Topic 17A – The theme song as a vehicle and as poetic literary creation in the English class. Typology of songs. Techniques using the song for the phonetic, lexical and cultural learning.

Topic 17A – The theme song as a vehicle and as poetic literary creation in the English class. Typology of songs. Techniques using the song for the phonetic, lexical and cultural learning.


In thepedagogy of second language acquisition, the introduction of authentic documents, such as songs, was introduced as a key to something alive, as the indication of a developing reality.

The great advantage of songs is the possibility of “being remembered”.

But it is necessary the use of carefully selected songs or composed especially for the class, in order to avoid those containing lexical mistakes that students would fix irremediably in their minds.


– Apart from being a very relaxing activity for the vast majority of students, singing a song contributes to encourage their interest to study in depth that language.

– The activity of singing establishes a warm atmosphere and a sense of Cupertino among students. The feeling of making a fool of themselves can be overcome easily if we succeed in enthusiasting them with the activity of singing songs in that language. On the whole, what completely justifies the use of songs in the foreign language classroom is the possibility of practices that language.

1.1 The song as a poetic vehicle and as a literary creation in the English class.

The song constitutes an element that belongs to the daily environment of the students.

Unlike the textbook or other resources means from which it is presumed that the student had a major knowledge, the song, the video and the television allow the creation, in the class, of a different pedagogic relation, egalitarian and constructive.

Sometimes the song is transformed into a vehicle to transmit knowledge from the teacher to the student.

1.2 The socialisation of songs.

Songs should respect these rules:

– Accurate grammatical contents, and without going beyond the limitation of the knowledge already acquired for the students.

– Lexical contents useful and easily memorise, without excess of new elements for the student.

– Rhythmic guidelines, which need to be “normal” so the musical rhythm matches the natural one of the lyrics: there should not be tonic stress on the syllables that would not normally have them.

There are songs already graded. Socialisation is, without any doubt, the main function of songs in the English class.

From a psychological point of view, the song is a resource that should be used in any moment where we perceive a fall in the interest or attention of our students.

Before introducing a song in the classroom, the teacher should introduce a brief explanation about the song in order to facilitate a better and general comprehension of what it will be heard.

It is a mistake to expect students to understand perfectly the meaning of all the words and expressions appearing in the song. What it really appeals to them from a song is, not necessarily the lyrics, but the melody. Above all, children enjoy immensely singing songs, although in many cases they do not have a clear idea of he meaning of some words used in them.

1.3 The song as a starting point.

An activity considered highly enriching from the human and linguistic point of view is the exploitation of play back, or the preparation of a show in which the students perform the vision of English music. This is an activity where the students, on one hand, have the possibility to work harmoniously the oral and non oral aspects (gestures) of communication and, therefore, the opportunity to choose singers or characters they want to represent, as well as the way adopted by this recreation.

1.3.1 The material, a problem

The most serious problem in this field are, on one hand, the lack of information sources which could allow the teacher to be up to date in the evolution of he music in the country whose language s/he teaches; and on the other hand the need of sonorous and audio-visual materials such as cassettes, videos, etc.


In an “authentic” listening situation, the person leaves the music flow through him/her. However, usually, when a song appeals to us, we feel the necessity to understand the message.Consequently, the access to the meaning constitutes an objective that the student will attempt to reach. To this “learning objective” responds our pedagogical objective to provide an easy approach.

2.1 Type of songs.

v From the point of view of the student’s awareness, it is important to select:

a- Songs that represent, either a rhythm in harmony with the one to which he student feels attracted (Bob Marley and his reggae music).

b- A lyric able to involve the student, to make him react (“Lucka”, by Susan Vega).

v From the point of view of the approach to meaning, it is interesting:

a- To make good use of songs whose initial sound introduces elements capable of put the student in situation (“Back in he URSS”, by The Beatles).

b- Another type of approachable songs is he one in which he narrative structure is lineal (“The River”, by Bruce Springsteen).

2.2 Acquisition of an oral and written competence.

We can arrange a range of different activities conducted to develop the oral and written comprehension competence. It is important to take into account a series of principles or basic strategies:

§ Make the students to be aware of he importance of investing actively the linguistic elements stored so as to facilitate their memorisation.

§ Propose activities integrating the creativity and the sensibility of he students.

§ Prepare, taking the linguistic baggage from he songs, a range of linguistic patterns that allow the student to materialise what s/he wants to express through these activities.

A. Base strategy:

When the object is the acquisition of an oral comprehension competence, it is essential to consider a series of elements that determine if a listening situation is suitable or not.

On one hand, the student. It is necessary that the song and the activities proposed raise a degree of motivation able to become the purpose of learning.

On the other hand, the transmission. Material elements and psychological elements should be taking into account the action of the teacher.

Another element to be considered is the assimilation. The treatment of the information is the following stage to perception. We have to avoid the requirement of an oral production immediately after the hearing.

It is very important to diagnose the possible problems that impede the conclusion of the process in order to stabilise the suitable therapy.

B. Specific strategies:

§ Preparation of the listening. In case that he song presents elements that can interfere the approach to meaning from the students, we must start by undertaking those problems. We must make a previous inventory with the students about the subject of the song that will allow them recognise some elements at the time of listening.

§ First listening, first contacts. In order to guide he students in he first listening, they will be asked to fill a chart in where there are places, characters and actions.

§ Approximation to the text. Some activities allow us to help our students make a selective structure, guiding them to the important part of the message.

– Propose a series of staments and ask them to answer if the assertions included are true or false.

– When the plot in the narration is linear and chronological, it will be used as a connecting theme. We can supply them with an incomplete text, asking them to discover the elements that are not included.

In many of the current songs the author/singer proposes problems. The technique of brainstorming may be applied to the solution of these problems.

Dramatising techniques such as the role-playing may also develop communicative situations elicited by the song.


3.1 Techniques in the use of phonetic learning.

The majority of teachers, when introduce a song in their English class, do it with he idea that students would try to imitate as closely as possible the melody and he lyrics they heard. He attainment of this purpose is, without any doubts, something very important for he learning of pronunciation (sound, stress and rhythm).

Pronunciation must be he aspect in which we should insist on when we teach a song. The first contact of students with he song needs to be always oral, through he sense of hearing. In he first audition of a song he teacher indicates he rhythm of each sentence so that he students realise, from he beginning, of which words or syllables are bearing stress.It is only after this previous training that he class will be in condition to start singing a song they have listened to before.

Nevertheless, it is clear that not all the songs are equally useful to practice pronunciation. The teacher should be sure that the students would not have many difficulties to catch the sounds and the rhythm of the song.

There are songs composed to be accompanied with actions or movements of the body while they are sung. They are called action songs.

These songs are particularly useful for small children as they allow practising orally different formal aspects of the language and, at the same time, they teach the meaning of the words or the sentences of the text used in the song through different gestures. (Head, and shoulders…).

3.2 Techniques for lexical and cultural learning.

a) Oral answer to questions about the text of the song.

This is one of the easiest ways to check he comprehensive capacity of the student before any text.

The teacher should prepare a number of questions about the text of the song. Before listening to the song, the teacher delivers a list with he questions s/the has prepared. After the students have analysed those questions during a couple of minutes, the teacher plays the cassette twice or three times. While they listen to he song, they should try to find out the answer to the questions delivered before.

b) Arranging words.

Before listening to certain song, we should deliver a sheet of paper with a list of words situated in a different order from where they appear in the song.

The students have to arrange the words according to the order in the song.

c) Complete the text of a song.

The teacher hands a copy of the song to each student; there are gaps in some places that correspond to certain words or phrases. While the listening takes place, each student attempts to write the words or sentences that were omitted in he copy. They also practice the written expression.

d) Reconstruction of a song.

The teacher cuts off all the lines from a song and places them in an envelope.Then the groups open their envelopes with he corresponding lines from he song they are going to rebuild among the whole class.The different groups should place the sentences in the same order they appear in he song. It could be repeated twice or three times.

e) Finding stress in the sentence.

The teacher invites the students to listen carefully to certain song and pay attention to the words pronounced with major intensity. After that, he gives a copy of the song that has already listened to.

While they listen to the song for he second time, they have to mark over the copy of the song those words or syllable which stand out before the others.

f) Correction of an inaccurate version of a song.

The teacher hands to each student a copy of a song where some of the original words or sentences have been changed for others that are not the ones appearing in the song but have some likeness.

As they listen to the song, the students will have to find out where are the mistakes and correct them in he handed copy.

g) Identifying phrases.

The teacher delivers to each student from the class one, two or three lines that have been cut from the song. Each student when hearing the text corresponding to the lines s/he has should rise his/her hand.

h) Classifications of words.

While listening to a song, the students should make a list in which collect a certain kind of grammatical elements (verbs, prepositions, colours…) introduced in the song.

i) Words with opposite meaning.

Children have a list with some words; they will have to provide one or two antonyms for each word. After a few minutes of discussion in the groups, the teacher will play the cassette and encourage the students to guess if in the text of the song there are any of the antonym words they have found previously.

j) Searching words that rhyme.

In this case the attention of the students is focused mainly on the phonetic element.

Before listening to the song, a copy, with some blanks, is handed to the students. They have to fill them with words that rhyme with the corresponding verse.After that, the teacher plays the cassette so they can check if he words they have found are really in he song.

k) Translating a song.

Once the song is learned by heart, a song may be exploited through translation into the student’s mother tongue. Even though this is difficult task for the students, the effort requires its compensation in a deep study of the meaning of the song.