8 comments on “Music in the ELT classroom: harmony or discord?

  1. Music-based activity…hmmm sounds interesting. However, not all of my students would like the idea in my classroom. I sure want to try it anyways, especially if I’m doing a writing activity and the music would be one of the inspirational healing soft music.

  2. I’m absolutely obsessed with music, and I’ve had those epiphany moments, so I’m more than happy to answer your questions!

    1) I’m indifferent to this music, I’m afraid. I don’t hate it, it’s just that I have never listened to classical music, so I don’t have anything to say about it. I would compare it to watching a film in a language I don’t speak without subtitles. Sure, I know what’s going on, but I can’t offer up a well rounded appraisal because I don’t really have a deep understanding of it.

    2) As I said, I’m obsessed with music, but nowadays I don’t listen to as much as I used to. I think I’m just more selective, not less passionate. There are a few types of music I can work to, as I always feel that music that can be listened to in the background is not really worth listening to at all.

    3) I’ve used the odd song in the classroom, but maybe surprisingly I don’t do it that often. I’m not sure why.

    4) There’s something about that idea that bothers me. I think it’s because I’m so passionate about music and my taste is not particularly mainstream, so the chances are that the music the teacher chooses is probably not to my taste and would bother me. If I was the teacher, I would think that the students probably wouldn’t enjoy what I would find appropriate. But I guess I’m not typical in that respect!

    5) I can’t think of one! Sorry (but I remember the worst. I was a beginner student. The teacher played a terrible song and I understood absolutely nothing, drove me crazy!)

  3. Interesting questions. Music is an interesting problem in Oman/The Gulf especially as some people ban it from the classroom on religious grounds and you always have to be careful not to offend.

    1 Do you love, like, feel indifferent to or hate this music? I like classical music but it has a time and place for me. I love it live in concert or when I am drawing. Now when I’m on my first cup of tea of the day, I prefer silence which leads me to …

    2 I always have music in the car, I love seeing live music of most genres, but often have silence at home. If I am struggling with a drawing then music can help soothe me and motivates to keep working (Einaudi for example).

    3 Rarely nowadays. I’m too worried to offen someone, do not have time to check all the lyrics of a song I think may be useful (again so not to offend)… so I tend to avoid it.

    4 Why?

    5 hmmmmm

  4. In our ‘library’ we have a collection of classical cd’s – you know, like a readers digest kind of thing – maybe 12 pieces from a composer on a single cd, and maybe 40 cds total.
    I have gotten into the habit of taking 4 cds to class, and getting the students to pick one. Sometimes they know the composer, sometimes they pick them for different reasons – like today: “the one who looks like a nerd”.
    It’s nice to have music playing, a genuine conversation starter, and frequently someone looks up and says “I know this!”.

  5. Music is a personal thing. One man’s masterpiece is another man’s torture, especially in the classroom.

    On the whole, I find that students, especially adults, find it cringeworthy as well as a bit of a waste of time. “If I want to listen to music and maybe go through the lyrics, I can do it at home”, is a complaint I heard a few times (obviously I’m paraphrasing 🙂 ).
    And I agree, I must add.

    Like James Taylor commented above, I love music, but I don’t think it should be banalised as classroom material. Especially when the typical EFL type “forces”, so to speak, the students to “clap your hands and say yeah” — you know what I mean, that grating artificial “kumbaya”-style feelgood that has earned us Brits a reputation abroad as purveyor of “fake smiles” and similar…

  6. Dear Jeremy:
    I’ve just read your entry about music and before I continue, I, as you am a music lover. I’m surprised though that you did not mention what a fantastic tool music is for language acquisition. For eight years I was the 5th grade Spanish-English Dual Language Teacher/ Spanish-English Bilingual Teacher for Cook County School District 130 and one of my tools for language acquisition was music. In English I taught mainly with the songs of The Beatles and for Spanish with the songs and lyrics by the Mexican composer Cri-Cri. In any case, the majority of the children loved it because at this age children love to sing, of course at the beginning there was always some students who thought it was “childless” as some of them denoted, but by the end of the week all the kids were singing.
    Songs are a powerful medium to teach language acquisition because even the shy student can participate even if only by listening. Not only are the verbal, listening, and oral domains are enhanced but in addition, the students can have FUN which is fundamental for the learning process.

  7. Dar Jeremy,

    I think music is universal. I always sing and play my guitar (I play poorly) with my students to engage their interest of learning. Moreover, I also composed some simple songs as tools for teaching. It’s amazing..

  8. Parts of the piece are nice – smoothe, harmonious and beautiful. But other parts are a bit haphazard and discordant and I think I would find that distracting if I was trying to concentrate on something.

    I like music in general, but I would only be able to work to certain types of music, and it would depend on the task. I find music helpful if I am trying to do something creative or am looking for inspiration, or if I need to relax, for example conversational type tasks where the focus is on fluency rather than accuracy.

    I don’t usually play music in the classroom, mainly because I haven’t come across a piece of music that it would occur to me to use. But I am definitely open to the idea – probably to use as background to some task, then leading onto a discussion about whether the learners liked the music and whether or not they found it helpful (or distracting) in completing the task. I would do this before moving onto feedback of the task itself.

    I don’t think the teacher should stop the music straight after the task; I think he/she should play it through to the end, then have a short discussion about the music before moving onto task feedback. This would be conducive to helping the sutdents relax by putting less emphasis on whether or not they have ‘passed’ the task in question.

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