Uncovering the music in teaching modern languages. Art and Education.

 

Irina Nicoleta Spătaru

Profesor Limba Engleză

Şcoala Gimnazială Sîmbotin

 

 

Teaching others to do well and do good; that is a teacher’s assignment on a daily basis. Teaching has gone through significant changes, especially during the last decades, thus improving the way we envision the learning process.

This paper focuses on the ways in which we can improve our teaching sessions in order to perfect the learning process for our students.

In my experience, I have found that teaching is more than sending information to students; teaching means coaching, guiding, helping, encouraging. In order to teach a child, a teacher needs to address several issues. One of them consists of helping students concentrate, gaining their interest and keeping them focused. I find that music is a great instrument for this. I shall explain this by giving examples taken from my own activities in the classroom.

Studies have shown that Mozart’s compositions have great power over one’s mind and attention. Listening to Mozart seems to help us concentrate for longer periods of time and greatly improves the quality of the learning process.

All that sounds quite encouraging and hopeful. In an ideal classroom, we can play Mozart. However, we have normal classes with normal students. And normal in the 21st century does not necessarily mean Mozart anymore. Today, we benefit from all kinds of music genres, from rock to pop, to dance and folk. So let’s put that richness of genres to a good use!

In several of my lessons, I have found that playing music in the background, one reasonable volume greatly helps my students focus on their task, instead of being distracted as often as it might happen in other lessons. Their rhythm has been upgraded, when listening to music in the classroom or even when doing homework, students speed up their work, thus managing to do more work in a 50-minute lesson.

It might seem a bit idyllic to believe that art mixes with education. Yet it does and the results never fail to impress. Studying arts, using arts in the classroom develops one’s creativity, supports critical thinking, upgrades team work quality, increases confidence and self-esteem and significantly improves our communicative skills.

Young learners respond to music as it is a part of their lives outside the classroom as well. This may well be named in several ways: we can call using music in class realia material for instance, if using a term that many authors are keen on introducing nowadays. Music is taken from real life, and children learn better when being faced with real facts.

Among the many ways we can include music in our lesson plans I mention a few of which I have put to practice and have given great results. The first would be playing music in the background, on a reasonable volume, not too low that it would prevent students from hearing it, but not too high so that we divert their attention from the task they are given to the song that is playing. I find that the quality of their work greatly improves: the room is quieter, the students have no need to divert their focus, therefore the work is done faster and better. In a 50-minute lesson, I find there is a bit of a challenge to get as much work done as possible. When playing music, my students change in a way that is visible on their worksheets and beyond.

Music can be used in various activities, including when presenting new vocabulary. For instance, when our lesson focuses on new vocabulary, we can find songs that contain those specific items and have them played in class. The students hear the words, identify them, extract them from the lyrics and then use them in new sentences. This is a simple and enjoyable way of teaching and learning new vocabulary.

Furthermore, we have activities that are solely based on music, such as learning a song. Whenever you want to teach a group of children a song, have them copy the lyrics onto their notebooks and while doing that, try playing the song as many times as possible in the background, so that the students get used to the rhythm of the song and its particularities. This has proven to be quite efficient among my students.

Teaching comes in various forms and has different meanings, according to the situation we find ourselves in. Teaching is meant to be fun, it is meant to be as enjoyable as it gets, and learning should not fall behind. The one instance in which we have the liberty to make the learning process enjoyable has been the object of this paper. There are tens of others, most certainly and I find it is our responsibility as teachers of the 21st century to keep up with the new findings in teaching.

Whether we benefit from a wide range of resources, or we find ourselves in poor conditions, we must learn that we can make the most of what we have. Authors like Jeremy Harmer, Jim Scrivener or Penny Ur advise modern teachers to blend the traditional ways of teaching with the newer, innovative ones in order to ensure a well-rounded result in the learning process. And in a time of abundance of information, this should not come as a difficulty.

Last but not least, it is highly recommended that we keep in mind learner differences when trying to apply one method of teaching or another. Going back to our topic, we must respect the likes and dislikes of children in terms of music genres. In order to ensure our intentions have reached a positive outcome, we must attempt to please as many as possible. A disagreeable choice of music might have a negative influence on our students and thus affect the learning process.

Art and education complete each other. Students can easily find the pleasant and equally satisfying if guided in the right direction. Art is to offer the students a range of learning experiences, and education is to teach them how to aim for achievable goals. Teachers and students alike have favourable abilities in the learning process, and by working together, the accomplishments never fail to be uncovered.

Bibliography

 

  1. Harmer, Jeremy, The Practice of English Language Teaching, Pearson, Harlow, 2007.
  2. Harmer, Jeremy, How to Teach English, Pearson, Harlow, 2007.
  3. Scrivener, Jim, Learning Teaching. The Essential Guide to English Language Teaching, Macmillan, London, 2011.
  4. Ur, Penny, A Course in Language Teaching. Practice and Theory, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1999.

 

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