As way of introduction we can say that children enjoy singing very much. Songs and rhymes provide an enjoyable change of the routine in the classroom.
Songs and Rhymes provide relaxation and variety, but we have to be careful because an excessive use of them can make children to get bored.
Taking this fact into account, we can say that songs are a good resource to teach vocabulary, practise the language orally, improve pronunciation and intonation and also help children to know the culture of the foreign language.
2. Songs as Literary and Poetic creations.
2.1. The importance of music in the language teaching.
Many of us know how quick students are at learning songs. For a variety of reasons, songs stick in our minds and become part of us.
1. It is easier to sing a language than to speak it.
2. Music is around us: radio, television, theatre, etc.
3. Songs work in our short and long-term memory.
4. Songs use simple, conversational language and repetitions.
5. Children enjoy hearing themselves (Piaget: egocentric language).
6. Songs are relaxing, fun, etc.
7. In practical terms, for language teachers, songs are short, repetitive, and easily to handle in a lesson.
2.2. Characteristics of songs and rhymes.
Their main characteristics are:
1. They provide a link with home and school life.
2. Help children to develop positive attitude towards language learning.
3. They provide an enjoyable alternative in presentation of the language.
4. They reinforce lexical items and structures.
5. They play an important role in pronunciation, intonation and rhythm.
6. They are used to reinforce listening that leads to speaking, reading and writing tasks.
7. They are used to reinforce other subjects.
8. They reflect customs and traditions associated with Anglo-Saxon culture.
2.3. Reasons to use songs in the classroom.
The main reasons to use songs are:
1. Motivation: songs easily motivate children to use the foreign language.
2. Change in the routine.
3. Cultural importance: they reflect the foreign culture.
4. Reinforcement: they provide a meaningful way to repeat different items in order to reinforce the learning (pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, etc.).
3. Types of songs.
It is essential to select carefully the songs we are going to work with in class.
What we must bear in mind are the features of the students we are working with at that specific moment: their age, interests, likes and dislikes, and of course, their knowledge of the foreign language.
We already know that the foreign language is introduced in the second cycle of Primary Education, that is, children from 8 years to 12.
– 2nd Cycle of Primary (8 to 10).
It is the first time the foreign language is introduced in class. It is one of the best didactic moments because children are very receptive and interested in everything.
– 3rd Cycle of Primary (10 to 12).
At this age their interests begin to change. So that, teachers have to take these changes into account and adjust the teaching practice to the new needs and interests of the students.
The majority of the students think that songs are childish; they feel shy singing and so that, it is difficult to make them sing aloud in class.
However, they enjoy music very much but their interests are different. So that, we have to find songs that they enjoy and are suitable for our purposes too.
We as teachers must select the most suitable songs depending on the level of our students, on their interests and their needs.
The following are some examples of types of songs we can use in class at these stages.
3.1. Songs for occasions.
Songs that make reference to anything that happens to them in daily life: “Happy birthday” or “Auld Lang Syne” (New Year’s Eve).
3.2. Topic songs.
Songs that deal with a specific topic. We must bear in mind that the topic the song deals with must be interesting for the children. For example: Colours- “The colours” or animals- “Old Mc Donald”
3.3. Songs with actions.
Songs that are related to the old technique of representing what we are saying: “total physical response” (James Asher): “If you’re happy” or “These is the way”.
3.4. Round songs.
A round is a circular song. One group begins singing, then the second group begins the song when the first group gets to the end of the first line. The third group begins when the second group gets to the end of the first line and so on. When the singers get to the end of the last line they continue singing from the beginning again, so the song becomes circular. For example: “Three blind mice” or “I hear thunder”.
3.5. Dialogues songs.
This type of songs is very useful. They are very easy to sing and at the same time they require more attention on the part of the children. For example: “I spy” or “I am a music man”.
3.6. Traditional songs.
These songs will not probably known by the students, but they must learn them because they belong to the new culture they are studying. For example: “Oh, Susanna”, “London Bridge” or “Yankee Doodle”.
Furthermore, there are songs that we sing at a specific time of the year like Christmas Carols: “Merry Christmas” or “Jingle Bells”.
3.7. Other songs.
There are other songs for children which are more difficult but which are also good to work with them in class. For example songs in all Walt Disney’s films. A good idea to develop them is to watch the film at the same time we sing the song. For example: “Hakuna Matata” or “Fly, fly” (Peter Pann).
3.8. Traditional rhymes.
Rhymes can be used in the same way as songs. This could be easier for those students that are a bit shy. Some traditional rhymes to be mentioned are: “One Potato” or “Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter”.
4. Techniques: Types of activities.
There are many different activities that we can do working with songs, depending on what we want the students to practise and to learn. These can be summarized as follows:
– Activities to communicate new information.
– Activities to understand the social meaning of a song.
– Activities to learn the way language works without paying attention to the meaning.
As we have mentioned before, the activities with songs we can do in class are very varied. The following are some examples of these activities, which may be done with different songs, according to the interests and needs of our students:
a) Invention: the children invent a new song with some music they all know and with some vocabulary that we may give to them.
b) Stories: the students tell the story of the song.
c) Discussions: use songs to introduced a topic that may be discussed afterwards.
d) Fill in the Gaps: fill in the gaps they find in the lyrics of a song with the words previously given.
e) Write in Order: write in the correct order the sentences of a song as they listen to it.
f) Singing Competitions: divide the class into groups. Each group chooses a song or rhyme from the songs worked in previous lessons and perform it to the rest. After all the performances, the class votes their favourite.
g) What’s the missing word: divide the class into groups. Each group chooses a song and performs it for the rest of the class. However they miss out the last word in each line. The rest of the class has to call out the missing word.
h) Rounds: (point 3.4)
i) Videos: to watch musical videos. The images help the students to understand what the song is about.
j) Song dictation: to do what the song says. Colour, write, etc.
k) The Picture song: the children try to make up a new song, taking some pictures as the basis.
l) Fill and draw: two different sheets of paper. One has some draws explaining what is happening in the song; the other has the lyrics. They must try to fill in.
There are many activities that we can do in class with songs. However, it is going to depend on our students’ interests, needs and, of course, linguistic level. It is up to us to select the work and ht songs we are going to work with.
The possibilities of the songs are directed to develop the four linguistic skills: oral and written comprehension and oral and written expression. But, we may say that the most basic ability to use songs in class is oral comprehension.