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Singing nursery rhymes is one way that most children start to learn their first words alongside the acquisition of language through everyday speech. In The use of songs in teaching foreign languages, Yukiko S. Jolly writes that language lies on a continuum from everyday speech to songs. (Yukiko S. Jolly 1975) The rhythm of music is a powerful way for humans to retain information. We are naturally drawn towards the rhythmical patterns in songs and this attraction extends all the way through life from the first ‘singsong’ interactions between a mother and child to the interest taken in the rhythmical rhetoric of a gifted orator. The attraction to the rhythm in songs can be successfully exploited by teachers in ESL lessons. Songs are used primarily as a form of entertainment and as such will hopefully hold the attention of the students. Students will probably see the introduction of a song into a lesson as a welcome break. They will perhaps feel more relaxed because the lesson feels less formal and exercises based around the lyrics of a song are more enjoyable than exercises taken from the pages of a school textbook. Exercises based around songs can obviously deal with the grammar and syntax within the lyrics, but the subject matter in the song can also lead to further areas of discussion. For example the song Yesterday, by The Beatles, is a nostalgic song that evokes memories from the past. What memories from the past can the students remember? Can they share these memories with the class? The listening skills of students can also be improved as they listen carefully and record the lyrics that they can here. Maybe some of the more confident members of the class will learn the lyrics to sing for their own enjoyment or to the class. Teachers should take care which song they choose for a lesson. The lyrics should be clear and suitable for the abilities of the students. Also the subject matter should be relevant to the students and care should be taken that the lyrics are not offensive. My own experience of teaching songs in the classroom ranges from singing nursery songs (Little dog, little dog) to 5 year olds to teaching western pop songs (Roxette: I got a thing about you (chosen by a student)) to twelve year olds. I regularly use songs in my classes because they always hold the attention of the class. I use songs to engage unruly students and as warmers to lessons. They are great for focusing the student’s attention towards the teacher. Songs with miming and actions are particularly enjoyed by younger children. (If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.) In an article entitled ‘An original approach to the teaching of songs in the classroom’ Irene S. Coromona (1993) suggests two ways to teaching songs. The first way is to hand out the lyrics first and let the students work through the grammar and vocabulary themselves and the second way is to hand out the lyric sheets with word gaps (Coromona I.S. 1993). I tend to use the second option. The resources I use are my laptop and a set of speakers. Depending on the complexity of the song and the ability of the class I am teaching, I hand out lyric sheets with gaps for the students to fill. Flashcards can also be used. For example, when the class sings, “Sing a rainbow” I use color flashcards that are raised by the students or myself while we sing the song. Conclusion The use of songs in teaching ESL students is a very productive method. All age groups, from all ethnic backgrounds enjoy the rhythms and repetitions given by words manipulated into songs. Songs cross cultural barriers and can bring the teacher and students closer together and songs can be used as effective teaching devises for all age groups. References http://www.jstor.org/pss/325440 (Accessed 19/02/2011) http://exchanges.state.gov/englishteaching/forum/archives/1993/docs/93-31-3-g.pdf (Accessed 20/02/2011)