Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Power of Music

I have always been interested in the use of music (songs) in language teaching/learning. I consider myself a very "musical" person. Some of my friends make jokes because they say I always have a song for any situation. I must admit it's quite true and more often than not I find myself saying " reminds me of a song..." I have even been thinking about singing. Some say I have a strong "powerful" voice and they may be right. However, I have never tried singing and as a perfectionist I'd certainly have to spend hours with vocal lessons and all that. I believe no one can deny music is a very integrating tool if I can put it that way. It is a way to connect people and many times I think people do get together thanks to music. Now that we live in this globalized world it's even easier to actually get to know a lot more about other cultures and musical manifestations. I try to be kind of selective whenever I use music in the classroom. Honestly I don't like the idea of giving the students a song because it's been playing on the radio(sounds so old-fashioned)or because I would have nothing else to do in those last/first 10-15 minutes of the lesson. Whenever possible I try to find something connected to whatever subject we've been studying and if it's not the case I like to show them things they'd probably not come across if they were doing things by themselves. I must admit it's risky because you may simply choose something they "hate" and the whole idea would be a failure. So far I have been quite lucky. I have never ever expected to please everybody all the time - this is totally utopian,IMHO. I am a true believer that people surrender to real talent and quality. It may not be the kind of thing you would personally look for and when we think about music maybe you would not buy the CD/DVD let alone pay for a concert but as you are introduced to it you have to recognize its quality. And this has, as I said before, happened quite often throughout these almost 20 years I have been in the classroom. The video you find here is an example of the kind of music most of my students (teenagers and young adults) would not see if I had not found the appropriate time to share. Recently I had been teaching a lesson about storytelling and I remembered Loreena Mckennitt had this wonderful song (IMHO) called Penelope's Song based on the story of Penelope who waited for her beloved husband for more than twenty years- from The Odyssey by Homer.We had a brief discussion about the story and in every class there were 3-4 students who knew a lot about it so they could share with those who knew less or nothing. I prepared a short summary for the whole group, we listened to the song and had a traditional "fill in the gaps" activity with the lyrics and concluded with a group discussion about dedication, faithfulness, patience and other aspects which are clear in the story. The same has happened many times with some other artists like Barbra Streisand, Josh Groban, Alanis Morissette and some others. Now, enjoy another fantastic song by Loreena and also her reflections about a historical event which led into the composition of Dante's Prayer.


Cristina Costa said...

Hi Gill,
I also love music, although I cant sing nor play any instrument ... :-(
But music plays a very important part in my life...when I am happy and also when I am sad too. I Think music is actually the supreme art - you can't see it, but you can hear it, and feel it too. ;-)
I think students also like to learn with music. Music speaks to the heart - it's an universal way of communicating.
When I taught EFL I used to use music a lot. And the students loved it. There was even a class in which week there was a song ...every week a student was in charge of bringing a song he/she liked and share it with the other ...share also what it meant to him/her. It was a great way to get the class into a relaxing debate of ideas.
keep blogging and inspiring us with your ideas!

Carla Arena said...

Aha, Gilmar, now I can see the blogger coming out, telling a story, personalizing...I think you found my comments useful, for I see great improvement from yesterday! Amazing job!

I just loved to "hear you" talking about your passion, your approaches...Thinking of it, how could you change the way you incorporate music in the classroom by having your learners not only as recipient of information through music, but true participants of their learning? Can you think of any other forms you could do that?

Just one more tip: remember tags should be keywords, not whole phrases, and use as many as you can think of for later retrieval. I can think of, at least, ten different tags for your post! At the end of the post, you'll see a "pencil", click there to edit it.

You're doing a fantastic job!

GilMattos said...

Hi Cristina...
Thank you so much for sharing your ideas and experience with music. I could not agree more. It's funny this thing you siad about enjoying music even when you're sad. A great friend of mine once said she could never listen to some kind of music I love because she'd probably commit suicide (lol). The thing is this is sooo personal because the same thing actually feeds my soul - I guess you know what I mean. We have something very similar to what you mentioned here at CCBEU and it's called "Music Project". Unfortunately as I am often behind schedule I had to "cut" some of these projects with some groups. Hope to read from you soon.

GilMattos said...

Dear Carla...
You are to blame for this excitement of mine ! By the way, I have just checked Victor's blog and then I figured this is really where I should post my answers. I am trying to do my best around here and anything you say/post is precious for me. I am still amazed at your commitment and expertise. I have been thinking about your suggestion here of incorporating the students more whenever we have music in the classroom and would love to hear from the others in our group.

Carla Arena said...

Dear Gilmar,

The group is the one that keeps me going! You are all just such an amazing group of educators with so much to share and learn from... As for change...well, I'd love to hear from all!

Lueli Ceruti said...

Gilmar, I loved the comments you made on my blog. By the way, I'm also a Barbra fan...
You had asked me about the grammar points that go with the songs... Well, "Eleanor Rigby" was used for the present tenses. "You're so vain" for the past tenses. "Heard it Through the Grapevine" and "Knowing me Knowing You" for verb patterns (gerunds and infinitives). If you want, I can send you the worksheets to go with the songs.

GilMattos said...

Hi Lueli..
I'd be really grateful if you could send me the material you used with the songs. Thank YOU too for visiting me and opening the doors for the caring and sharing. Have you been using videos (YouTube/DVDs) instead of the audio only? I have and it is certainly a plus because a lot of discussion usually takes place as we comment on the lyrics and the images as well.


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