At the Central States Conference in Columbus, I was grateful to be able to attend Carol Gaab’s session on using music to acquire language. I’ve been using music for years for listening activities, but I’ve never thought to use them as reading activities. I get so excited to have my students listen to the songs, that I completely forget how much they can read the lyrics before they even know it’s a song! It’s the same idea as using screenshots or a reading for a movie talk!
Carol gave so many great ideas when it comes to using a song. First and foremost, she said that you don’t have to use the whole song. Wait, what?! I have always used the whole song, but why? There’s really only a few structures that I want students to acquire in a song, so why am I giving them the whole song up front with words they don’t know? Songs can be so much more impactful if they just focus on a few lines of text. After all, we want them to acquire the language not get discouraged by all the language they don’t know.
I love how Carol sees lyrics as another opportunity to read, and she had so many different interactivities that I hope to start implementing a few of them in the next song that I present to my students! One of the things that has always stuck with me is the idea that we should be asking questions that don’t necessarily have a right or wrong answer. The premise behind all of Carol’s questioning strategies is that we should be promoting discussion because that’s going to sustain our conversation in the target language. Every opportunity to sustain target language is an opportunity for our students to acquire language.
While all of Carol’s ideas were amazing, one of them really stuck out in my mind. Using the song L.O.V.E. by Nat King Cole (Carol’s students are English language learners), she picked out 5 lines of lyrics and underlined the structures she wanted her students to focus on. Then she gave a list of summary statements to match up to the lines of lyrics. The best part of this is that there isn’t a “right” answer. Depending on their interpretation, students can come up with many different ways to justify why they think a summary matches up with the line of lyric!
Carol reminded all of us in her session just how powerful music can be. It doesn’t always have to be the words that we focus on but rather the content and theme of the song. Our students can connect to songs on a personal level if we allow for the discussion to take us there. We can learn so much from our students this way and it helps to breathe life into the class culture that we’ve created. In order to get students to acquire the language we have to get our students thinking about the songs and how they can make them relate to their lives. After repeated exposures to these key structures, students can start to use the language! Focus on those key structures and allow for the students to just enjoy the rest of the song!
If this one session is any indication as to how amazing iFLT is this summer, I am beyond excited to learn all that I can! This will be my first year at iFLT, and I can’t wait to learn from all of the wonderful presenters. The best part? It’s over the summer, which will give me plenty of time to work all that I learn into my plans for next school year!
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Do you need a little encouragement or direction when it comes to teaching your intermediate classes? Levels 3 and up are unique! For a limited time only, we are offering Darcy Pippins’ webinar “AP from the Ground Up” for FREE! Just visit the Fluency Matters Training Site and enjoy the webinar on us!
If you’d like to dive deeper into your professional learning, consider joining us this summer in St. Petersburg, Florida for the iFLT Conference! Darcy and the rest of the iFLT team are waiting to lead you on a career-transforming journey!