Music is a universal language. Using authentic musical selections with language learners can be very motivating to students and a friendly way for students to hone their listening skills. Songs lyrics can be presented in written format, as an audio clip or as a music video (sometimes with subtitles). And, at times, students may be familiar with the artists.
Why use music as authentic text in the language classroom?
- Includes repetition
- Reinforces pronunciation
- Shows language structures in context
- Connects to culture, history, current events
- Can be used as a classroom management strategy
- Improves listening skills
- Motivates students’ interest in the target language
- Reinforces grammar and syntax
- Encourages creative thought in the target language
Konig, Patricia. “Language Can Be Music to Students Ears.” The Language Educator, 2011.
Strategies using music as authentic text
Here are some examples of lesson activities you might use as processes for interpreting songs:
Alternate Title: Invent a new title for the song.
Alternate Verses: Given every other verse of the song, imagine the missing verses.
Before and After: Imagine what happened before and after action(s) in song.
Category Lists: Place words heard in specified categories. Variation: Given lyrics, read and place words in categories.
Chronological Order: Given a list of actions in song, decide probable order of occurrence. Listen to verify correctness.
Cover Design: Draw a CD cover to represent theme in song. Variation: Given a CD title, imagine the cover. Cover Speculation: Make conjectures based on CD cover.
Dialogue Adaptation: Adapt song to a dialogue.
Figures of Speech: Locate similes and metaphors in lyrics; discuss.
Four Corners: (1) After hearing song, go to designated corner of room (“love,” “like,” “don’t like,” “hate”) and discuss impressions. (2) Line up to show degree of like/dislike for song; discuss. (3) Rotate partners in inside-outside circles to share opinions about song.
Grammar Recognition: Raise hand/card or stand when you hear a selected grammatical feature in song (specific tense, gender, subjunctive, etc.).
Guess the Title: Listen to song and try to guess title. Imitate the Songwriter: Write a new song on the same topic or change original lyrics.
Incorrect Lyrics: Correct lyrics as you listen to song (listen for extraneous words or substitutions).
Key Words: Take word card or picture and stand when/if you hear your word in song. Variation: Given a list of possible words, check off if you hear a word in song.
Letters: Write a letter to the singer.
Lyrics Modification: Substitute other logical words for underlined words in song.
Motivation: Speculate about reasons for writing song.
Name That Word: When music stops before end of song, tell last word sung. Variation: Predict next word.
Predictions: Before hearing song, predict which words might logically fit in lyric blanks or which words would rhyme.
Ratings: Listen to snippets of songs to rate/compare.
Stories: Narrate or write out story from song. Variations: (1) Retell from another person’s point of view. (2) Write as a newspaper article.
Title Associations: Given song title, brainstorm list of words you might expect to hear in song; check off list as you listen.
Video Speculation: Imagine video of song.
Word Search: Given list of words, listen for synonyms/antonyms in lyrics.
Examples of tasks using music in multiple communicative modes
Songs not only provide practice in the interpretive mode for students, but can also serve as a springboard to interpersonal and presentational tasks.
I invite you to visit my website where on the page entitled “Authentic Resources,” you will find multiple links for songs in the target language, often aligned to vocabulary and grammar points:
Many of our language colleagues have aligned popular songs in the target language to grammatical structures that they demonstrate in context and have generously shared those lists/databases with the rest of us.