Friday, 12 December 2014

Using Songs to Enrich Learning and Engage Students

Learning a second language like French is an area of great vulnerability for some students. Trying to keep track of nouns, verbs, adjectives and other elements of a sentence or idea can be overwhelming, even though those concepts are essential. The risk is that a student can feel lost in the details and lose some of their motivation to persevere.

To prevent this potential roadblock, students in Grade 7 and 8 French are enriching their learning and creating a personal connection to the language and culture through song. Songs are not just learning tools for small children; on the contrary, since music plays a major role in the teenage experience, connecting curriculum to music increases student engagement, as well.

Here are some reasons why songs are effective enrichment tools.

Learning songs builds listening skills

When a new song is introduced, students are asked to listen and try to imitate the pronunciation without seeing lyrics. In order to do so, they need to actively listen and try to distinguish the sounds and words they are hearing. This builds practical skills, because real-life encounters with the French language rarely come with a written script.

Learning songs exposes students to culture

Growing up in Canada, almost every child is exposed to a common repertoire of songs that are used and referred to for the rest of their lives. Think of songs like "Mary Had a Little Lamb," "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." When students are learning French, they are rarely equipped with this background knowledge of culturally common songs. By teaching them simple children's songs, they are learning what it is like to grow up in that culture. It also equips them to interact with French-speaking children should they have the opportunity. Nothing bridges a language gap like being able to sing a song together. Some songs for children that students have learned so far include "L'arbre est dans ses feuilles, "Dansons la capucine" (Grade 7) and "Je m'en vais chasser le lion" (Grade 8)

Students remember songs

Long after a teacher's lessons, handouts and drills are forgotten, the songs they use still stick in students' minds. Songs don't teach grammar explicitly, but they are models of correct sentences and vocabulary in a context that the students are much more likely to remember.

Alyssa LaRoque
French Teacher

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