Exploiting Songs to Promote Learning

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On May 28th, 2011, some twelve teachers of English and more than forty students gathered in GOETHE HAUS MEKNES – Centre of languages – for the fourth conference held in the school year 2010/2011. The conference was organised by Mr Hicham Sadiki, a teacher of English at the above mentioned centre. It revolved around the theme: “Innovative Techniques to Teach English as a Foreign Language”. It was a gathering of teachers and students who took full advantage of this opportunity to discuss different techniques that EFL teachers can adapt to take their classroom performance to the highest level. In his presentation, Mr Hicham Sadiki talked about how teachers can exploit songs to promote their students’ learning. The following is the complete text.

Exploiting Songs to Promote Learning.
By: Hicham Sadiki

Introduction
Poetry and music are elements of each human society. They show many aspects of its culture, they contain authentic language, and they are easily obtainable. In addition, they can provide valuable speaking, listening and language practice in and out of the classroom. Music and poetry have immanent powers, for example they give people energy and help them change their mood. They occur in all phases of one’s life from birth to death. So they play an important role in the process of learning and using language. In this presentation, I am going to talk about the importance of using songs in teaching English as a foreign language, types of songs that can be used in the EFL classrooms and, beside these theoretical points, I am going to give practical teaching tips for how to use songs in EFL classrooms.

1- Why do teachers and researchers find using songs in EFL classrooms valuable? There are many reasons for using songs and rhymes in teaching English as a foreign language. Naturally, students really enjoy learning and singing songs and have fun doing rhythmic activities while reciting rhymes. But there are deeper affective, cognitive and linguistic reasons. 1.1- Songs can help in weakening the student’s affective filter. Teachers have long recognized the need for students to have a positive attitude in regard to learning. Krashen (1982) explains 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. The practical application of the Affective Filter Hypothesis is that teachers must provide a positive atmosphere conducive to language learning. Songs are one method for achieving a weak affective filter and promoting language learning. Saricoban and Metin (2000) have found that with the affective filter weak, songs can develop the four skill areas of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. 1.2- The holistic approach: Songs and rhymes stimulate the hemispherical interaction. Busy with songs and rhymes the left hemisphere (vocabulary, structure of the language) and the right hemisphere (rhythm, feelings, mimic, gesture, senso-motoric etc) work together and make learning more effective. So, it is small wonder how quick students are at learning songs and rhymes. 1.3- Songs also present opportunities for developing automaticity which is the main cognitive reason for using songs in the classroom. Gatbonton and Segalowitz (1988, p.473) define automaticity as "a component of language fluency which involves both knowing what to say and producing language rapidly without pauses." Using songs can help automatize the language development process. Traditionally, it was believed that automatization would occur through repetitive exercises in a non-communicative environment. However, the major shift towards the communicative teaching methodology requires that automatization occur in a different manner. Gatbonton and Segalowitz (1988, p.476) state that we must "place students in an environment in which it is...
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