RE: (teach) "Joy to the World" - Music as a Medium for EFL Instruction
- Mike, your lesson planning sounds great. I am not an expert on this but
I had just a few thoughts on the choice of song and other things which
may or not be helpful to you.
1. Bear in mind that for our students this song rates more as ancient
"classical" music than popular music. Their tastes are not there. Of
course, you don't have to use popular music if the song interests the
students. Are you aware of what students like today? I did get away with
using some Aerosmith once. It was the Spiderman theme song (lyrics
below), the movie was just out, and I had the old 1960s TV version and a
recent Aerosmith version for the movie and we compared the music and
lyrics. The students felt the 1960's version was dorky, which I
expected, but thought the new version really rocked, it was difficult
for them to sit still when listening to it. Using current popular songs
has a lot of advantages. One, they already like them. Two, they are
probably already curious as to what the song means. Three, it is likely
that in the next days and weeks they will hear the song repeatedly.
Every time they hear the song they will automatically review the words.
On this score my choice of Spiderman perhaps wasn't the best. I don't
think it was playing on the radio. Perhaps I could have given it to them
2. "But I helped him a-drink his wine, And he always had some mighty
fine wine."..."And make sweet love to you." The message could be
construed as extolling the virtues of lovemaking and wine drinking.
Picture your dean or director and the mother of one of the students with
a copy of the lyrics in her hand coming to talk to you. Additionally, it
is likely the students are not going to need language to discuss
lovemaking and wine drinking with other English speakers. Thus, it is
likely they will forget this English before they ever might need it.
This is true for learning vocabulary like: Jeremiah, bullfrog, walrus,
camel, wombat, etc. There is some effort involved by the teacher and the
student in teaching and learning these words. If the student does not
need the word to explain something to others he will not retain it in
his "active vocabulary". If he doesn't hear it or read it after awhile
he will lose it from his "latent vocabulary" and totally forget it. If
this happens then the educational effort will be lost. I have an article
about latent and active vocabulary on my website:
And something about the importance of choosing what to teach our
students and choosing what to not teach our students:
3. Possibly a song that had a little more story to it or more vocabulary
would give you a little more teaching material. Ballads are a real story
telling vehicle but, again, it has to be appealing to the students.
4. Keep your antenna up for lack of interest signals from the students
(unrolling sleeping bags on the floor, shooting hoops with wads of paper
and the wastebasket, etc.) Sometimes we are intensely interested in
subjects that are thoroughly uninteresting to our students. If that
happens, wrap it up quickly and move on to something else.
5. As you continue to teach you will begin to internalize the aspects of
the lesson plan and will probably not always write them out. I seldom
write out my plans although I really should at least make a few notes.
Frequently I finish a lesson and realize there was some aspect of the
material that I wanted to point out or teach from but had forgotten.
My students were from an expensive private middle school. This sort of
song may not be interesting to adults or other types of students.
I put the words I taught the students in brackets . Words that are in
upper-case I would hope they would retain and become part of their
active vocabulary. Words that are in brackets but lower-case are words
that they would likely not retain.
I always try NOT to pre-teach vocabulary. Students are going to get
*something* out of the song without pre-teaching and I think it's good
for them to make the effort. Getting them to guess what the song was
about and what was said in the song sets up a condition that causes the
student to commit to an interpretation of the song. After listening to
the song once they can discuss their guess with their partner. This
enforces their commitment. When that happens they have an interest in
what the song actually says to see how correct they might be. I feel
pre-teaching takes a lot of the mystery and curiosity out of the
activity. I have something about pre-teaching, mystery and curiosity at
my website here: http://www.davekees.com/content/view/15/26/
After they have heard the song once or twice and made their guesses we
go over it in more detail and discuss some of the words.
Does whatever a spider can.
Spins a [web], sweet [SURPRISE].
Catches [THIEVES], Just like [FLIES],
Here comes the Spider-man!
Is he [STRONG]? Listen, Bud! (point out strong means strong and never
He's got [radioactive BLOOD].
Can he [SWING] from a [THREAD]?
No [ESCAPE] from his spider [web].
There goes the Spider!
In the [CHILL] of the night,
At the [SCENE] of the [CRIME], (make a list of crimes, point out how we
always say "commit a crime")
Like a [laser] light,
He arrives [JUST IN TIME].
doin' the impossible, why? Because he can.
doin' what he gotta yeah [according to] the plan
Life is a great big bang-up,
Wherever there's a [hang-up],
You'll find the Spider-man!
We finish by listening to the song again once or twice.
- Hey there Dave!
Thanks very much for the valuable input! I'm going to
incorporate all of your transplendently-good ideas into
my future lesson planning. You are absolutely right
about the song choice - my fundamental, inexorable
fossil-hood is one of the principal problems I need to
struggle to overcome in the course of my training to
Seriously, partner, I positively feel like Rip Van
Winkle round these newly-minted young'uns. Mostly I am
intrigued, however, by the possibilities proferred by
music as a learning tool. I know that when a given
song hits my ear-tissues it operates like a
high-powered neurological "glue gun" that makes the
song lyrics "stick" to my psyche.
I imagine one or two scientific types out there must
have done copious (if soporific) studies on this effect
(our deflated tax dollars hard at work). I considered
this specific song's lyrics and their likely impact on
the school and parents (when writing the plan I hadn't
really looked that closely at the song. I was so
psyched on the general "Joy Joy" theme and then I was
like "whoa, definitely can't teach the kids *that*) so
I figured I'd have to do some fancy ad hoc redacting to
fit the prospective audience.
All of your comments are helpful and I'm going to
incorporate each and every one. Your suggestion re:
gauging feedback is absolutely on time. I am
mega-mega-concerned about boring these poor,
unoffending kids to death - and/or their rising up en
masse and on signal to dispatch their periphrastic
laowai to the nether-regions of Pedant Valhalla. :)
I particularly like the Spider-man idea - I hope you
don't mind if I borrow it sometime. I've actually got
that film (with that Tobey what-his-name fellow) which
I've never even watched. I'm gonna videe it today and
see if I there's a lesson plan or two hidden in there
BTW, that's a fantastic web presence you've created
there. I've added it to my *favorites* for easy future
Thanks again for the valuable feedback!
On Sat, 1 Oct 2005 12:27:50 -0700, "davekees" wrote:
> Mike, your lesson planning sounds great. I am not an
> expert on this but
> I had just a few thoughts on the choice of song and
> other things which
> may or not be helpful to you.
- Hey there Don!
Thanks for the great teaching ideas.
Your experience vis a vis the student remembering the
lyrics to "Deep in the Heart . . " two years later
illustrates what I'm thinking about.
Dave spoke about the active v. passive learning
phenomenon. Another member talked about how folks
never really "forget" - they just don't "recall."
What I wonder is "where does the linguistic information
go, and why *isn't* it recalled?" "Why are some events
still vivid two years later while others evaporate in a
The answer has to be that Event A was somehow encoded
with more clarity in the *mind* (if such a construct
still has any validity in today's toney, post-cognitive
I am hoping eventually to exploit the "lyric-glue"
effect that drives many folks raving mad and turn it
around to make EFL a little easier and more effective.
Alas, I'm also hoping to make the rent this month.
Time will tell if either goal is ultimately realized.
P.S. Thanks for the tip re: "Waltzing Mathilda."
Lord, what a beautiful song. Haunting. Now, happen to
have any helpful hints on how I can get it out of my
On Fri, 30 Sep 2005 16:15:54 -0700 (PDT), Don
Two years later I met a student that still remembered
- I use songs as a way of filling in time when you finish say ten
minutes early. No matter how well you plan things it is inevitable
that this will happen. The old show business maxim of "finishing
with a song" to "send them home happy" also applies to the more
serious profession of language teaching. I have also been using
songs in my first classes with the new students.
I illustrate some of the lyrics on the board using coloured chalk.
The huge hit "Take Me to Your Heart" is great for this as you can
illustrate "Hiding from the rain and snow" and "Looking at the moon
in a clear blue sky" easily. The problem is that the students just
want you to sing the song. The solution is to leave it on the
blackboard so that the students can look at it before the next
teacher arrives or when they come back from their lunch break.
I'm not sure of the educational value of songs in the classroom but
knowing the meaning of a popular song can only enhance credibility
with students studying other subjects. Hopefully it helps maintain
interest them enjoy the subject and looking back on your own college
years I'm sure you will agree with me in saying this is difficult.
The problem is that if you are good you may be asked to perform in
one of their showpiece concerts something that will be difficult to
turn down !
- --- west mike <orderedliberty@...> wrote:
<<<<<<<<I am hoping eventually to exploit the "lyric-glue"
> effect that drives many folks raving mad and turn itReply:
> around to make EFL a little easier and more
> Alas, I'm also hoping to make the rent this month.
> Time will tell if either goal is ultimately
> Mike West>>>>>
Thanks but do remember using music with ESL is
basically what the old pros call "dog & pony shows"
They are entertaining and another tool to give some
variety to the toils of day in-out teaching. Btw, when
I selected a song for detailed class use, I would
select one of the students with good handwriting
(usually a gal )to write a verse on the BB. If the
song had 4 verses I used 4 Ss. The refrain I would
write at the side. Every student had to copy the
entire song for his/her permanent reference/read
along. Next we would orally repeat the words and
discuss the meaning. We would then move on to a trial
sing along as a whole class. This was usually a
disaster with much laughter. After much practice , I
would then break the class up into male/female parts.
Next into sound effects like clapping or desk
knocking, foot stomping. You don't do this all in one
or two class periods but come back to it over a course
of time. I might arbitrarily call on a student to
stand and recite the third stanza of the song. I was
constantly surprised at how good the Ss became with
recall and pronunciation. When a S got it right, the
rest of the class would applaud. All this is even more
effective if you can record the before and afters for
playback. One day three of the class clowns (every
class has these) requested that I allow them to do
'Deep in the Heart of Texas' as a trio. They were
great. I had them do an encore with the whole class
signing along. I was told later that students in the
rest of the building were crowding outside our door to
Other good songs....Red Sails in the Sunset, Some
Enchanted Evening, She'll be Com min Round the
Mountain..... the list is endless. My next stint in
China I might try the Ss doing the National anthems
(in English) of various countries around the world.
China will, of course, be first. Other good ideas is
to pole the class on musical talent. Again I was
surprised at what I would learn and then exploit that
talent to the benefit of the whole class.
G'luck on the rent.
Yahoo! Mail - PC Magazine Editors' Choice 2005
- The "Spiderman" English lesson may be too dated now. I suspect the song
may have been cool because the movie was cool but by our students'
standards "Spiderman" is an old movie already. I was just using it as an
example of selection and approach to teaching.
Ask your students what they like today and then find the lyrics of what
they like. The things they like today are probably being played on the
radio constantly so the radio will assist you in helping the students to
review the words.
In fact, it might be worthwhile for teachers to make all of their
students familiar with the English words to all of the currently popular
songs as a way of producing a constantly reviewed vocabulary effect.
davekees@... - www.davekees.com - skype: davekees
Teach English in China - www.asiateacher.com