a crossroads. New
and interesting composers and soloists have appeared. Established styles have
been replaced by new ones. Some groups are trying to achieve alloys of
The concluding lesson on the topic may go
in the form of a panel talk where students present their points of view on
trends in modern music, supporting their presentation by musical pieces related
to the discussion. Since the ability of using the songs and music in class is
an important constituent of the would-be teachers preparation, the third phase
should also include training, so that prospective teachers of English could
have the knowledge and skill to do the following:
• Be able to select interesting texts on
the topic music.
• Be able to analyze the didactic potential
of a particular song.
• Know how to teach a song to the pupils.
• Critically evaluate songs with the purpose
of including them in class activities.
To develop the skills mentioned above, it
is possible to encourage the students to fulfill the following tasks:
• Study the song lyrics by your favorite
group. Select those ones you believe would be effective for language teaching
while discussing the topics “Friendship”, “Parents and Children”, “Love in Song
lyrics and Poetry”.
• Collect interesting stories about music
and musicians. Explain why these texts may be effective tools for language
instruction; work out pre-reading and post-reading activities.
• Select five pieces of music that belong
to different musical genres; etc.
• Listen to the song and think of the
questions you could ask your pupils to help them understand the song.
• Give a two-minute introductory talk on
the importance of being a careful listener.
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 In physiology, a stimulus (plural stimuli) is a detectable change
in the internal or external environment; something that causes activity.
 A target language is a language that is the focus or end result of
К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2009