In General Music Use
First, accustom your learners to the use of music in a variety of ways in the ELL classroom. You could begin with using soft background music at times to help control the learners. After a TPR or other type of activity session, you calm and soften the learners’ mood but putting on a smooth, easy-listening or classical song (like Mozart or Cesaria Evora – pictured here). I use this while re-arranging seating from a previous activity or prior to starting a new one. The learners also know the transition is expected to be finished before the song ends, so after an initial acclimation period near the beginning of the semester, things often go quite smoothly.
Need to Time An Exercise?
Did you know that a song makes a great “timer” for short assignment or activity completion? When having learners complete a written, grammar, vocabulary or practice exercise, I’ll put on a soft instrumental (or jazz vocal) at a relatively low volume. Learners then have until the end of the piece to finish what they’ve been assigned to do. That way, you don’t have to “watch the clock” or be unnecessarily preoccupied with the time, since the song “times” the activity for you. I even have songs of certain lengths, with some for three, four or five minute lengths. Try it. It really works great.
If You’re NOT A Native Speaker
If You’re NOT A Native Speaker, or even if you are for that matter, then you could use songs to illustrate connected speech elements. Try “Hit the Road Jack” by the late Ray Charles when practicing contractions. “When I’m 64” by the Beatles works great for not only numbers but with connected speech liaison illustration too. Besides, the learners always like that one even if they’ve heard it umpteen times. Want to practice a particular consonant or vowel sound? No problem. I’ll bet you’ll have absolutely no trouble at all in finding a song that uses the sounds numerous times. By singing that tune, learners will inadvertently practice what you want them too. It’s especially effective – if you don’t tell them what you’re actually having them do. If they “figure it out”, great. Either way they’ll gladly “practice” by singing an upbeat, lively song that contains the practice elements you want.
Languages, Like Music, Have Rhythms
Languages, like music, have rhythms that distinguish them from one another. One of the biggest problems in connected speech is that learners try to speak English, for example, using the rhythm of their first language (L1). The result, of course, is that they sound “off”.
Exactly why this is so, along with an example of how to precisely illustrate this aspect of spoken language are the first items to be addressed in the next article post of this series.