Welcome to Language Latte: a conversation about teaching world languages. This is Becky Morales from Kid World Citizen, and I am your host. We are talking about music today, and using music in class. Treat yourself to a latte, and settle in, so we can start our chat!
In every episode of the Language Latte podcast, I examine issues that world language teachers face when trying to help our students achieve proficiency.
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In this episode we are discussing music in the world language classroom: the connection between music and language has been studied extensively, and teachers have used music successfully in their classrooms for decades. We’ll look at the benefits of using music with our students, plus go over tons of ideas of activities using music in class. Let’s first look at what the research says about music and language learning- and learning in general- and then I’ll interview Elisabeth Alvarado, a Spanish teacher who transformed her classroom when she changed the way she incorporated music in her lessons.
Did you know that the ability to comprehend and produce both language and music is unique to humans? Music has almost magical qualities. When listening to music, the brain releases dopamine: it can calm down a distressed baby, stimulate memories in an Alzheimer’s patient, and even can improve your work-out performance. Scientists have found that music can decrease depression and increase positive affect. (Stratton and Zalanowski, 1994). Use it! Use music in class to change the mood of your classroom, to wake up your students, to improve concentration, to get them moving, to get them excited, to motivate them to participate.
Does music actually promote language acquisition? How does using music help our students in the classroom?
There are many studies that tout the positive effects of music on learning. Seeman found that a music education intervention increased receptive language and phonemic awareness in students at an at-risk early childhood program.
Wallace found that the cognitive processing of music and language may also increase language acquisition. Memory is an important aspect of language learning, and many studies have linked musical support with improved recall of vocabulary for example (Wallace 1994).
Fisher’s (2001) study compared language learning differences between classrooms that used abundant amounts of music while teaching and then non-music classrooms. Overall, the students that had been assigned to the musical classrooms surpassed those students from non-musical classrooms on all tests with regards to their language achievement. Fisher concluded that the actively using music in class is a viable means of increasing student linguistic performance.
Using songs in the target language with students might naturally introduce them to speech patterns of native speakers. For example, when speaking English, certain words and syllables receive accents as part of the regular pronunciation. By using rhythmic chants or songs to teach words and phrases, students may learn the proper placement of accents, intonation, as well as common pacing of speech.
Ludke, Ferreira and Overy (2013) found that the “listen-and-sing” learning method can facilitate verbatim memory for phrases in the target language, even after only a brief 15-min learning period. Use music to introduce or reiterate new words and concepts. Use repetition of songs to help students recognize vocabulary and phrases in cloze activities.
These and other studies show that integrating music training into world language classrooms can potentially improve foreign language pronunciation, receptive phonology and reading skills. (Delogu et al., 2010).
Music does more than just assist students with speaking. It has a way of capturing everything about a culture and their language. Music inspires students’ interest in the people and places of the language they are studying. As teachers, we can use music to offer insights into a culture’s worldview and history.
Finally, use it to build community. Connect with your students by learning about their music tastes, and getting to know them on an emotional level. Music is a way in with students, a way for them to learn about you and for you to learn about them.. And incorporating music helps use to create a sense of community.
Interview with Elisabeth Alvarado: Using Music in Class
My guest today is here to talk about just that she has SO MANY ACTIVITIES she is going to share with us today on how to use music from prek up through high school- and honestly there are several activities I am going to use with my university students as well.
A teacher and mom of 2, Elisabeth currently lives in Peru, where her husband is from. She has a B.S. in Elementary Education from UNC-Chapel Hill and has taught grades PreK-12 for 11 years.
Elisabeth is passionate about putting students and families in touch with living language and culture. She writes at Spanish Mama, a virtual library of Spanish resources and ideas, for both parents and teachers.
1) Tell me about yourself
2) Today we are talking about using music in class. Why do you think music is such an important tool in language learning?
- Pronunciation from native speakers
- Music helps language stays in long term memory
- emotional component
- happy factor in class
3) What mistakes did you make when you first started using music in class?
- only using “learner songs,” not language in context of authentic songs
- only playing authentic songs in background music, without an intention or purpose
- no set goals, no aligning the songs to learning
4) How do you choose a “just right” song?
- know what we want from the song (theme, keywords, etc)
- certain parts need to be comprehensible or at least accessible
- choosing school appropriate songs
- choosing a mix of genres, styles, moods, traditional vs pop music
5) Let’s get to the details. What are the 5 ways to use music in a language classroom? (you will find many more details within the episode)
- Using the lyrics for listening comprehension activities. Cloze Activities; Do something physical with certain parts of the songs; “Draw, Write, Check Activity” mentioned in Activity 1
- Use the lyrics to tell the story. Re-telling the story, simplify the story, reading strategies
- Sequencing. Cut apart the lyrics and put them in order as listening; picture sequencing
- Scaffolding the lyrics by re-writing them in a simpler way. Reading activities with the lyrics.
Two freebies that demonstrate some of the activities Elisabeth described:
And finally, for #5: Culture lessons. Biographies of singers, lip sync nights, music brackets, dance Friday.
Other Fun Ways of Using Music in Class:
6) Where do you find the music? Do you use videos too?
7) What are the reactions of your students when you do a musical activity?
8) Where can our listeners find you, if they want to learn more?
Works Cited and Additional Resources
Fisher, D. (2001). Early language learning with and without music. Reading Horizons,42(1), 39-49.
Seeman, Elissa. Implementation of Music Activities to Increase Language Skills in the At-Risk Early Childhood Population. March, 2008.
Stokes, Juniper. The Effects of Music on Language Acquisition.
Stratton, V. N. & Zalanowski, A. H. (1994). Affective impact of music vs. lyrics. Empirical Studies of the Arts, 12(2), 173-184.
Wallace, W. T. (1994). Memory for music: Effect of melody on recall of text. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 20(6), 1471-1485.
Zeromskaite, I., 2014. The Potential Role of Music in Second Language Learning: A Review Article. Journal of European Psychology Students, 5(3), pp.78–88.
Didn’t you just love all of the ideas that Elisabeth shared!? If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with your friends and colleagues! Also, I love reading the reviews at the itunes store. Every time we get a review, Language Latte will come up higher in the search for more teachers. Finally, if you have more questions, or if you have great ideas that work in the classroom, we talk about language teaching 24/7, in our Language Latte facebook group, and I am also on twitter @kidworldcitizen.
I love to chat about questions or hear feedback you have about this episode, and to gather your ideas for future shows. Tell us what you’re doing in your language classroom!
To never miss an episode, subscribe on itunes, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. Language Latte is made possible by OneWorldTrek.org: language and cultural immersion travel for teachers in Mexico. It was so nice to meet you all. I look forward to chatting next time, and hopefully collaborating in the future! Until then, ciao!