Topic 17 – 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 17 – 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.

A recent development in the pedagogy of second language acquisition, is the introduction of authentic documents. such as songs, was introduced as a key to something alive, as the indication of a developing reality.

On the other hand, songs, according to many scholars, are among the best ways of teaching a foreign language. Singing can build students’ confidence by allowing them to enjoy a degree of fluency in English before they have achieved it in speaking.” Also, songs can be incorporated to all language skills (listening, reading, writing and speaking). Alongside songs, rhymes, chants, and musical games are also fantastic materials for us, as language teachers, to use with young learners. They have innumerable virtues, among them, the following:

  • Games/plays and songs are an essential part of a curriculum at primary School level, not just a time filler or reward.
  • Songs, rhymes, and chants are wonderful means of teaching stress and intonation patterns of English.
  • Play and music are a source of motivation, interest and enjoyment.
  • Games, including musical ones, constitute a context for language use for children. They become themselves when they play or sing.
  • Music and rhythm make it much easier to imitate and remember language than words which are just ‘spoken’–if you teach children a song, it somehow ‘sticks’.
  • You can use a song or a chant to teach children the sounds and rhythm of English, to reinforce structures and vocabulary, or as Total Physical Response activities.
  • A song is a very strong means of triggering emotions that
    • contributes to socialization (a song is collective)
    • appeals to the ear (one listens to himself while singing)
    • engenders pleasure (reproduction of a sound, enjoyment of the rhythm)
    • helps to develop an aesthetic taste (expressing feelings)
  • Songs contain words and expressions of high frequency and offer repetition.
  • Singing helps to acquire a sense of rhythm.
  • It facilitates memorizing when it is associated with a linguistic item.
  • if used properly by the teacher, plays and songs are excellent means whereby children have fun and at the same time acquire a language.

Motivation is a strong factor in favour of using songs in the English classroom. Children are motivated by the music, by the variety of rhythms, by the instrumentation (guitar, contrabass, percussions), by the different voices involved (Masculine, feminine, child, adult) and by the themes (boys/girls, circus, family, animals, etc.).

Framework for the teaching of songs

The following are some guidelines for teaching or using songs, musical games or rhymes

  1. Making the learners sensitive to the theme
    This is the pre-presentation stage and it has the aim of creating interest on the part of the learners.
  2. Listening to the song and presenting the gestures
    The teacher has the children listen to the song while miming. In other words, the teacher “acts out” the dialogue that is “said” in the song.
  3. Spontaneous expression
    After the students listen to the song several times, the teacher invites them to express their first reactions and impressions: their remarks on the language used, their feelings, etc.
  4. Hypotheses on the meaning
    The teacher encourages the children to formulate hypotheses on the general meaning of the text starting from their first impressions.
  5. Verification of the hypotheses
    While listening to the song once more, this time more systematically and with the support of the teacher’s guidance, the learners are asked to verify their hypotheses.
  6. Phonological activities on pronunciation difficulties
    Sometimes certain parts of a song are difficult to hear because of the instrumentation, bad recording etc. In such cases the teacher steps in and devises remedial activities.
  7. Steps followed to learn a song
    As for learning the song itself, the following steps would be advisable:
    • First listening
    • The repetition of the song by the teacher in the spoken form
    • Repeating altogether
    • Listening to the song from the cassette or CD
    • The repetition of the song in the instrumental version
  8. Other activities may accompany, such as:
    Games, role play, exercises of oral discrimination, etc.

The great advantage of songs is the possibility of “being remembered”. But it is necessary to use carefully selected songs in order to avoid those containing lexical mistakes that students would become fixed in the students’ minds. Among the many advantages of using songs, I would point out the following ones:

– 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 . The feeling of making a fool of themselves can be overcome easily if we succeed in making them enthusiastic about the activity of singing songs in English. On the whole, what completely justifies the use of songs in the foreign language classroom is the possibility to practice English in an enjoyable way.

Why use songs with this age group?

· Children like songs

· Songs can be integrated into language learning by doing activities around the songs

· In many cultures songs are used to introduce or practise mother tongue with young children, so this is a medium that children are very comfortable with

· Songs are easily remembered

· Songs often include a lot of repetition that helps to make language memorable

· Songs contain chunks of language that children can remember and use

· Because songs must be sung at a reasonably fast speed they encourage natural phonological features like linking and weak forms

· Children will be actively involved in their learning, even at a very young age.

· Children have energy and want to make noise. Songs will channel these natural inclinations positively

· Parents will enjoy hearing their children singing in English

· Singing is a happy and stress-free activity that will add to a positive classroom learning environment

What songs should we choose for the classroom?
Choose songs that:

· Contain simple, easily understood lyrics

· Link with a topic or vocabulary that the students are studying in class

· Are repetitive

· Children can easily do actions to (to help emphasize meaning)


There are good psychological reasons to use songs in class. Murphy (1992) has called songs “adolescent motherese”. This means that songs may replace the need of affective speech that students may, in some cases, lack. In fact, their fascination with pop music may be seen as stemming partly from their need and desire for such affective attention. On the other hand, there is a pervasive presence of music and song in the world around us, from supermarkets to walkmans, so it seems only natural that the use of songs is catching on in school classrooms.

Singing is also an example of what Piaget called egocentric language. Egocentric language consists in talking without concern for an addressee, that it is to, in talking for talking’s sake. Krashen has suggested that this involuntary repetition ( both in children who are starting to develop language and Primary education children), when humming a song, may be manifestation of Chomsky’s “language acquisition device”. It seems that our brains have a natural bend (propensión) to repeat what we hear in our environment in order to make sense of it. Songs may strongly activate the repetition mechanism of the language acquisition device.

There are also pedagogical and methodological reasons: Children enjoy games and music as these activities provide a link between home and school life. We have already mentioned some of the advantages of using songs in our class. We might add now that as Angelo Nobile explains, dealing with different types of songs and rhymes for children prepares them for later listening of stories, as well as encouraging the imagination.

Songs are also a poetic vehicle. In this context, the word “literature” does not simply refer to written works, but also to the oral tradition that includes rhymes, lullabies (nanas), and traditional songs. We might say that songs and rhymes are the first way in which poetry is used by children. They are therefore important because they foster interest in literary creation.

On the other hand, we can use songs to develop creativity in our students based on the following factors:

X They may involve movements, gestures and acting out

X Additional materials can be created by the children in order to carry out plays based on songs (making masks, etc)

X In songs there is a variety of characters (animals, babies, old men, etc) that children can interpret or imitate.

X Songs can also be used to develop verbal creativity by means of the lyrics: For example, the lyrics can be lengthened or altered, new verses can be created by analogy, etc.

X finally, songs can develop the imagination by providing comparisons and contrasts with reality.


For practical purposes, we can divide songs into three broad types:

X Action songs, which more or less follow the TPR approach. The idea is that if our pupils can move and do what is said in the song, matching words to actions, language is learnt more effectively.

X Traditional songs have the advantage of being authentic songs which belong to popular literature. They are well known and extended among English speaking children. They include: proverbs, superstitious rhyming, tongue twisters, riddles, nursery rhymes, lullabies, etc. Traditional songs of any of these kinds provide an awareness of different cultural references. This works in favour of our children’s acquisition of socio-cultural competence, which is one of the five subcompetences established by Canale and Swain.

X Pop songs, or modern, fashinable songs, are perhaps more adequate for older pupils, especially third cycle of primary education. They have the advantage of giving our students a big sense of achievement. And, of course, they are highly motivating.

Phonetic training.

The idea, when introducing a song in English class, is that students will imitate as closely as possible the melody and the lyrics of the song, in order to improve their pronunciation , as well as stress and rhythm. Pronunciation is therefore one aspect on which we should insist when we teach a song. The first contact of students with the song should be oral. Nevertheless, it is clear that not all the songs are equally useful to practice pronunciation. We should make sure that the students will not have many difficulties to catch the sounds and the rhythm of the song.

Vocabulary learning and/or reinforcement.

Songs can be exploited in many different ways in order to teach vocabulary, or to in-inforce vocabulary already learnt. I will give a few examples:

a) Arranging words. Before listening to the song, we give the children a list of words that they have to circle when they hear them in the song. This is adequate with students of the third cycle of Primary education.

b) Complete the text of a song. We hand out 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 the copy. This is a while-listening activity.

c) Reconstruction of a song in groups. We cut off all the lines from a song and distribute them in different envelopes. Then the groups open their envelopes with the corresponding lines from the song they are going to rebuild among the whole class. The different groups should place the sentences in the same order they appear in the song.

d) Finding stress in the sentence. We ask the students to listen carefully to the song and paying attention to the words pronounced with more intensity. After that, we give students (individually, in pairs or in groups) a copy of the song and while they listen to it for the second or third time, they have to mark the words or syllables that stand out more than the others. This is exercise on sentence stress.

e) Correction of an inaccurate version of a song. The teacher hands to each student a copy of the lyrics of a song where some of the original words or sentences have been changed. As they listen to the song, they have to find out where the mistakes are and correct them in their copy.

f) Identifying phrases. The teacher gives to each student 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.

g) 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.

h) 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 the words they have found are really in the song.

Conclusion. (escribe una conclusion y me la das a corregir)

To conclude the topic, I would say that 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, their linguistic level. It is up to us to select the work and the songs we are going to work with. With older children, songs can be exploited to develop four language 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, or listening.