Pop songs in the classroom: time-filler or teaching tool?

Pop songs in the classroom: time-filler or teaching tool? Abstract Teachers frequently recommend pop songs on websites and in experience-based articles to foster L2 acquisition. Such a positive stance contrasts with a scarcity of musical activities in published materials for adult learners and the small number of empirical studies investigating the use and usefulness of songs in L2 teaching. Consequently, pedagogical choices and their implementation depend mainly on the course instructor. This article reports on the findings of an international survey exploring teachers’ beliefs about and teaching practices involving songs in the classroom. The findings reveal that informants often use songs as part of a purposeful and diverse teaching unit and based on reasoning that frequently reflects findings in cognitive-psychological research. However, song use can be impeded by a lack of official materials and support from other stakeholders. Introduction ‘Oh, songs! … the dreaded Friday afternoon gap-fill everywhere!’—such was one response on a social media forum for language teachers when I mentioned that my research interest was the use of songs with adult learners. However, there is also much enthusiasm: an unceasing interest in the matter is exemplified by the continuing publication of pedagogical articles in support of song-based teaching. Despite such contrasting beliefs, there is still a shortage of empirical research investigating the use of music specifically in L2 teaching. Even when it comes to young learner classrooms, where the use of songs is often socially more acceptable, Davis (2017: 454) has observed ‘a long history of song use’ but no ‘correspondingly long history of their empirical study’. For adult learners, relatively few songs are to be found in published teaching materials (Pérez Aldeguer and Leganés Lavall 2012). Consequently, pedagogical reasoning, practical choices, and their implementation largely depend on instructors. Yet, Engh (2013: 119) highlights that we know little about what actually happens in classrooms, as there is ‘a dearth of current literature that discusses the extent to which teachers are using music and the manner in which it is being used in a practical context’. In response to this dearth of literature, this survey study investigated current teaching practices around songs by exploring language teachers’ attitudes towards and use of songs in adult L2 classrooms around the world. Do they use songs, and if yes, how and why? Is the ‘dreaded’ gap-fill really the only activity available for a song-based lesson? Do teachers use songs as serious teaching material or are songs, as Reeve and Williamson (1987: 33) suggest, a ‘carrot—a reward for tired teachers and students on Friday of a long week’? Music and learning The beneficial role of music and its importance to many is increasingly recognized. Music and experiencing music in social settings can motivate us, affect our mood, lower anxiety, and have positive (mental) health effects (Levitin 2008). Songs can affect the formation of memories and learning, including verbal learning. Cognitive-psychological research with native speakers frequently shows superior retention of songs compared to spoken texts (e.g. Wallace 1994). However, a few studies found no mnemonic benefit, arguing that the melody constitutes an additional memory burden (Racette and Peretz 2007). One reason for the mnemonic effect of songs (Engh 2013) is the multimodality of stimuli (music, rhythm, linguistic sound patterns, mental imagery, kinaesthetic experiences) and their repetition. This can result in more elaborate processing and the creation of diverse networks of mental connections (Wallace 1994; Levitin 2008). Musical engagement in groups can add social factors such as the synchronized and affective experience of listening to and singing along with others (Overy and Molnar-Szakacs 2009). In addition, emotions evoked by music and emotionally evocative lyrics can influence memorization and recall (Eschrich, Münte, and Altenmüller 2008). Teachers’ perspectives on songs Although there is some research on songs for young learners (Davis 2017), research on song use specifically in L2 teaching is limited, especially in realistic classroom settings and with a focus on adolescent or adult learners (see Tegge 2015). In addition, few studies have investigated the actual use of songs in language teaching from the perspective of teachers of either young or adult learners. These studies have predominantly examined general views of English instructors via questionnaires while leaving the practical implementation of song-based teaching largely unexplored. Bjorklund (2002) found that the most popular type of music among 30 ESL instructors at one US university were pop songs, followed by clapping activities and to a much lesser extent rhythm games and jazz chants. Edwards (1997) found that over two-thirds of her 33 informants—teachers at Californian public schools (grades one to five)—used music to teach English. Their aims were to teach vocabulary, reduce negative affect, and improve cultural awareness and appreciation. Pérez Aldeguer and Leganés Lavall (2012) took a greater interest in the beliefs and attitudes of teachers. Of 20 EFL teachers in a public school district in Spain, half reported being aware of pedagogical possibilities, and a majority was aware of the motivating effects of music. However, only one-third of respondents reported actually using music in all their classes. A similar number reported knowing a good selection of songs and rhymes in English. Methodology Given the limited insight into the actual use of songs in classrooms, this study investigated language instructors’ views on and teaching practices involving songs in predominantly adult L2 classrooms. It is part of a larger project investigating song-based teaching and its effect on lexical learning (Tegge 2015). Consequently, while investigating song use more broadly, it includes a particular focus on vocabulary. A questionnaire, informed by literature on survey design including Dӧrnyei and Taguchi (2010), explored the following questions: Do language teachers consider songs to be a useful teaching tool and do they use songs in the classroom? Why do they use songs in class? Are songs used to teach vocabulary? If yes, what characteristics make songs suitable for vocabulary acquisition? How do they use songs in the classroom and what problems do they encounter? If teachers do not use songs in the classroom, why not? The online questionnaire contained between 26 and 43 questions using skip-logic (i.e. if respondents, for example, responded ‘no’ to ‘do you use songs in the classroom?’, they consequently skipped all questions about their teaching practices involving songs). Longer responses provided in open-answer sections (prompted by ‘other, please explain/specify’) are presented in italics below. Informants A total of 568 informants initially agreed to participate but only 398 (70 per cent) completed the entire questionnaire. Each item was, thus, answered by gradually diminishing numbers of informants, and each item was analysed based on its individual response rate. The number of informants responding to different items also varied as a result of the skip-logic. Informants were invited to participate through professional and personal contacts and mailing lists of national and international teacher associations. This non-randomized and convenience-based sampling is likely to have impacted on the elicited data. In particular, the mode of selection may have predominantly attracted teachers who take a positive stance towards the use of songs. Overall, the informants taught 20 different languages but the vast majority (390, or 76 per cent) taught English. Other frequent languages were Japanese (32), German (28), French (23), and Spanish (15). As Table 1 shows, the majority of informants worked at tertiary institutions (university, tertiary college, polytechnic), followed by secondary schools, and public or private language schools. Table 1 The informants’ institution(s) (multiple selections possible) Type of institution N % Tertiary education 189 47.0 Secondary school 98 24.4 Language school 83 20.6 Continuing education 59 14.7 Self-employed 49 12.2 Primary school 38 9.5 Vocational training 12 3.0 Currently not teaching 11 2.7 Type of institution N % Tertiary education 189 47.0 Secondary school 98 24.4 Language school 83 20.6 Continuing education 59 14.7 Self-employed 49 12.2 Primary school 38 9.5 Vocational training 12 3.0 Currently not teaching 11 2.7 View Large Table 1 The informants’ institution(s) (multiple selections possible) Type of institution N % Tertiary education 189 47.0 Secondary school 98 24.4 Language school 83 20.6 Continuing education 59 14.7 Self-employed 49 12.2 Primary school 38 9.5 Vocational training 12 3.0 Currently not teaching 11 2.7 Type of institution N % Tertiary education 189 47.0 Secondary school 98 24.4 Language school 83 20.6 Continuing education 59 14.7 Self-employed 49 12.2 Primary school 38 9.5 Vocational training 12 3.0 Currently not teaching 11 2.7 View Large The informants were located in 41 countries, with the largest group (81) teaching in New Zealand (see Table 2). Table 2 The informants’ locations Country N % New Zealand 81 20.15 Japan 51 12.69 Canada 49 12.20 United Arab Emirates 29 7.21 Malaysia 28 6.97 USA 27 6.72 Germany 19 4.73 Australia 16 3.98 Spain 10 2.49 Saudi Arabia 10 2.49 South Korea 9 2.24 China 8 1.99 Italy 7 1.74 Uruguay 6 1.49 Oman; Taiwan; United Kingdom; Venezuela (each) 4 1.00 Belgium; Indonesia; Iran; Vietnam (each) 3 0.75 Algeria; Egypt; Greece; Jordan; Qatar (each) 2 0.50 Colombia; Comoros; Czech Republic; India; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Lebanon; Macedonia; Mexico; Poland; Sudan; Turkey; Ukraine; Yemen (each) 1 0.25 Country N % New Zealand 81 20.15 Japan 51 12.69 Canada 49 12.20 United Arab Emirates 29 7.21 Malaysia 28 6.97 USA 27 6.72 Germany 19 4.73 Australia 16 3.98 Spain 10 2.49 Saudi Arabia 10 2.49 South Korea 9 2.24 China 8 1.99 Italy 7 1.74 Uruguay 6 1.49 Oman; Taiwan; United Kingdom; Venezuela (each) 4 1.00 Belgium; Indonesia; Iran; Vietnam (each) 3 0.75 Algeria; Egypt; Greece; Jordan; Qatar (each) 2 0.50 Colombia; Comoros; Czech Republic; India; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Lebanon; Macedonia; Mexico; Poland; Sudan; Turkey; Ukraine; Yemen (each) 1 0.25 View Large Table 2 The informants’ locations Country N % New Zealand 81 20.15 Japan 51 12.69 Canada 49 12.20 United Arab Emirates 29 7.21 Malaysia 28 6.97 USA 27 6.72 Germany 19 4.73 Australia 16 3.98 Spain 10 2.49 Saudi Arabia 10 2.49 South Korea 9 2.24 China 8 1.99 Italy 7 1.74 Uruguay 6 1.49 Oman; Taiwan; United Kingdom; Venezuela (each) 4 1.00 Belgium; Indonesia; Iran; Vietnam (each) 3 0.75 Algeria; Egypt; Greece; Jordan; Qatar (each) 2 0.50 Colombia; Comoros; Czech Republic; India; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Lebanon; Macedonia; Mexico; Poland; Sudan; Turkey; Ukraine; Yemen (each) 1 0.25 Country N % New Zealand 81 20.15 Japan 51 12.69 Canada 49 12.20 United Arab Emirates 29 7.21 Malaysia 28 6.97 USA 27 6.72 Germany 19 4.73 Australia 16 3.98 Spain 10 2.49 Saudi Arabia 10 2.49 South Korea 9 2.24 China 8 1.99 Italy 7 1.74 Uruguay 6 1.49 Oman; Taiwan; United Kingdom; Venezuela (each) 4 1.00 Belgium; Indonesia; Iran; Vietnam (each) 3 0.75 Algeria; Egypt; Greece; Jordan; Qatar (each) 2 0.50 Colombia; Comoros; Czech Republic; India; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Lebanon; Macedonia; Mexico; Poland; Sudan; Turkey; Ukraine; Yemen (each) 1 0.25 View Large Results and discussion The findings revealed that many teachers display a positive attitude towards songs and actually use them as teaching material. A majority of informants (88 per cent) perceived of songs as ‘a useful tool in the language classroom to foster second language acquisition’ (see Table 3); and 82 per cent used them as teaching material in class. Table 3 Usefulness of songs for fostering language acquisition Response N % Strongly agree 204 39.9 Agree 243 47.6 Neither, nor 52 10.2 Disagree 9 1.8 Strongly disagree 3 0.6 Response N % Strongly agree 204 39.9 Agree 243 47.6 Neither, nor 52 10.2 Disagree 9 1.8 Strongly disagree 3 0.6 View Large Table 3 Usefulness of songs for fostering language acquisition Response N % Strongly agree 204 39.9 Agree 243 47.6 Neither, nor 52 10.2 Disagree 9 1.8 Strongly disagree 3 0.6 Response N % Strongly agree 204 39.9 Agree 243 47.6 Neither, nor 52 10.2 Disagree 9 1.8 Strongly disagree 3 0.6 View Large Rather than viewing songs as special treats without pedagogical purpose, many teachers reported utilizing them with clear meaning- and language-focused goals in mind and in the context of a directed and diverse teaching unit which included complementary activities. The typical teaching unit utilizing songs lasts longer than 15 minutes (see Table 4). Furthermore, a song is typically played two (32 per cent) or three (41 per cent) times during a lesson, including sing-along(s). Table 4 Class-time spent on a song and complementary activities Class time N % 5 min or less 20 6.1 5–15 min 120 36.6 15–30 min 117 35.7 30–50 min 58 17.7 over 50 min 13 4.0 Class time N % 5 min or less 20 6.1 5–15 min 120 36.6 15–30 min 117 35.7 30–50 min 58 17.7 over 50 min 13 4.0 View Large Table 4 Class-time spent on a song and complementary activities Class time N % 5 min or less 20 6.1 5–15 min 120 36.6 15–30 min 117 35.7 30–50 min 58 17.7 over 50 min 13 4.0 Class time N % 5 min or less 20 6.1 5–15 min 120 36.6 15–30 min 117 35.7 30–50 min 58 17.7 over 50 min 13 4.0 View Large The questionnaire also explored the range of activities around songs. As Table 5 shows, the most widely used activity among 334 informants was indeed the gap-fill activity, closely followed by discussion and sing-along. Comprehension questions and ordering activities (putting verses, lines, or words in the correct order) were used by fewer but still over or close to half of the informants, respectively. Open-ended answers indicate that the simple label ‘gap-fill activity’ covered various approaches, including letting students prepare, present, and mark gap-fills themselves. Similarly, discussions and writing activities were umbrella terms for various tasks: Table 5 Activities (prefabricated answers) Activity N % Cloze/gap-fill activity 249 74.6 Discussion 237 71.0 Sing-along 235 70.4 Focus or comprehension questions 187 56.0 Ordering activity 164 49.1 Writing activity 131 39.2 True/false statements 101 30.2 Dictation (full or partial text) 88 26.4 Activity N % Cloze/gap-fill activity 249 74.6 Discussion 237 71.0 Sing-along 235 70.4 Focus or comprehension questions 187 56.0 Ordering activity 164 49.1 Writing activity 131 39.2 True/false statements 101 30.2 Dictation (full or partial text) 88 26.4 View Large Table 5 Activities (prefabricated answers) Activity N % Cloze/gap-fill activity 249 74.6 Discussion 237 71.0 Sing-along 235 70.4 Focus or comprehension questions 187 56.0 Ordering activity 164 49.1 Writing activity 131 39.2 True/false statements 101 30.2 Dictation (full or partial text) 88 26.4 Activity N % Cloze/gap-fill activity 249 74.6 Discussion 237 71.0 Sing-along 235 70.4 Focus or comprehension questions 187 56.0 Ordering activity 164 49.1 Writing activity 131 39.2 True/false statements 101 30.2 Dictation (full or partial text) 88 26.4 View Large Students composing their own lyrics. Paraphrase [for poetry], as a lot of the words are rather poetic. I have them research the artist, translate the lyrics, talk about why they like the song. They give mini presentations and learn from each other, get acquainted with lots of artists they may want to keep listening to on their own. Responses revealed that a sing-along can also take different forms, including rhythmic read-along and lip-syncing: Lip-syncing competition: Groups of students selected songs, memorized the lyrics, created costumes, dance moves and performed in front of their peers. In the open-ended section (see Table 6), teachers added further activities, based on different pedagogical arguments. Table 6 Activities used with songs—open-ended answers (cut-off point: 5) Activity N Vocabulary search and analysis (including highlighting useful words, bingo, word snatch) 14 Arts and creativity activities (including role play, writing your own lyrics, drawing a CD cover or depictions of the song content, choreographing a dance or video clip) 14 Activities to promote movement (including TPR, pantomime, dancing) 14 Listening activities (including listening for gist or for specific information, lyrics correction) 13 Pronunciation and prosody (including analysis, drilling, using phonetic script) 12 Activities to promote reading, text- and genre-analysis, and interpretation of poetic texts 10 Activities that engage students as the teacher and material designer (including choosing songs, creating and marking teaching materials) 6 Activity N Vocabulary search and analysis (including highlighting useful words, bingo, word snatch) 14 Arts and creativity activities (including role play, writing your own lyrics, drawing a CD cover or depictions of the song content, choreographing a dance or video clip) 14 Activities to promote movement (including TPR, pantomime, dancing) 14 Listening activities (including listening for gist or for specific information, lyrics correction) 13 Pronunciation and prosody (including analysis, drilling, using phonetic script) 12 Activities to promote reading, text- and genre-analysis, and interpretation of poetic texts 10 Activities that engage students as the teacher and material designer (including choosing songs, creating and marking teaching materials) 6 View Large Table 6 Activities used with songs—open-ended answers (cut-off point: 5) Activity N Vocabulary search and analysis (including highlighting useful words, bingo, word snatch) 14 Arts and creativity activities (including role play, writing your own lyrics, drawing a CD cover or depictions of the song content, choreographing a dance or video clip) 14 Activities to promote movement (including TPR, pantomime, dancing) 14 Listening activities (including listening for gist or for specific information, lyrics correction) 13 Pronunciation and prosody (including analysis, drilling, using phonetic script) 12 Activities to promote reading, text- and genre-analysis, and interpretation of poetic texts 10 Activities that engage students as the teacher and material designer (including choosing songs, creating and marking teaching materials) 6 Activity N Vocabulary search and analysis (including highlighting useful words, bingo, word snatch) 14 Arts and creativity activities (including role play, writing your own lyrics, drawing a CD cover or depictions of the song content, choreographing a dance or video clip) 14 Activities to promote movement (including TPR, pantomime, dancing) 14 Listening activities (including listening for gist or for specific information, lyrics correction) 13 Pronunciation and prosody (including analysis, drilling, using phonetic script) 12 Activities to promote reading, text- and genre-analysis, and interpretation of poetic texts 10 Activities that engage students as the teacher and material designer (including choosing songs, creating and marking teaching materials) 6 View Large Informants described various activities engaging creative skills, e.g. drawing or producing video clips. A small number stressed that a relevant feature of song-based activities involved ‘physical activity’, as students ‘enjoy the movement’ and songs ‘affect the body’. Some used songs to promote greater student autonomy: I did involve my students to get the songs and even prepare the cloze texts and comprehension questions. … They also conducted the lessons and marked the tasks. Purposes of song-use In total, 374 song-users reported on their teaching goals (see Table 7). In summary, musical activities were used to achieve the following goals: Table 7 Purposes (prefabricated answers) Response N % To motivate students with an enjoyable activity 343 91.7 To practise listening comprehension 320 85.6 To create a relaxing atmosphere 278 74.3 To teach authentic language and culture 275 73.5 To introduce new vocabulary 259 69.3 To accommodate different learning styles, e.g. auditive, kinaesthetic, and musical learning styles 257 68.7 To practise familiar vocabulary 231 61.8 To teach multi-word units, i.e. idioms and phrasal language 212 56.7 To teach pronunciation and prosody (including language rhythm) 210 56.1 To introduce new or practise familiar grammatical items 194 51.9 To practise fluency in speaking, i.e. producing spoken language 188 50.3 To give students the opportunity to produce language without feeling observed 171 45.7 As a prompt for spoken interaction, e.g. a class or pair discussion 170 45.5 As a prompt for a writing assignment, e.g. an essay, poem, or letter 134 35.8 Response N % To motivate students with an enjoyable activity 343 91.7 To practise listening comprehension 320 85.6 To create a relaxing atmosphere 278 74.3 To teach authentic language and culture 275 73.5 To introduce new vocabulary 259 69.3 To accommodate different learning styles, e.g. auditive, kinaesthetic, and musical learning styles 257 68.7 To practise familiar vocabulary 231 61.8 To teach multi-word units, i.e. idioms and phrasal language 212 56.7 To teach pronunciation and prosody (including language rhythm) 210 56.1 To introduce new or practise familiar grammatical items 194 51.9 To practise fluency in speaking, i.e. producing spoken language 188 50.3 To give students the opportunity to produce language without feeling observed 171 45.7 As a prompt for spoken interaction, e.g. a class or pair discussion 170 45.5 As a prompt for a writing assignment, e.g. an essay, poem, or letter 134 35.8 View Large Table 7 Purposes (prefabricated answers) Response N % To motivate students with an enjoyable activity 343 91.7 To practise listening comprehension 320 85.6 To create a relaxing atmosphere 278 74.3 To teach authentic language and culture 275 73.5 To introduce new vocabulary 259 69.3 To accommodate different learning styles, e.g. auditive, kinaesthetic, and musical learning styles 257 68.7 To practise familiar vocabulary 231 61.8 To teach multi-word units, i.e. idioms and phrasal language 212 56.7 To teach pronunciation and prosody (including language rhythm) 210 56.1 To introduce new or practise familiar grammatical items 194 51.9 To practise fluency in speaking, i.e. producing spoken language 188 50.3 To give students the opportunity to produce language without feeling observed 171 45.7 As a prompt for spoken interaction, e.g. a class or pair discussion 170 45.5 As a prompt for a writing assignment, e.g. an essay, poem, or letter 134 35.8 Response N % To motivate students with an enjoyable activity 343 91.7 To practise listening comprehension 320 85.6 To create a relaxing atmosphere 278 74.3 To teach authentic language and culture 275 73.5 To introduce new vocabulary 259 69.3 To accommodate different learning styles, e.g. auditive, kinaesthetic, and musical learning styles 257 68.7 To practise familiar vocabulary 231 61.8 To teach multi-word units, i.e. idioms and phrasal language 212 56.7 To teach pronunciation and prosody (including language rhythm) 210 56.1 To introduce new or practise familiar grammatical items 194 51.9 To practise fluency in speaking, i.e. producing spoken language 188 50.3 To give students the opportunity to produce language without feeling observed 171 45.7 As a prompt for spoken interaction, e.g. a class or pair discussion 170 45.5 As a prompt for a writing assignment, e.g. an essay, poem, or letter 134 35.8 View Large to create a positive and motivating learning situation; to accommodate individual learners’ needs; to provide authentic language and culture; to teach clearly defined language skills and linguistic knowledge. The answers given indicate that respondents frequently used music to foster positive affect. Over 90 per cent reported using songs to motivate students with an enjoyable activity; 74 per cent suggested they used songs to create a relaxing atmosphere. In open-ended answers, teachers explained that they thought a relaxed atmosphere aided learning, creativity, and interaction. These findings suggest that songs are indeed widely used as a ‘carrot’, if by ‘carrot’ we mean a way to positively influence students’ motivation and enjoyment of language learning. This aligns with research on the importance of motivation and the negative impact of language learning anxiety. Oxford (1999: 59), for example, highlights that ‘language anxiety ranks high among factors influencing language learning’, and recommends that teachers ‘encourage students to relax through music, laughter or games’ (ibid. 67). Furthermore, songs were utilized to respond to students’ needs and personalities. Respondents used songs to accommodate different learning styles and to provide opportunities for learners to produce language without feeling observed during choral singing. Finally, respondents used songs to teach clearly defined language skills and linguistic knowledge. A majority of respondents (86 per cent) used songs to teach listening comprehension. Another common goal was the teaching of authentic language and culture, as songs offered ‘a great chance for students to be away from bookish English’. Many used songs to teach vocabulary (69 per cent) and multi-word units such as idioms and phrasal language (57 per cent). Teaching grammar was a purpose of fewer but still more than half of informants. Pronunciation/prosody was the purpose of 56 per cent of respondents. As one informant commented, ‘prosodic features are not easily noticed. Using songs … has helped raise … awareness to the poetic, rhythmic, metric and intonation patterns.’ A focus on vocabulary The survey homed in on lexical learning, asking what characteristics made songs suitable for vocabulary acquisition. Table 8 displays the responses of 405 informants. Table 8 Aspects rendering songs suitable for vocabulary learning (prefabricated answers) Response N % The fact that one can listen to a song several times without getting bored 287 70.9 The fact that songs usually contain authentic language 266 65.7 The rhythm 244 60.3 The possibility to sing along 243 60.0 The fact that one can sing a song several times without getting bored 222 54.8 The rhyme 217 53.6 The fact that learners are likely to encounter a song we used in class outside of class 206 50.9 The melody 198 48.9 Response N % The fact that one can listen to a song several times without getting bored 287 70.9 The fact that songs usually contain authentic language 266 65.7 The rhythm 244 60.3 The possibility to sing along 243 60.0 The fact that one can sing a song several times without getting bored 222 54.8 The rhyme 217 53.6 The fact that learners are likely to encounter a song we used in class outside of class 206 50.9 The melody 198 48.9 View Large Table 8 Aspects rendering songs suitable for vocabulary learning (prefabricated answers) Response N % The fact that one can listen to a song several times without getting bored 287 70.9 The fact that songs usually contain authentic language 266 65.7 The rhythm 244 60.3 The possibility to sing along 243 60.0 The fact that one can sing a song several times without getting bored 222 54.8 The rhyme 217 53.6 The fact that learners are likely to encounter a song we used in class outside of class 206 50.9 The melody 198 48.9 Response N % The fact that one can listen to a song several times without getting bored 287 70.9 The fact that songs usually contain authentic language 266 65.7 The rhythm 244 60.3 The possibility to sing along 243 60.0 The fact that one can sing a song several times without getting bored 222 54.8 The rhyme 217 53.6 The fact that learners are likely to encounter a song we used in class outside of class 206 50.9 The melody 198 48.9 View Large Open-ended answers produced five additional factors, presented in Table 9. Table 9 Aspects rendering songs suitable for vocabulary learning (open answers) Response N Songs have a mnemonic effect 13 Songs are enjoyable and provide a break from the usual routine 10 Songs contain relevant themes and topics from the target culture (and the related vocabulary) 8 The language in songs is repetitive (words, phrases, chorus) 5 Songs meet existing learner interests 5 Response N Songs have a mnemonic effect 13 Songs are enjoyable and provide a break from the usual routine 10 Songs contain relevant themes and topics from the target culture (and the related vocabulary) 8 The language in songs is repetitive (words, phrases, chorus) 5 Songs meet existing learner interests 5 View Large Table 9 Aspects rendering songs suitable for vocabulary learning (open answers) Response N Songs have a mnemonic effect 13 Songs are enjoyable and provide a break from the usual routine 10 Songs contain relevant themes and topics from the target culture (and the related vocabulary) 8 The language in songs is repetitive (words, phrases, chorus) 5 Songs meet existing learner interests 5 Response N Songs have a mnemonic effect 13 Songs are enjoyable and provide a break from the usual routine 10 Songs contain relevant themes and topics from the target culture (and the related vocabulary) 8 The language in songs is repetitive (words, phrases, chorus) 5 Songs meet existing learner interests 5 View Large Repetition was considered to be of particular importance, as songs can be listened to and sung several times without becoming boring. As reported above, informants capitalize on this repeatability by playing a song two to three times. One respondent elaborated: Students are more likely to sing to themselves for pleasure than repeat lists of vocab. In addition, half of the respondents found it advantageous that their students were likely to encounter the songs outside the classroom, reinforcing learning. In open answers, a few informants highlighted the frequent repetition of words within the lyrics. One interesting theme arose from the open-ended answers: 13 informants noted that songs have a particular mnemonic effect, i.e. they get ‘stuck in your head’. I think there is a different type of memory involved when learning to sing. I believe the combination of melody and rhythm helps retention, making correct language structures available to the learners for future analysis. One respondent attributed this mnemonic effect to the emotions that songs can evoke: Songs can create strong responses in the students. ... Students are more likely to remember something they have had an emotional response to. Ten respondents elaborated that songs aided vocabulary learning because they were enjoyable and provided a break from the usual routine. Informants explained that songs allowed students to ‘stay focused for longer periods of time’, and sometimes students did not even ‘realize they [were] learning new words’. Problems when using songs The survey also explored problems arising from song use (see Table 10). The most frequently reported problem among 328 informants was finding suitable songs. Another common challenge was the large investment in time required to prepare and implement song-based lessons. Other widely reported problems related to negative learner reactions: some students did not like to sing or did not consider songs to be adequate learning material. Table 10 Problems (prefabricated answers) Response N % I cannot find any suitable songs 94 28.7 The learners do not like to sing 89 27.1 The noise bothers other classes/teachers 78 23.8 Too time-consuming 68 20.7 The learners do not consider songs to be adequate for language learning in the classroom 54 16.5 The use of songs conflicts with the curriculum 45 13.7 The equipment is unreliable 43 13.1 We do not have the appropriate equipment 38 11.6 Problems with learner discipline 35 10.7 Response N % I cannot find any suitable songs 94 28.7 The learners do not like to sing 89 27.1 The noise bothers other classes/teachers 78 23.8 Too time-consuming 68 20.7 The learners do not consider songs to be adequate for language learning in the classroom 54 16.5 The use of songs conflicts with the curriculum 45 13.7 The equipment is unreliable 43 13.1 We do not have the appropriate equipment 38 11.6 Problems with learner discipline 35 10.7 View Large Table 10 Problems (prefabricated answers) Response N % I cannot find any suitable songs 94 28.7 The learners do not like to sing 89 27.1 The noise bothers other classes/teachers 78 23.8 Too time-consuming 68 20.7 The learners do not consider songs to be adequate for language learning in the classroom 54 16.5 The use of songs conflicts with the curriculum 45 13.7 The equipment is unreliable 43 13.1 We do not have the appropriate equipment 38 11.6 Problems with learner discipline 35 10.7 Response N % I cannot find any suitable songs 94 28.7 The learners do not like to sing 89 27.1 The noise bothers other classes/teachers 78 23.8 Too time-consuming 68 20.7 The learners do not consider songs to be adequate for language learning in the classroom 54 16.5 The use of songs conflicts with the curriculum 45 13.7 The equipment is unreliable 43 13.1 We do not have the appropriate equipment 38 11.6 Problems with learner discipline 35 10.7 View Large Some informants highlighted a lack of (reliable) equipment or raised the issue that the noise bothered other classes. A range of additional difficulties were raised in the open-answer section (see Table 11). Table 11 Problems (open answers; cut-off: 5) Response category N I have experienced problems because the society in my country views songs critically for cultural or political reasons 11 I have experienced problems due to taste differences between the teacher and the students or among students 11 I have experienced problems because the school administration, other teachers, or parents view the use of songs in class critically 6 Response category N I have experienced problems because the society in my country views songs critically for cultural or political reasons 11 I have experienced problems due to taste differences between the teacher and the students or among students 11 I have experienced problems because the school administration, other teachers, or parents view the use of songs in class critically 6 View Large Table 11 Problems (open answers; cut-off: 5) Response category N I have experienced problems because the society in my country views songs critically for cultural or political reasons 11 I have experienced problems due to taste differences between the teacher and the students or among students 11 I have experienced problems because the school administration, other teachers, or parents view the use of songs in class critically 6 Response category N I have experienced problems because the society in my country views songs critically for cultural or political reasons 11 I have experienced problems due to taste differences between the teacher and the students or among students 11 I have experienced problems because the school administration, other teachers, or parents view the use of songs in class critically 6 View Large For some teachers, cultural or political reasons made the use of songs problematic. Some taught in societies where music is considered inappropriate in general or where songs in a foreign—or even the native—language are considered a cultural/political threat. This could result in negative reactions from superiors, colleagues, parents, or learners. Interestingly, differences in taste can also be important. A small number of informants highlighted a ‘generational gap’ or the fear of being ‘out of sync with [the] students’. Reasons for not using songs Informants who refrained from using songs entirely often did so due to external factors despite a positive attitude towards music in the classroom. While 85 informants reported not using songs, only ten of them agreed that songs were not useful for language learning. Two added that they considered songs to be inappropriate when teaching adults. As Table 12 shows, reasons for not using songs frequently overlap with the problems experienced by song-users. Table 12 Why don’t you use songs? Response (PF = prefabricated answer; OA = open answer) N (85) % I can’t fit songs in with the official curriculum (PF) 32 38.6 I can’t find any suitable songs (PF) 21 25.3 Using songs means spending too much time on too little learning outcome (PF) 21 25.3 I tried using songs but my students did not respond well (includes: I asked and they said no) (PF) 17 20.5 In my teaching context, using songs is considered inappropriate for cultural and/or religious and/or political reasons (OA) 16 19.3 I don’t have the necessary technical equipment (PF) 13 15.7 I don’t think songs are useful for language learning in the classroom (PF) 10 12.0 Response (PF = prefabricated answer; OA = open answer) N (85) % I can’t fit songs in with the official curriculum (PF) 32 38.6 I can’t find any suitable songs (PF) 21 25.3 Using songs means spending too much time on too little learning outcome (PF) 21 25.3 I tried using songs but my students did not respond well (includes: I asked and they said no) (PF) 17 20.5 In my teaching context, using songs is considered inappropriate for cultural and/or religious and/or political reasons (OA) 16 19.3 I don’t have the necessary technical equipment (PF) 13 15.7 I don’t think songs are useful for language learning in the classroom (PF) 10 12.0 View Large Table 12 Why don’t you use songs? Response (PF = prefabricated answer; OA = open answer) N (85) % I can’t fit songs in with the official curriculum (PF) 32 38.6 I can’t find any suitable songs (PF) 21 25.3 Using songs means spending too much time on too little learning outcome (PF) 21 25.3 I tried using songs but my students did not respond well (includes: I asked and they said no) (PF) 17 20.5 In my teaching context, using songs is considered inappropriate for cultural and/or religious and/or political reasons (OA) 16 19.3 I don’t have the necessary technical equipment (PF) 13 15.7 I don’t think songs are useful for language learning in the classroom (PF) 10 12.0 Response (PF = prefabricated answer; OA = open answer) N (85) % I can’t fit songs in with the official curriculum (PF) 32 38.6 I can’t find any suitable songs (PF) 21 25.3 Using songs means spending too much time on too little learning outcome (PF) 21 25.3 I tried using songs but my students did not respond well (includes: I asked and they said no) (PF) 17 20.5 In my teaching context, using songs is considered inappropriate for cultural and/or religious and/or political reasons (OA) 16 19.3 I don’t have the necessary technical equipment (PF) 13 15.7 I don’t think songs are useful for language learning in the classroom (PF) 10 12.0 View Large Thirty-two teachers reported not being able to fit songs in with the official curriculum, while 21 could not find suitable songs. In addition, 21 reported that the use of songs involved spending too much time on too little learning outcome. Finally, four teachers commented in the open-ended section that they did not have enough time to prepare a song-based unit. Several reasons tend to co-occur: I don’t have any lessons prepared using songs. It seems like a lot of work to find the song (where?), prepare a recording that can be played in class (equipment?) and to create learning activities based on the song. These answers accord with Edwards (1997) and Pérez Aldeguer and Leganés Lavall (2012), who observed that the scarcity of official musical teaching material hampers teachers’ implementation of musical teaching. It can be speculated that teachers would be more inclined to use songs if they had better access to ready-made teaching materials as part of the official curriculum, including suitable songs and activities with clearly defined teaching goals and procedures. This would reduce the time and effort spent on preparing and conducting the lesson, and it might also reduce the reported resistance of some stakeholders, such as administrative staff, students, parents, and other teachers. In open-ended answers, 16 informants said that songs were considered inappropriate in their teaching context for political or cultural reasons: In [this country], many students feel that song is … bad. We live in a country … where we are closely monitored for whatever we do or say in our classes. Everything has to be in line with the dominant culture; even our own songs are prohibited for religious reasons. We are accused of treason … if we are caught teaching songs. Such contextual factors need to be kept in mind when making recommendations or producing materials. Additionally, some teachers and/or students feel embarrassed when dealing with songs: ‘I’m at least the age of my students’ parents, I feel that they would be embarrassed!’ Seventeen informants reported that students did not respond well to a song-based teaching unit. In open-ended answers, six reported that they had not tried songs because they anticipated negative reactions to their choice of music or their singing. Conclusion This survey study revealed that many teachers have a positive view of songs as teaching tools and make use of them in class in creative and purposeful ways. Their reasoning is often guided by experience and intuition regarding the physical, psychological, and mnemonic effects of songs. Such reasoning often reflects quite accurately research findings in cognitive psychology. The survey also showed factors that lead teachers to refrain from using songs. The findings indicate a perceived scarcity of prepared materials, meaning that the preparation of song-based lessons requires a comparatively large investment of time and effort. In addition, some teachers report negative repercussions from other stakeholders. In particular, the cultural context needs to be considered as songs and music are considered inappropriate in some parts of the world. Even in ‘music-friendly’ societies the cultural background of international, refugee, and migrant students should be considered when implementing song-based lessons. Presupposing an interest in using songs more widely in language teaching, there is a need for more preselected songs and prefabricated materials in accordance with curricula, including activities beyond the ‘dreaded’ gap-fill. Additionally, teachers would benefit from clearer communication of relevant research findings as well as more extensive and, above all, empirical research on the use and usefulness of songs in L2 teaching. This study responds to the research gap by providing insight into current perspectives and practices of teachers. However, this article cannot address the dearth of hands-on materials. For that purpose, two sources should be mentioned: the website busyteacher.org and New Ways of Teaching with Music (Arnold and Herrick 2017) offer a large repository of song-based activities. The final word on the potential power of songs is left to a survey respondent: ‘As a 14-year-old English learner, my teacher played us a Beatles’ song. This inspired me so much, that I decided then and there to become an English teacher.’ Dr Friederike Tegge is a lecturer in linguistics and applied linguistics at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand. Formerly, she taught German and English in Germany, the USA, and New Zealand. Her research interests include songs in language learning, vocabulary, and academic English. References Arnold , J. L. and E. Herrick . 2017 . New Ways in Teaching with Music . Alexandria, VA : TESOL . Bjorklund , K. S . 2002 . ‘Music application in the ESL classroom’ . Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Wyoming . Davis , G. M . 2017 . ‘ Songs in the young learner classroom: a critical review of evidence ’. ELT Journal 71 / 4 : 445 – 55 . Dӧrnyei , Z. and T. Taguchi . 2010 . Questionnaires in Second Language Research: Construction, Administration, and Processing . New York : Routledge . Edwards , J. C . 1997 . ‘Using music for second language purposes’ . Unpublished Master’s thesis, California State University . Engh , D . 2013 . ‘ Why use music in English language learning? A survey of the literature ’. English Language Teaching 6 / 2 : 113 – 27 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Eschrich , S. , Münte , T. F. , and E. O. Altenmüller . 2008 . ‘ Unforgettable film music: the role of emotion in episodic long-term memory for music ’. BMC Neuroscience 9 / 48 . Levitin , D . 2008 . This is Your Brain on Music: Understanding a Human Obsession . Kindle ed. London : Atlantic Books (retrieved from Amazon.com). Overy , K. and I. Molnar-Szakacs . 2009 . ‘ Being together in time: musical experience and the mirror neuron system ’. Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal 26 / 5 : 489 – 504 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Oxford , R. L. 1999 . ‘ Anxiety and the language learner: new insights ’ in J. Arnold (ed.). Affect in Language Learning . Cambridge : Cambridge University Press . Pérez Aldeguer , S. and E. N. Leganés Lavall . 2012 . ‘ La música como herramienta interdisciplinar: un análisis cuantitativo en el aula de lengua extranjera de primaria ’. Revista de Investigación en Educación 10 / 1 : 127 – 43 . Racette , A. and I. Peretz . 2007 . ‘ Learning lyrics: to sing or not to sing ?’. Memory & Cognition 35 / 2 : 242 – 53 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed Reeve , C. and J. Williamson . 1987 . ‘ Look what you’ve done to my song ’. Modern English Teacher 14 / 4 : 33 – 36 . Tegge , F . 2015 . ‘Investigating song-based language teaching and its effect on lexical learning’ . Unpublished PhD thesis, Victoria University of Wellington . Wallace , W . 1994 . ‘ Memory for music: effect of melody on recall of text ’. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 20 / 6 : 1471 – 85 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press; all rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png ELT Journal Oxford University Press

Pop songs in the classroom: time-filler or teaching tool?

ELT Journal , Volume Advance Article (3) – Apr 26, 2018

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Oxford University Press
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© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press; all rights reserved.
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0951-0893
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1477-4526
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10.1093/elt/ccx071
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Abstract

Abstract Teachers frequently recommend pop songs on websites and in experience-based articles to foster L2 acquisition. Such a positive stance contrasts with a scarcity of musical activities in published materials for adult learners and the small number of empirical studies investigating the use and usefulness of songs in L2 teaching. Consequently, pedagogical choices and their implementation depend mainly on the course instructor. This article reports on the findings of an international survey exploring teachers’ beliefs about and teaching practices involving songs in the classroom. The findings reveal that informants often use songs as part of a purposeful and diverse teaching unit and based on reasoning that frequently reflects findings in cognitive-psychological research. However, song use can be impeded by a lack of official materials and support from other stakeholders. Introduction ‘Oh, songs! … the dreaded Friday afternoon gap-fill everywhere!’—such was one response on a social media forum for language teachers when I mentioned that my research interest was the use of songs with adult learners. However, there is also much enthusiasm: an unceasing interest in the matter is exemplified by the continuing publication of pedagogical articles in support of song-based teaching. Despite such contrasting beliefs, there is still a shortage of empirical research investigating the use of music specifically in L2 teaching. Even when it comes to young learner classrooms, where the use of songs is often socially more acceptable, Davis (2017: 454) has observed ‘a long history of song use’ but no ‘correspondingly long history of their empirical study’. For adult learners, relatively few songs are to be found in published teaching materials (Pérez Aldeguer and Leganés Lavall 2012). Consequently, pedagogical reasoning, practical choices, and their implementation largely depend on instructors. Yet, Engh (2013: 119) highlights that we know little about what actually happens in classrooms, as there is ‘a dearth of current literature that discusses the extent to which teachers are using music and the manner in which it is being used in a practical context’. In response to this dearth of literature, this survey study investigated current teaching practices around songs by exploring language teachers’ attitudes towards and use of songs in adult L2 classrooms around the world. Do they use songs, and if yes, how and why? Is the ‘dreaded’ gap-fill really the only activity available for a song-based lesson? Do teachers use songs as serious teaching material or are songs, as Reeve and Williamson (1987: 33) suggest, a ‘carrot—a reward for tired teachers and students on Friday of a long week’? Music and learning The beneficial role of music and its importance to many is increasingly recognized. Music and experiencing music in social settings can motivate us, affect our mood, lower anxiety, and have positive (mental) health effects (Levitin 2008). Songs can affect the formation of memories and learning, including verbal learning. Cognitive-psychological research with native speakers frequently shows superior retention of songs compared to spoken texts (e.g. Wallace 1994). However, a few studies found no mnemonic benefit, arguing that the melody constitutes an additional memory burden (Racette and Peretz 2007). One reason for the mnemonic effect of songs (Engh 2013) is the multimodality of stimuli (music, rhythm, linguistic sound patterns, mental imagery, kinaesthetic experiences) and their repetition. This can result in more elaborate processing and the creation of diverse networks of mental connections (Wallace 1994; Levitin 2008). Musical engagement in groups can add social factors such as the synchronized and affective experience of listening to and singing along with others (Overy and Molnar-Szakacs 2009). In addition, emotions evoked by music and emotionally evocative lyrics can influence memorization and recall (Eschrich, Münte, and Altenmüller 2008). Teachers’ perspectives on songs Although there is some research on songs for young learners (Davis 2017), research on song use specifically in L2 teaching is limited, especially in realistic classroom settings and with a focus on adolescent or adult learners (see Tegge 2015). In addition, few studies have investigated the actual use of songs in language teaching from the perspective of teachers of either young or adult learners. These studies have predominantly examined general views of English instructors via questionnaires while leaving the practical implementation of song-based teaching largely unexplored. Bjorklund (2002) found that the most popular type of music among 30 ESL instructors at one US university were pop songs, followed by clapping activities and to a much lesser extent rhythm games and jazz chants. Edwards (1997) found that over two-thirds of her 33 informants—teachers at Californian public schools (grades one to five)—used music to teach English. Their aims were to teach vocabulary, reduce negative affect, and improve cultural awareness and appreciation. Pérez Aldeguer and Leganés Lavall (2012) took a greater interest in the beliefs and attitudes of teachers. Of 20 EFL teachers in a public school district in Spain, half reported being aware of pedagogical possibilities, and a majority was aware of the motivating effects of music. However, only one-third of respondents reported actually using music in all their classes. A similar number reported knowing a good selection of songs and rhymes in English. Methodology Given the limited insight into the actual use of songs in classrooms, this study investigated language instructors’ views on and teaching practices involving songs in predominantly adult L2 classrooms. It is part of a larger project investigating song-based teaching and its effect on lexical learning (Tegge 2015). Consequently, while investigating song use more broadly, it includes a particular focus on vocabulary. A questionnaire, informed by literature on survey design including Dӧrnyei and Taguchi (2010), explored the following questions: Do language teachers consider songs to be a useful teaching tool and do they use songs in the classroom? Why do they use songs in class? Are songs used to teach vocabulary? If yes, what characteristics make songs suitable for vocabulary acquisition? How do they use songs in the classroom and what problems do they encounter? If teachers do not use songs in the classroom, why not? The online questionnaire contained between 26 and 43 questions using skip-logic (i.e. if respondents, for example, responded ‘no’ to ‘do you use songs in the classroom?’, they consequently skipped all questions about their teaching practices involving songs). Longer responses provided in open-answer sections (prompted by ‘other, please explain/specify’) are presented in italics below. Informants A total of 568 informants initially agreed to participate but only 398 (70 per cent) completed the entire questionnaire. Each item was, thus, answered by gradually diminishing numbers of informants, and each item was analysed based on its individual response rate. The number of informants responding to different items also varied as a result of the skip-logic. Informants were invited to participate through professional and personal contacts and mailing lists of national and international teacher associations. This non-randomized and convenience-based sampling is likely to have impacted on the elicited data. In particular, the mode of selection may have predominantly attracted teachers who take a positive stance towards the use of songs. Overall, the informants taught 20 different languages but the vast majority (390, or 76 per cent) taught English. Other frequent languages were Japanese (32), German (28), French (23), and Spanish (15). As Table 1 shows, the majority of informants worked at tertiary institutions (university, tertiary college, polytechnic), followed by secondary schools, and public or private language schools. Table 1 The informants’ institution(s) (multiple selections possible) Type of institution N % Tertiary education 189 47.0 Secondary school 98 24.4 Language school 83 20.6 Continuing education 59 14.7 Self-employed 49 12.2 Primary school 38 9.5 Vocational training 12 3.0 Currently not teaching 11 2.7 Type of institution N % Tertiary education 189 47.0 Secondary school 98 24.4 Language school 83 20.6 Continuing education 59 14.7 Self-employed 49 12.2 Primary school 38 9.5 Vocational training 12 3.0 Currently not teaching 11 2.7 View Large Table 1 The informants’ institution(s) (multiple selections possible) Type of institution N % Tertiary education 189 47.0 Secondary school 98 24.4 Language school 83 20.6 Continuing education 59 14.7 Self-employed 49 12.2 Primary school 38 9.5 Vocational training 12 3.0 Currently not teaching 11 2.7 Type of institution N % Tertiary education 189 47.0 Secondary school 98 24.4 Language school 83 20.6 Continuing education 59 14.7 Self-employed 49 12.2 Primary school 38 9.5 Vocational training 12 3.0 Currently not teaching 11 2.7 View Large The informants were located in 41 countries, with the largest group (81) teaching in New Zealand (see Table 2). Table 2 The informants’ locations Country N % New Zealand 81 20.15 Japan 51 12.69 Canada 49 12.20 United Arab Emirates 29 7.21 Malaysia 28 6.97 USA 27 6.72 Germany 19 4.73 Australia 16 3.98 Spain 10 2.49 Saudi Arabia 10 2.49 South Korea 9 2.24 China 8 1.99 Italy 7 1.74 Uruguay 6 1.49 Oman; Taiwan; United Kingdom; Venezuela (each) 4 1.00 Belgium; Indonesia; Iran; Vietnam (each) 3 0.75 Algeria; Egypt; Greece; Jordan; Qatar (each) 2 0.50 Colombia; Comoros; Czech Republic; India; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Lebanon; Macedonia; Mexico; Poland; Sudan; Turkey; Ukraine; Yemen (each) 1 0.25 Country N % New Zealand 81 20.15 Japan 51 12.69 Canada 49 12.20 United Arab Emirates 29 7.21 Malaysia 28 6.97 USA 27 6.72 Germany 19 4.73 Australia 16 3.98 Spain 10 2.49 Saudi Arabia 10 2.49 South Korea 9 2.24 China 8 1.99 Italy 7 1.74 Uruguay 6 1.49 Oman; Taiwan; United Kingdom; Venezuela (each) 4 1.00 Belgium; Indonesia; Iran; Vietnam (each) 3 0.75 Algeria; Egypt; Greece; Jordan; Qatar (each) 2 0.50 Colombia; Comoros; Czech Republic; India; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Lebanon; Macedonia; Mexico; Poland; Sudan; Turkey; Ukraine; Yemen (each) 1 0.25 View Large Table 2 The informants’ locations Country N % New Zealand 81 20.15 Japan 51 12.69 Canada 49 12.20 United Arab Emirates 29 7.21 Malaysia 28 6.97 USA 27 6.72 Germany 19 4.73 Australia 16 3.98 Spain 10 2.49 Saudi Arabia 10 2.49 South Korea 9 2.24 China 8 1.99 Italy 7 1.74 Uruguay 6 1.49 Oman; Taiwan; United Kingdom; Venezuela (each) 4 1.00 Belgium; Indonesia; Iran; Vietnam (each) 3 0.75 Algeria; Egypt; Greece; Jordan; Qatar (each) 2 0.50 Colombia; Comoros; Czech Republic; India; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Lebanon; Macedonia; Mexico; Poland; Sudan; Turkey; Ukraine; Yemen (each) 1 0.25 Country N % New Zealand 81 20.15 Japan 51 12.69 Canada 49 12.20 United Arab Emirates 29 7.21 Malaysia 28 6.97 USA 27 6.72 Germany 19 4.73 Australia 16 3.98 Spain 10 2.49 Saudi Arabia 10 2.49 South Korea 9 2.24 China 8 1.99 Italy 7 1.74 Uruguay 6 1.49 Oman; Taiwan; United Kingdom; Venezuela (each) 4 1.00 Belgium; Indonesia; Iran; Vietnam (each) 3 0.75 Algeria; Egypt; Greece; Jordan; Qatar (each) 2 0.50 Colombia; Comoros; Czech Republic; India; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Lebanon; Macedonia; Mexico; Poland; Sudan; Turkey; Ukraine; Yemen (each) 1 0.25 View Large Results and discussion The findings revealed that many teachers display a positive attitude towards songs and actually use them as teaching material. A majority of informants (88 per cent) perceived of songs as ‘a useful tool in the language classroom to foster second language acquisition’ (see Table 3); and 82 per cent used them as teaching material in class. Table 3 Usefulness of songs for fostering language acquisition Response N % Strongly agree 204 39.9 Agree 243 47.6 Neither, nor 52 10.2 Disagree 9 1.8 Strongly disagree 3 0.6 Response N % Strongly agree 204 39.9 Agree 243 47.6 Neither, nor 52 10.2 Disagree 9 1.8 Strongly disagree 3 0.6 View Large Table 3 Usefulness of songs for fostering language acquisition Response N % Strongly agree 204 39.9 Agree 243 47.6 Neither, nor 52 10.2 Disagree 9 1.8 Strongly disagree 3 0.6 Response N % Strongly agree 204 39.9 Agree 243 47.6 Neither, nor 52 10.2 Disagree 9 1.8 Strongly disagree 3 0.6 View Large Rather than viewing songs as special treats without pedagogical purpose, many teachers reported utilizing them with clear meaning- and language-focused goals in mind and in the context of a directed and diverse teaching unit which included complementary activities. The typical teaching unit utilizing songs lasts longer than 15 minutes (see Table 4). Furthermore, a song is typically played two (32 per cent) or three (41 per cent) times during a lesson, including sing-along(s). Table 4 Class-time spent on a song and complementary activities Class time N % 5 min or less 20 6.1 5–15 min 120 36.6 15–30 min 117 35.7 30–50 min 58 17.7 over 50 min 13 4.0 Class time N % 5 min or less 20 6.1 5–15 min 120 36.6 15–30 min 117 35.7 30–50 min 58 17.7 over 50 min 13 4.0 View Large Table 4 Class-time spent on a song and complementary activities Class time N % 5 min or less 20 6.1 5–15 min 120 36.6 15–30 min 117 35.7 30–50 min 58 17.7 over 50 min 13 4.0 Class time N % 5 min or less 20 6.1 5–15 min 120 36.6 15–30 min 117 35.7 30–50 min 58 17.7 over 50 min 13 4.0 View Large The questionnaire also explored the range of activities around songs. As Table 5 shows, the most widely used activity among 334 informants was indeed the gap-fill activity, closely followed by discussion and sing-along. Comprehension questions and ordering activities (putting verses, lines, or words in the correct order) were used by fewer but still over or close to half of the informants, respectively. Open-ended answers indicate that the simple label ‘gap-fill activity’ covered various approaches, including letting students prepare, present, and mark gap-fills themselves. Similarly, discussions and writing activities were umbrella terms for various tasks: Table 5 Activities (prefabricated answers) Activity N % Cloze/gap-fill activity 249 74.6 Discussion 237 71.0 Sing-along 235 70.4 Focus or comprehension questions 187 56.0 Ordering activity 164 49.1 Writing activity 131 39.2 True/false statements 101 30.2 Dictation (full or partial text) 88 26.4 Activity N % Cloze/gap-fill activity 249 74.6 Discussion 237 71.0 Sing-along 235 70.4 Focus or comprehension questions 187 56.0 Ordering activity 164 49.1 Writing activity 131 39.2 True/false statements 101 30.2 Dictation (full or partial text) 88 26.4 View Large Table 5 Activities (prefabricated answers) Activity N % Cloze/gap-fill activity 249 74.6 Discussion 237 71.0 Sing-along 235 70.4 Focus or comprehension questions 187 56.0 Ordering activity 164 49.1 Writing activity 131 39.2 True/false statements 101 30.2 Dictation (full or partial text) 88 26.4 Activity N % Cloze/gap-fill activity 249 74.6 Discussion 237 71.0 Sing-along 235 70.4 Focus or comprehension questions 187 56.0 Ordering activity 164 49.1 Writing activity 131 39.2 True/false statements 101 30.2 Dictation (full or partial text) 88 26.4 View Large Students composing their own lyrics. Paraphrase [for poetry], as a lot of the words are rather poetic. I have them research the artist, translate the lyrics, talk about why they like the song. They give mini presentations and learn from each other, get acquainted with lots of artists they may want to keep listening to on their own. Responses revealed that a sing-along can also take different forms, including rhythmic read-along and lip-syncing: Lip-syncing competition: Groups of students selected songs, memorized the lyrics, created costumes, dance moves and performed in front of their peers. In the open-ended section (see Table 6), teachers added further activities, based on different pedagogical arguments. Table 6 Activities used with songs—open-ended answers (cut-off point: 5) Activity N Vocabulary search and analysis (including highlighting useful words, bingo, word snatch) 14 Arts and creativity activities (including role play, writing your own lyrics, drawing a CD cover or depictions of the song content, choreographing a dance or video clip) 14 Activities to promote movement (including TPR, pantomime, dancing) 14 Listening activities (including listening for gist or for specific information, lyrics correction) 13 Pronunciation and prosody (including analysis, drilling, using phonetic script) 12 Activities to promote reading, text- and genre-analysis, and interpretation of poetic texts 10 Activities that engage students as the teacher and material designer (including choosing songs, creating and marking teaching materials) 6 Activity N Vocabulary search and analysis (including highlighting useful words, bingo, word snatch) 14 Arts and creativity activities (including role play, writing your own lyrics, drawing a CD cover or depictions of the song content, choreographing a dance or video clip) 14 Activities to promote movement (including TPR, pantomime, dancing) 14 Listening activities (including listening for gist or for specific information, lyrics correction) 13 Pronunciation and prosody (including analysis, drilling, using phonetic script) 12 Activities to promote reading, text- and genre-analysis, and interpretation of poetic texts 10 Activities that engage students as the teacher and material designer (including choosing songs, creating and marking teaching materials) 6 View Large Table 6 Activities used with songs—open-ended answers (cut-off point: 5) Activity N Vocabulary search and analysis (including highlighting useful words, bingo, word snatch) 14 Arts and creativity activities (including role play, writing your own lyrics, drawing a CD cover or depictions of the song content, choreographing a dance or video clip) 14 Activities to promote movement (including TPR, pantomime, dancing) 14 Listening activities (including listening for gist or for specific information, lyrics correction) 13 Pronunciation and prosody (including analysis, drilling, using phonetic script) 12 Activities to promote reading, text- and genre-analysis, and interpretation of poetic texts 10 Activities that engage students as the teacher and material designer (including choosing songs, creating and marking teaching materials) 6 Activity N Vocabulary search and analysis (including highlighting useful words, bingo, word snatch) 14 Arts and creativity activities (including role play, writing your own lyrics, drawing a CD cover or depictions of the song content, choreographing a dance or video clip) 14 Activities to promote movement (including TPR, pantomime, dancing) 14 Listening activities (including listening for gist or for specific information, lyrics correction) 13 Pronunciation and prosody (including analysis, drilling, using phonetic script) 12 Activities to promote reading, text- and genre-analysis, and interpretation of poetic texts 10 Activities that engage students as the teacher and material designer (including choosing songs, creating and marking teaching materials) 6 View Large Informants described various activities engaging creative skills, e.g. drawing or producing video clips. A small number stressed that a relevant feature of song-based activities involved ‘physical activity’, as students ‘enjoy the movement’ and songs ‘affect the body’. Some used songs to promote greater student autonomy: I did involve my students to get the songs and even prepare the cloze texts and comprehension questions. … They also conducted the lessons and marked the tasks. Purposes of song-use In total, 374 song-users reported on their teaching goals (see Table 7). In summary, musical activities were used to achieve the following goals: Table 7 Purposes (prefabricated answers) Response N % To motivate students with an enjoyable activity 343 91.7 To practise listening comprehension 320 85.6 To create a relaxing atmosphere 278 74.3 To teach authentic language and culture 275 73.5 To introduce new vocabulary 259 69.3 To accommodate different learning styles, e.g. auditive, kinaesthetic, and musical learning styles 257 68.7 To practise familiar vocabulary 231 61.8 To teach multi-word units, i.e. idioms and phrasal language 212 56.7 To teach pronunciation and prosody (including language rhythm) 210 56.1 To introduce new or practise familiar grammatical items 194 51.9 To practise fluency in speaking, i.e. producing spoken language 188 50.3 To give students the opportunity to produce language without feeling observed 171 45.7 As a prompt for spoken interaction, e.g. a class or pair discussion 170 45.5 As a prompt for a writing assignment, e.g. an essay, poem, or letter 134 35.8 Response N % To motivate students with an enjoyable activity 343 91.7 To practise listening comprehension 320 85.6 To create a relaxing atmosphere 278 74.3 To teach authentic language and culture 275 73.5 To introduce new vocabulary 259 69.3 To accommodate different learning styles, e.g. auditive, kinaesthetic, and musical learning styles 257 68.7 To practise familiar vocabulary 231 61.8 To teach multi-word units, i.e. idioms and phrasal language 212 56.7 To teach pronunciation and prosody (including language rhythm) 210 56.1 To introduce new or practise familiar grammatical items 194 51.9 To practise fluency in speaking, i.e. producing spoken language 188 50.3 To give students the opportunity to produce language without feeling observed 171 45.7 As a prompt for spoken interaction, e.g. a class or pair discussion 170 45.5 As a prompt for a writing assignment, e.g. an essay, poem, or letter 134 35.8 View Large Table 7 Purposes (prefabricated answers) Response N % To motivate students with an enjoyable activity 343 91.7 To practise listening comprehension 320 85.6 To create a relaxing atmosphere 278 74.3 To teach authentic language and culture 275 73.5 To introduce new vocabulary 259 69.3 To accommodate different learning styles, e.g. auditive, kinaesthetic, and musical learning styles 257 68.7 To practise familiar vocabulary 231 61.8 To teach multi-word units, i.e. idioms and phrasal language 212 56.7 To teach pronunciation and prosody (including language rhythm) 210 56.1 To introduce new or practise familiar grammatical items 194 51.9 To practise fluency in speaking, i.e. producing spoken language 188 50.3 To give students the opportunity to produce language without feeling observed 171 45.7 As a prompt for spoken interaction, e.g. a class or pair discussion 170 45.5 As a prompt for a writing assignment, e.g. an essay, poem, or letter 134 35.8 Response N % To motivate students with an enjoyable activity 343 91.7 To practise listening comprehension 320 85.6 To create a relaxing atmosphere 278 74.3 To teach authentic language and culture 275 73.5 To introduce new vocabulary 259 69.3 To accommodate different learning styles, e.g. auditive, kinaesthetic, and musical learning styles 257 68.7 To practise familiar vocabulary 231 61.8 To teach multi-word units, i.e. idioms and phrasal language 212 56.7 To teach pronunciation and prosody (including language rhythm) 210 56.1 To introduce new or practise familiar grammatical items 194 51.9 To practise fluency in speaking, i.e. producing spoken language 188 50.3 To give students the opportunity to produce language without feeling observed 171 45.7 As a prompt for spoken interaction, e.g. a class or pair discussion 170 45.5 As a prompt for a writing assignment, e.g. an essay, poem, or letter 134 35.8 View Large to create a positive and motivating learning situation; to accommodate individual learners’ needs; to provide authentic language and culture; to teach clearly defined language skills and linguistic knowledge. The answers given indicate that respondents frequently used music to foster positive affect. Over 90 per cent reported using songs to motivate students with an enjoyable activity; 74 per cent suggested they used songs to create a relaxing atmosphere. In open-ended answers, teachers explained that they thought a relaxed atmosphere aided learning, creativity, and interaction. These findings suggest that songs are indeed widely used as a ‘carrot’, if by ‘carrot’ we mean a way to positively influence students’ motivation and enjoyment of language learning. This aligns with research on the importance of motivation and the negative impact of language learning anxiety. Oxford (1999: 59), for example, highlights that ‘language anxiety ranks high among factors influencing language learning’, and recommends that teachers ‘encourage students to relax through music, laughter or games’ (ibid. 67). Furthermore, songs were utilized to respond to students’ needs and personalities. Respondents used songs to accommodate different learning styles and to provide opportunities for learners to produce language without feeling observed during choral singing. Finally, respondents used songs to teach clearly defined language skills and linguistic knowledge. A majority of respondents (86 per cent) used songs to teach listening comprehension. Another common goal was the teaching of authentic language and culture, as songs offered ‘a great chance for students to be away from bookish English’. Many used songs to teach vocabulary (69 per cent) and multi-word units such as idioms and phrasal language (57 per cent). Teaching grammar was a purpose of fewer but still more than half of informants. Pronunciation/prosody was the purpose of 56 per cent of respondents. As one informant commented, ‘prosodic features are not easily noticed. Using songs … has helped raise … awareness to the poetic, rhythmic, metric and intonation patterns.’ A focus on vocabulary The survey homed in on lexical learning, asking what characteristics made songs suitable for vocabulary acquisition. Table 8 displays the responses of 405 informants. Table 8 Aspects rendering songs suitable for vocabulary learning (prefabricated answers) Response N % The fact that one can listen to a song several times without getting bored 287 70.9 The fact that songs usually contain authentic language 266 65.7 The rhythm 244 60.3 The possibility to sing along 243 60.0 The fact that one can sing a song several times without getting bored 222 54.8 The rhyme 217 53.6 The fact that learners are likely to encounter a song we used in class outside of class 206 50.9 The melody 198 48.9 Response N % The fact that one can listen to a song several times without getting bored 287 70.9 The fact that songs usually contain authentic language 266 65.7 The rhythm 244 60.3 The possibility to sing along 243 60.0 The fact that one can sing a song several times without getting bored 222 54.8 The rhyme 217 53.6 The fact that learners are likely to encounter a song we used in class outside of class 206 50.9 The melody 198 48.9 View Large Table 8 Aspects rendering songs suitable for vocabulary learning (prefabricated answers) Response N % The fact that one can listen to a song several times without getting bored 287 70.9 The fact that songs usually contain authentic language 266 65.7 The rhythm 244 60.3 The possibility to sing along 243 60.0 The fact that one can sing a song several times without getting bored 222 54.8 The rhyme 217 53.6 The fact that learners are likely to encounter a song we used in class outside of class 206 50.9 The melody 198 48.9 Response N % The fact that one can listen to a song several times without getting bored 287 70.9 The fact that songs usually contain authentic language 266 65.7 The rhythm 244 60.3 The possibility to sing along 243 60.0 The fact that one can sing a song several times without getting bored 222 54.8 The rhyme 217 53.6 The fact that learners are likely to encounter a song we used in class outside of class 206 50.9 The melody 198 48.9 View Large Open-ended answers produced five additional factors, presented in Table 9. Table 9 Aspects rendering songs suitable for vocabulary learning (open answers) Response N Songs have a mnemonic effect 13 Songs are enjoyable and provide a break from the usual routine 10 Songs contain relevant themes and topics from the target culture (and the related vocabulary) 8 The language in songs is repetitive (words, phrases, chorus) 5 Songs meet existing learner interests 5 Response N Songs have a mnemonic effect 13 Songs are enjoyable and provide a break from the usual routine 10 Songs contain relevant themes and topics from the target culture (and the related vocabulary) 8 The language in songs is repetitive (words, phrases, chorus) 5 Songs meet existing learner interests 5 View Large Table 9 Aspects rendering songs suitable for vocabulary learning (open answers) Response N Songs have a mnemonic effect 13 Songs are enjoyable and provide a break from the usual routine 10 Songs contain relevant themes and topics from the target culture (and the related vocabulary) 8 The language in songs is repetitive (words, phrases, chorus) 5 Songs meet existing learner interests 5 Response N Songs have a mnemonic effect 13 Songs are enjoyable and provide a break from the usual routine 10 Songs contain relevant themes and topics from the target culture (and the related vocabulary) 8 The language in songs is repetitive (words, phrases, chorus) 5 Songs meet existing learner interests 5 View Large Repetition was considered to be of particular importance, as songs can be listened to and sung several times without becoming boring. As reported above, informants capitalize on this repeatability by playing a song two to three times. One respondent elaborated: Students are more likely to sing to themselves for pleasure than repeat lists of vocab. In addition, half of the respondents found it advantageous that their students were likely to encounter the songs outside the classroom, reinforcing learning. In open answers, a few informants highlighted the frequent repetition of words within the lyrics. One interesting theme arose from the open-ended answers: 13 informants noted that songs have a particular mnemonic effect, i.e. they get ‘stuck in your head’. I think there is a different type of memory involved when learning to sing. I believe the combination of melody and rhythm helps retention, making correct language structures available to the learners for future analysis. One respondent attributed this mnemonic effect to the emotions that songs can evoke: Songs can create strong responses in the students. ... Students are more likely to remember something they have had an emotional response to. Ten respondents elaborated that songs aided vocabulary learning because they were enjoyable and provided a break from the usual routine. Informants explained that songs allowed students to ‘stay focused for longer periods of time’, and sometimes students did not even ‘realize they [were] learning new words’. Problems when using songs The survey also explored problems arising from song use (see Table 10). The most frequently reported problem among 328 informants was finding suitable songs. Another common challenge was the large investment in time required to prepare and implement song-based lessons. Other widely reported problems related to negative learner reactions: some students did not like to sing or did not consider songs to be adequate learning material. Table 10 Problems (prefabricated answers) Response N % I cannot find any suitable songs 94 28.7 The learners do not like to sing 89 27.1 The noise bothers other classes/teachers 78 23.8 Too time-consuming 68 20.7 The learners do not consider songs to be adequate for language learning in the classroom 54 16.5 The use of songs conflicts with the curriculum 45 13.7 The equipment is unreliable 43 13.1 We do not have the appropriate equipment 38 11.6 Problems with learner discipline 35 10.7 Response N % I cannot find any suitable songs 94 28.7 The learners do not like to sing 89 27.1 The noise bothers other classes/teachers 78 23.8 Too time-consuming 68 20.7 The learners do not consider songs to be adequate for language learning in the classroom 54 16.5 The use of songs conflicts with the curriculum 45 13.7 The equipment is unreliable 43 13.1 We do not have the appropriate equipment 38 11.6 Problems with learner discipline 35 10.7 View Large Table 10 Problems (prefabricated answers) Response N % I cannot find any suitable songs 94 28.7 The learners do not like to sing 89 27.1 The noise bothers other classes/teachers 78 23.8 Too time-consuming 68 20.7 The learners do not consider songs to be adequate for language learning in the classroom 54 16.5 The use of songs conflicts with the curriculum 45 13.7 The equipment is unreliable 43 13.1 We do not have the appropriate equipment 38 11.6 Problems with learner discipline 35 10.7 Response N % I cannot find any suitable songs 94 28.7 The learners do not like to sing 89 27.1 The noise bothers other classes/teachers 78 23.8 Too time-consuming 68 20.7 The learners do not consider songs to be adequate for language learning in the classroom 54 16.5 The use of songs conflicts with the curriculum 45 13.7 The equipment is unreliable 43 13.1 We do not have the appropriate equipment 38 11.6 Problems with learner discipline 35 10.7 View Large Some informants highlighted a lack of (reliable) equipment or raised the issue that the noise bothered other classes. A range of additional difficulties were raised in the open-answer section (see Table 11). Table 11 Problems (open answers; cut-off: 5) Response category N I have experienced problems because the society in my country views songs critically for cultural or political reasons 11 I have experienced problems due to taste differences between the teacher and the students or among students 11 I have experienced problems because the school administration, other teachers, or parents view the use of songs in class critically 6 Response category N I have experienced problems because the society in my country views songs critically for cultural or political reasons 11 I have experienced problems due to taste differences between the teacher and the students or among students 11 I have experienced problems because the school administration, other teachers, or parents view the use of songs in class critically 6 View Large Table 11 Problems (open answers; cut-off: 5) Response category N I have experienced problems because the society in my country views songs critically for cultural or political reasons 11 I have experienced problems due to taste differences between the teacher and the students or among students 11 I have experienced problems because the school administration, other teachers, or parents view the use of songs in class critically 6 Response category N I have experienced problems because the society in my country views songs critically for cultural or political reasons 11 I have experienced problems due to taste differences between the teacher and the students or among students 11 I have experienced problems because the school administration, other teachers, or parents view the use of songs in class critically 6 View Large For some teachers, cultural or political reasons made the use of songs problematic. Some taught in societies where music is considered inappropriate in general or where songs in a foreign—or even the native—language are considered a cultural/political threat. This could result in negative reactions from superiors, colleagues, parents, or learners. Interestingly, differences in taste can also be important. A small number of informants highlighted a ‘generational gap’ or the fear of being ‘out of sync with [the] students’. Reasons for not using songs Informants who refrained from using songs entirely often did so due to external factors despite a positive attitude towards music in the classroom. While 85 informants reported not using songs, only ten of them agreed that songs were not useful for language learning. Two added that they considered songs to be inappropriate when teaching adults. As Table 12 shows, reasons for not using songs frequently overlap with the problems experienced by song-users. Table 12 Why don’t you use songs? Response (PF = prefabricated answer; OA = open answer) N (85) % I can’t fit songs in with the official curriculum (PF) 32 38.6 I can’t find any suitable songs (PF) 21 25.3 Using songs means spending too much time on too little learning outcome (PF) 21 25.3 I tried using songs but my students did not respond well (includes: I asked and they said no) (PF) 17 20.5 In my teaching context, using songs is considered inappropriate for cultural and/or religious and/or political reasons (OA) 16 19.3 I don’t have the necessary technical equipment (PF) 13 15.7 I don’t think songs are useful for language learning in the classroom (PF) 10 12.0 Response (PF = prefabricated answer; OA = open answer) N (85) % I can’t fit songs in with the official curriculum (PF) 32 38.6 I can’t find any suitable songs (PF) 21 25.3 Using songs means spending too much time on too little learning outcome (PF) 21 25.3 I tried using songs but my students did not respond well (includes: I asked and they said no) (PF) 17 20.5 In my teaching context, using songs is considered inappropriate for cultural and/or religious and/or political reasons (OA) 16 19.3 I don’t have the necessary technical equipment (PF) 13 15.7 I don’t think songs are useful for language learning in the classroom (PF) 10 12.0 View Large Table 12 Why don’t you use songs? Response (PF = prefabricated answer; OA = open answer) N (85) % I can’t fit songs in with the official curriculum (PF) 32 38.6 I can’t find any suitable songs (PF) 21 25.3 Using songs means spending too much time on too little learning outcome (PF) 21 25.3 I tried using songs but my students did not respond well (includes: I asked and they said no) (PF) 17 20.5 In my teaching context, using songs is considered inappropriate for cultural and/or religious and/or political reasons (OA) 16 19.3 I don’t have the necessary technical equipment (PF) 13 15.7 I don’t think songs are useful for language learning in the classroom (PF) 10 12.0 Response (PF = prefabricated answer; OA = open answer) N (85) % I can’t fit songs in with the official curriculum (PF) 32 38.6 I can’t find any suitable songs (PF) 21 25.3 Using songs means spending too much time on too little learning outcome (PF) 21 25.3 I tried using songs but my students did not respond well (includes: I asked and they said no) (PF) 17 20.5 In my teaching context, using songs is considered inappropriate for cultural and/or religious and/or political reasons (OA) 16 19.3 I don’t have the necessary technical equipment (PF) 13 15.7 I don’t think songs are useful for language learning in the classroom (PF) 10 12.0 View Large Thirty-two teachers reported not being able to fit songs in with the official curriculum, while 21 could not find suitable songs. In addition, 21 reported that the use of songs involved spending too much time on too little learning outcome. Finally, four teachers commented in the open-ended section that they did not have enough time to prepare a song-based unit. Several reasons tend to co-occur: I don’t have any lessons prepared using songs. It seems like a lot of work to find the song (where?), prepare a recording that can be played in class (equipment?) and to create learning activities based on the song. These answers accord with Edwards (1997) and Pérez Aldeguer and Leganés Lavall (2012), who observed that the scarcity of official musical teaching material hampers teachers’ implementation of musical teaching. It can be speculated that teachers would be more inclined to use songs if they had better access to ready-made teaching materials as part of the official curriculum, including suitable songs and activities with clearly defined teaching goals and procedures. This would reduce the time and effort spent on preparing and conducting the lesson, and it might also reduce the reported resistance of some stakeholders, such as administrative staff, students, parents, and other teachers. In open-ended answers, 16 informants said that songs were considered inappropriate in their teaching context for political or cultural reasons: In [this country], many students feel that song is … bad. We live in a country … where we are closely monitored for whatever we do or say in our classes. Everything has to be in line with the dominant culture; even our own songs are prohibited for religious reasons. We are accused of treason … if we are caught teaching songs. Such contextual factors need to be kept in mind when making recommendations or producing materials. Additionally, some teachers and/or students feel embarrassed when dealing with songs: ‘I’m at least the age of my students’ parents, I feel that they would be embarrassed!’ Seventeen informants reported that students did not respond well to a song-based teaching unit. In open-ended answers, six reported that they had not tried songs because they anticipated negative reactions to their choice of music or their singing. Conclusion This survey study revealed that many teachers have a positive view of songs as teaching tools and make use of them in class in creative and purposeful ways. Their reasoning is often guided by experience and intuition regarding the physical, psychological, and mnemonic effects of songs. Such reasoning often reflects quite accurately research findings in cognitive psychology. The survey also showed factors that lead teachers to refrain from using songs. The findings indicate a perceived scarcity of prepared materials, meaning that the preparation of song-based lessons requires a comparatively large investment of time and effort. In addition, some teachers report negative repercussions from other stakeholders. In particular, the cultural context needs to be considered as songs and music are considered inappropriate in some parts of the world. Even in ‘music-friendly’ societies the cultural background of international, refugee, and migrant students should be considered when implementing song-based lessons. Presupposing an interest in using songs more widely in language teaching, there is a need for more preselected songs and prefabricated materials in accordance with curricula, including activities beyond the ‘dreaded’ gap-fill. Additionally, teachers would benefit from clearer communication of relevant research findings as well as more extensive and, above all, empirical research on the use and usefulness of songs in L2 teaching. This study responds to the research gap by providing insight into current perspectives and practices of teachers. However, this article cannot address the dearth of hands-on materials. For that purpose, two sources should be mentioned: the website busyteacher.org and New Ways of Teaching with Music (Arnold and Herrick 2017) offer a large repository of song-based activities. The final word on the potential power of songs is left to a survey respondent: ‘As a 14-year-old English learner, my teacher played us a Beatles’ song. This inspired me so much, that I decided then and there to become an English teacher.’ Dr Friederike Tegge is a lecturer in linguistics and applied linguistics at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand. Formerly, she taught German and English in Germany, the USA, and New Zealand. Her research interests include songs in language learning, vocabulary, and academic English. References Arnold , J. L. and E. Herrick . 2017 . New Ways in Teaching with Music . Alexandria, VA : TESOL . Bjorklund , K. S . 2002 . ‘Music application in the ESL classroom’ . Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Wyoming . Davis , G. M . 2017 . ‘ Songs in the young learner classroom: a critical review of evidence ’. ELT Journal 71 / 4 : 445 – 55 . Dӧrnyei , Z. and T. Taguchi . 2010 . Questionnaires in Second Language Research: Construction, Administration, and Processing . New York : Routledge . Edwards , J. C . 1997 . ‘Using music for second language purposes’ . Unpublished Master’s thesis, California State University . Engh , D . 2013 . ‘ Why use music in English language learning? A survey of the literature ’. English Language Teaching 6 / 2 : 113 – 27 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Eschrich , S. , Münte , T. F. , and E. O. Altenmüller . 2008 . ‘ Unforgettable film music: the role of emotion in episodic long-term memory for music ’. BMC Neuroscience 9 / 48 . Levitin , D . 2008 . This is Your Brain on Music: Understanding a Human Obsession . Kindle ed. London : Atlantic Books (retrieved from Amazon.com). Overy , K. and I. Molnar-Szakacs . 2009 . ‘ Being together in time: musical experience and the mirror neuron system ’. Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal 26 / 5 : 489 – 504 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Oxford , R. L. 1999 . ‘ Anxiety and the language learner: new insights ’ in J. Arnold (ed.). Affect in Language Learning . Cambridge : Cambridge University Press . Pérez Aldeguer , S. and E. N. Leganés Lavall . 2012 . ‘ La música como herramienta interdisciplinar: un análisis cuantitativo en el aula de lengua extranjera de primaria ’. Revista de Investigación en Educación 10 / 1 : 127 – 43 . Racette , A. and I. Peretz . 2007 . ‘ Learning lyrics: to sing or not to sing ?’. Memory & Cognition 35 / 2 : 242 – 53 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed Reeve , C. and J. Williamson . 1987 . ‘ Look what you’ve done to my song ’. Modern English Teacher 14 / 4 : 33 – 36 . Tegge , F . 2015 . ‘Investigating song-based language teaching and its effect on lexical learning’ . Unpublished PhD thesis, Victoria University of Wellington . Wallace , W . 1994 . ‘ Memory for music: effect of melody on recall of text ’. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 20 / 6 : 1471 – 85 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press; all rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/open_access/funder_policies/chorus/standard_publication_model)

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Published: Apr 26, 2018

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