In need of Language Learning Activities with Music

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In need of Language Learning Activities with Music

Post by alawton » Thu Jun 17, 2010 5:52 pm

Hello all,

I am teaching a 5 day a week three hour class this summer and I am in need of some good activities with music. My class is intermediate level and they work hard. The problem is this is one my quietest classes ever. Things are way to mellow so I want to livin it up a bit. A few of my students have asked me about different lyrics they've heard on the radio. So I want to do an activity that involves listening to music and using the lyrics to work on English. I guess I'd like to know if any of you have some good activities to use with music or if there is a certain band or singer whose lyrics are condusive to this type of exercise. I love Bob Dylan and I know he is known for his lyrics, but I can't say that I even understand them... Thanks!

Andrew Lawton

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Post by Sally Olsen » Fri Jun 18, 2010 12:47 pm

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Couple music in the language-learning classroom suggestions

Post by Dwayne.Engh » Tue Jun 22, 2010 4:08 pm

Hi Andrew.

Do you know Tim Murphey's book "Music and Song"? It is filled with brilliant practical lessons and ideas. (OUP, 1992)

I'm far from an expert, but here are some of the ideas that have worked well for me. Some of what is useful will clearly depend on the context of your class (age for example), but I find using music as a starting point for discussion or writing to be valuable, engaging for the students and helps develop their critical thinking.

- If you are comfortable leading a discussion like this, use songs that elicit authentic conversation. For example:

1. Critical discussion about low paying jobs, making ends meet as an immigrant and often getting offered jobs well below the person's qualifications. Song suggestions:

Tupac (2Pac) (1993) "I Get Around"
Garth Brooks (1993) "American Honky-Tonk Bar Association"

2. Critical discussion about the importance of place. How much does where you grow up and live influence you in life? Connected to Hip-Hop's ideal of 'keepin' it real' and the urban streets and country's 'authentic' only possible in rural settings. Song suggestions:

Tracy Bird (1998) "I'm From the Country"
Grandmaster Flash (1982) "The Message"
Eminem (2004) "Yellow Brick Road"

3. Critical discussion of reality and the establishment.

Tupac (2Pac) and Dramacydal (1995) "Me Against the World"
Jerry Reed (1982) "She Got the Goldmine and I Got the Shaft"

4. Critical discussion of racial and gender stereotypes in popular musics such as Hip-Hop. Song suggestions to fight some of those stereotypes:

Queen Latifah (1993) "U.N.I.T.Y."
Reba McIntyre (2001) "I'm a Survivor"

5. Discussion of war. Song suggestion of John Lennon's "Imagine" and pair that with Ghandi's quote about how we as individuals have to be the change in the world.

(Please note: I only offer both Hip-Hop and Country music examples because I am writing a paper on that topic right now, I'm sure there are rock and pop songs that would also work well. Additionally, some of these are not appropriate because of language for the classroom. As well, some of these topics may not be appropriate depending on your context).

Other ideas:

- Using the lyrics as a text for a reading activity. Any reading strategies, as well as writing or discussion that evolves from the text, can be utilised. Lyrics have the same depth as poetry, although lyrics have the benefit of being placed to music.
a. Jigsaw and put the lines of the verse into the correct sequence
b. Teach idiomatic phrases, slang, vocabulary
c. Indicate word or sentence stress of the text
d. Topical discussions regarding sociocultural concepts, subtext
e. To lead to other writing such as write additional or different verses

- Useful formulaic phrases are also found in songs. Pop song examples that incorporate multiple formulaic lexical phrases include Alanis Morissette’s “You Learn”, ABBA’s “Take a Chance on Me” and “Yesterday” by the Beatles.

- As a writing activity, Ward (1985) suggests the use of “She’s Leaving Home” by the Beatles as a starting point and having the students write a letter from the girl to her parents explaining why she had to leave or a letter from the parents to the girl. Alternatively, the parents could write a letter to their daughter, asking why she left and telling her about everything they gave her.

- Stansell (2005) describes the use of a pop song to create feedback criteria and develop critical thinking of the music that students listen to. After listening to the song as a class, partners or small groups (a) discuss what style the song is and who the performer is; (b) discuss if students like the song or not, and why; (c) students then create a criteria and feedback form to judge the song; and (d), after class for homework as either individuals or pairs, use that rubric created in class to evaluate songs the students listen to outside of the class.

- An example from Murphey (1992) is the role-play of a pop band or artist in an interview. In small groups, students listen to one or two songs from a popular band/artist and write questions for that artist. Students then role-play an interview between journalists or fans and the performer(s) in small groups.

- Another Murphey (1992) role-play is to create a press conference in the class for a fictional band. Students create an imaginary band (four or five students become that band) while everyone else in the class is a journalist. Small groups then work together to write press releases, band histories, personal band member histories and questions for press conference. As a class, hold a press conference and have journalists ask questions of individual band members.

Sorry for the long response. Hope at least one or two of those ideas are of help!

All the best,

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