Using Music to Enhance English Language Learning: Practically Speaking

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.

The Cultural Dynamics of Teaching

The Cultural Dynamics of Teaching by  Dimitrios Thanasoulas
When children first attend school and embark on the formal processes of learning to read and write, school learning purports to enable children to realise and release, as it were, their intrinsic potentialities of interpreting written text. Moreover, this release of potential is supposed to help children acquire a higher-order cultural awareness of their society, so that they may engage in the use of logic, science and religion. This is what has been dubbed “the classical torch” view of literacy and schooling (see Thomas, 2000: 43 for further details), and it has been criticised on certain grounds – that, for example, it creates a void between literates and non-literates, and that if school fails to achieve its goals for many of its pupils, the latter are doomed, as they are incapable of participating effectively in cultural interaction and their society’s high culture. Nevertheless, even if some students fail to become “literate” – mainly because much of school learning is concerned with the “technological” features of writing (ibid.: 44) – they still have a rich oral capacity, which has been neglected or even ignored by formal schooling.
It is this rich oral capacity that will be the springboard for our discussion; yet, we will not focus on “non-literates’” tradition, which is said to be at variance with that of “literates.” We will only briefly examine the cultural dynamics of teaching, which should take into consideration the needs of all students. (more…)

Teaching Very Young Learners by Kerstin Klein

Teaching young learners is different from teaching adults. Young children tend to change their mood every other minute, and they find it extremely difficult to sit still. On the other hand, they show a greater motivation than adults to do things that appeal to them. Since it is almost impossible to cater to the interests of about 25 young individuals, the teacher has to be inventive in selecting interesting activities, and must provide a great variety of them. My teaching approach is neither purely communicative nor audiolingual (AL); it also involves features of total physical response (TPR), which is particularly appropriate for young children. I do not consider any of the abovementioned approaches sufficient of itself to bring about a high degree of language proficiency in the learner. The goal is to achieve communicative competence, but the manner of teaching includes audiolingual features, such as choral/single drills, and activities deriving from TPR. (more…)

Using Games to Make Language Learning Interesting, Innovative, and Fun

Games are Useful in Language Learning
We can successfully use games in the language learning classroom to teach and practice numerous skills including:

• Vocabulary
• Spelling
• Grammar and structure
• Idioms and expressions
• Pronunciation
• Listening and speaking

Factors Affecting Choice of Games
What kinds of games we can use will depend on their intended purpose. Whether it’s to introduce a topic, practice a particular skill or aspect, or reinforce previous learning topics games help by providing much-valued practice while effectively lowering the affective filter of the students (Krashen and Terrell, 1993).

Other factors which can impact our choice of games are:

• The number of students
• The size of the classroom
• Classroom environmental aspects
• Length of time
• Materials, realia or aids available (more…)