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Reasons for using songs in teaching listening comprehension

Artykuł na temat roli piosenek w rozwijaniu umiejętności słuchania u dzieci w wieku 10-12 lat. Artykuł zawiera również odpowiedź na pytanie czym należy kierować się przy wyborze piosenki.

Publikacja w języku angielskim.

Almost everyone loves music. It is a part of our language and life from before birth onwards. As babies, we hear lullabies. As young children we play, sing and dance to a myriad of nursery rhythmes. As adolescents we are consumed by the beat of popular music artists worldwide. As adults, every form of advertisement we hear, every special event we experience is in part music. Music pervades television, movies, theater and even the nightly news. When we exercise, when we work, when we play, when we worship and even when we die music is there to reinforce or alter every mood and emotion. A catchy tune is played, hummed or sung, at times in our head, as we go about our everyday lives. So, why not include music and songs in language learning as well? - asks Lynch (2006:1).

Appart from being a very natural and, at the same time, very attractive way of teaching a language, songs are an excellent means of teaching and practise several skills that are grouped under the term pronunciation such as rhythm and stress (Grifee 1992: 6).

According to Schoepp (2006:1), songs are also an excellent means of developing listening as they activate two processes involved in it, namely bottom-up processing and top-down processing. The first occurs when the listener builds up the sounds into words, sentences and meaning and the second when the listener uses background knowledge to understand the meaning of the message. Practising both of these processes is essential for developing listening comprehention (Cullen 2006:2). Schoepp also observes that songs are a very good technique for achieving a weak affective filter and promoting language learning. Quoting Krashen (1982), he says that for optimal learning to occur the affective filter must be weak. A weak affective filter means that a positive attitude towards learning is present. If the affective filter is strong the learner will not seek language input, and in turn, not be open for language acquisition. Lo and Li (1998:8) share the same opinion, writing that songs provide a break from classroom routine, and that learning English through songs develops a non-threatening classroom atmosphere in which listening as well as three other language skills can be enhanced.

Other important reasons for which teachers should include songs in their syllabus is meeting the students’ interests and making good use of their motivation. It is well known that from an early age students are exposed to an infinite number of English-language songs played on the radio, on TV or on the Internet. Their natural curiosity leads them to an attempt to understand the lyrics, especially of the most favourite ones. This natural reflex can be transferred into the classroom setting and incorporated into a teaching process making it more enjoyable as well as more effective.

Songs selection criteria

Pradela (2003:35) advises to take into account some significant factors while selecting a song. These are: the level of complexity of the lyrics, language level of the class, music, and the lesson objective. The first one should be suitable for given students neither too easy nor too difficult. The second one gives the teacher information what kind of tasks his or her students can perform. If, for instance, the students are beginners, simple songs should be chosen and fewer tasks prepared. The music in turn should appeal to students and be easy to memorize so that they do not have problems with reproducing it. As for the lesson objective Pradela advises that the selection of the song should not depend only on the age and level of the students, but the teacher should also take into consideration what objective he or she wants to achieve by using the song, whether he or she wants to revise vocabulary, teach grammar or other structures. Finally, he points out practical reasons, not less impotrant, such as access to a perfectly working tape recorder, CD player, cassettes or CDs of good quality.

Some extra pieces of advice on how to select and choose the songs for an English lesson are given by Lynch (2006:2). He recommends that the teacher should use songs that are popular with the students. He remarks, however, that students frequently select songs for classroom use which are objectionable in some way making them unusable. According to him, songs must have clear and understandable lyrics as well as an appropriate theme. He advises to avoid songs which contain negativity and violence. The opinion is shared by Horner (1993:33) who states that songs full of unusual words or slang are unlikely to be proper for use because the great effort put in preparing learners to understand such material may not be worth it.

Dorota Czerwińska

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