Tune in

Ratna Rao

Songs fill any occasion with zest and gaiety. Songs can set the mood and achieve learning targets even in a classroom. They can bring about the desired result instantaneously and leave students craving for more. Children’s love for music and songs can be used to encourage English learning. Songs can be used to achieve any objective in the English classroom – be it the teaching and learning of grammar, vocabulary, reading or writing, or listening.

Listening: Listening is the most important skill for communication in our day-to-day life. According to research, we can expect to listen twice as much as we speak, four times more than we read, and five times more than we write. Top-down and the bottom-up processing can be enhanced through songs. Bottom-up processing links the smaller units of language together to form larger parts; it is a linear process where meaning is derived automatically at the last stage. It is absolutely a “text-based” process where learners rely on the sounds, words, and grammar in the message in order to create meaning. Bottom-up processing can be used in the learning of phonics and pronunciation. Play any song and ask students to write as any words as they can while they are listening to the song or give it in the form of a cloze test or match the columns.

Top-down processing requires learners to listen with a prior knowledge of the topic, the context, using the type of text as well as knowledge of language to reconstruct the meaning using the sounds as clues. “This background knowledge activates a set of expectations that help the listener to interpret what is heard and anticipate what will come next. To spruce up top-down listening skills, the learners could be asked to predict the theme of the song after looking at the title or list some words from the song. They can even be asked to infer the larger meaning from the lines in the song. For e.g., the song “Complicated” by Avril Lavigne can be used to infer the meaning of the following lyrics, “Lay back, it’s all been done before, and if you could only let it be, You will see.”

Speaking: Any song with an age appropriate theme can be selected and a debate, group discussion, or a formal speech competition can be held around the theme. For e.g., If we take a song like’ Heal the world’ by Michael Jackson, students can participate in a group discussion on how love and care can help solve a lot of problems in the world or debate on whether love and care alone can solve the problems in this world.

The author is a teacher at the Calorx Teachers’ University. She can be reached at [email protected].

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