Saturday, October 31, 2009

Partnership for Teaching
English as a Foreign Language Teacher Training Program
Follow-on conference – May 6-8, 2009 – Rabat - Morocco
Exploiting Songs to Promote Learning.
By: Hicham Sadiki

Poetry and music are elements of each human society. They show many aspects of its culture, they contain authentic language, and they are easily obtainable. In addition, they can provide valuable speaking, listening and language practice in and out of the classroom. Music and poetry have immanent powers, for example they give people energy and help them change their mood. They occur in all phases of one’s life from birth to death. So they play an important role in the process of learning and using language. In this presentation, I am going to talk about the importance of using songs in teaching English as a foreign language, types of songs that can be used in the EFL classrooms and, beside these theoretical points, I am going to give practical teaching tips for how to use songs in EFL classrooms.

1- Why do teachers and researchers find using songs in EFL classrooms valuable?
There are many reasons for using songs and rhymes in teaching English as a foreign language. Naturally, students really enjoy learning and singing songs and have fun doing rhythmic activities while reciting rhymes. But there are deeper affective, cognitive and linguistic reasons.
1.1- Songs can help in weakening the student’s affective filter. Teachers have long recognized the need for students to have a positive attitude in regard to learning. Krashen (1982) explains that for optimal learning to occur the affective filter must be weak. A weak affective filter means that a positive attitude towards learning is present. If the affective filter is strong the learner will not seek language input, and in turn, not be open for language acquisition. The practical application of the Affective Filter Hypothesis is that teachers must provide a positive atmosphere conducive to language learning. Songs are one method for achieving a weak affective filter and promoting language learning. Saricoban and Metin (2000) have found that with the affective filter weak, songs can develop the four skill areas of reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
1.2- The holistic approach: Songs and rhymes stimulate the hemispherical interaction. Busy with songs and rhymes the left hemisphere (vocabulary, structure of the language) and the right hemisphere (rhythm, feelings, mimic, gesture, senso-motoric etc) work together and make learning more effective. So, it is small wonder how quick students are at learning songs and rhymes.
1.3- Songs also present opportunities for developing automaticity which is the main cognitive reason for using songs in the classroom. Gatbonton and Segalowitz (1988, p.473) define automaticity as "a component of language fluency which involves both knowing what to say and producing language rapidly without pauses." Using songs can help automatize the language development process. Traditionally, it was believed that automatization would occur through repetitive exercises in a non-communicative environment. However, the major shift towards the communicative teaching methodology requires that automatization occur in a different manner. Gatbonton and Segalowitz (1988, p.476) state that we must "place students in an environment in which it is appropriate to use target utterances in a genuinely communicative fashion." The nature of songs is fairly repetitive and consistent. For example, a song such as "Sailing" by Rod Stewart provides ample opportunities for students to focus on the present progressive tense.
1.4- Songs and poems are important elements of each culture. Learning this authentic material, students get to know parts of a foreign culture. It satisfies their natural curiosity about everything new. Being familiar with songs and rhymes in a foreign language, students feel closer to the foreign culture and its language. If students hear the same melodies or similar rhymes they are astonished at the parallels between their own culture and the foreign one.
1.5- Besides automatization, there is also a linguistic reason for using songs in the classroom. Some songs are excellent examples of colloquial English, that is, the language of informal conversation. A song such as "My Best Was Never Good Enough" by Bruce Springsteen is a prime example of a song that demonstrates colloquial language use. This song is full of phrases like "Every cloud has a silver lining." and "Every dog has his day. " Of course, the majority of language most ESL students will encounter is in fact informal. Using songs can prepare students for the genuine language they will be faced with.
1.6- Poems, rhymes, chants and songs could be used to give a feeling for the rhythm of the spoken language. Many well-known rhymes make use of the iambic pentameter, the natural rhymes of the English language. Practicing intonation through reciting rhymes and poems is mostly funny and very effective. To vary the sometimes boring pronunciation teaching it is a proven remedy using rhymes and rhythmic chants, e.g. with minimal pairs.

2- Types of songs
2.1. Finger play songs: The content of these songs can be illustrated by the children′s finger movement. They support the acquisition of gesture meaning and the use of nonverbal expressions. They also develop the children′s senso-motoric abilities. Example: Hickory dickory dock
2.2. Counting songs: These songs support the learning of numbers and are often connected with using fingers. Most of them train the numbers from one to ten. Example: Ten little Indians
2.3.Spelling songs: They are useful to train the sounds of the English alphabet. The separate letters mostly sound different from their pronunciation in words. Therefore the pupils need help for learning the individual letter sound. Example: Farmer Brown has got a dog
2.4. Action songs: The biggest group of songs aims at associating words with movements of their body. They also "internalize the sounds and rhythms of English, ... develop a sense of rhythm [and] ... give the children a chance to let off steam. Example: If you′re happy
2.5. Songs for special occasions: These songs are suitable for deepening the special vocabulary and for celebrating these occasions in the school. They emphasize the cultural aspect of songs. Example: Black and gold (for Halloween)
2.6. Spirituals: Spirituals are religious songs. They are connected with the Christian culture and often very traditional. Singing simple spirituals the children enjoy the sound and the special rhythm of gospels. Example: Kumbaya, my Lord
2.7. Drop-a-word songs: These songs train the children′s concentration. They are often combined with actions instead of the dropped words. Drop-a-word songs encourage internalization of language (Murphy 1992: 130). Example: My hat it has three corners
2.8. Role-play songs This type of song «contextualizes vocabulary and make the transfer from singing to meaningful referents." (Murphey 1992: 129) They use the children′s love for stories and role playing. Example: There was a princess long ago
2.9. Topic songs: Many songs support the acquisition of vocabulary according to a special topic like "The days of the week", "The weather" or "The family". If they do not fit in with other categories they are called "topic songs". Example: Look outside (for the topic "The weather")
3- Ways to exploit Songs in the EFL Classroom.
Cloze or Fill-In-The-Blank Worksheets: One of the simplest ways to introduce a song is to remove all appearances of the grammar point from the lyrics. For example, if the grammar point is adjectives, and the lyrics are, "I'm so tired," the fill-in-the-blank worksheet will show, "I'm so ______." Give your students the worksheets and have them try to fill in the blanks while listening to the song.
Scrambled Lyrics: Another popular activity is to cut up all the lyrics. Most people separate them by line, but you could even do it by phrase, that's your choice. Divide the class into teams and give each team a set of lyrics. Play the song and have them try to put all the lines in the correct order.
Act Out The Verb: If the song you are playing uses a lot of verbs, play the song for them once without any lyrics. Every time the students recognize a verb, they have to act it out. This can be a lot of fun and gets the class relaxed.
Listening for Points: To introduce a song to the class, divide them into two teams. Explain that the song contains a certain grammar point that you have been studying. If someone hears that grammar point, they must raise their hand. If they identify it correctly, their team gets a point. It's a good idea to pause the song at this point so that you don't miss anything.
Theme-based Songs: If the song you are using is not related to a specific grammar point, but instead to a theme, that's okay! Play the song first and have students write down anything they hear that is relevant to the theme: nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.
Combinations of Topics: Of course, the above activities can be combined or altered to make different activities. For example, Act Out The Verb and Listening for Points could be combined to make a fun and competitive activity. I find that students often get more involved when it is a competition, even if there isn't a prize!
Sing the Song!: After any activity, remember to take a few minutes and sing the song as a class! The students’ enthusiasm will be influenced by yours, so be excited about it. Singing the song after these games will give your students a sense of accomplishment. They have just learned some authentic material and are proud of it!
Songs and rhymes have an important function in teaching English as a foreign language. By virtue of their typical characteristics, they support the language acquisition for young learners. Songs and rhymes combine important didactic claims like the holistic, the monolingual and the contextual approach with fun, activity and motivation. Almost incidentally, the learners become familiar with parts of the foreign culture and see them as enrichment for their own life. The English teacher can choose from among a lot of types of songs and rhymes with special characteristics and different actions. Each teacher should collect useful songs and rhymes on which he can fall back. As EFL teachers, we know from our experience that young learners love English songs and rhymes. Therefore, we all should see this big advantage and use songs and rhymes as a permanent part of our lessons.

Murphey, T. (1992): Music and Song. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Phillips, S. (1993): Young Learners. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
David, N. and Norman, W. (2001): Dream Team. Oxford University Press

Thank you

Saturday, December 6, 2008

About motivation

What’s motivation?
The word MOTIVATION is derived from the Latin term « motivus » which means «a moving cause”.

Motivation is the key to learning. It’s a value and a DESIRE for learning.

Motivation is the characteristic that is required in order to achieve anything in life; without it one will give up at the first sign of adversity. It means to inspire, instigate and encourage a person to do their best. Motivation will compel a person to think and will cause them to do whatever it takes to become successful.

Motivation is the inner power or energy that pushes one toward performing a certain action.

What are the types of motivation?
Psychologists say that there are two types of motivation:
1- External, outer or imposed motivation: if the student is externally motivated, his parents and / or teachers are forcing him to learn.
2- Internal or inner motivation: this is the case where the student simply has a desire to learn the language. Maybe he likes the culture of an English-speaking country, or he likes the language / languages in general.
Internal motivation is much more useful in terms of moving students towards fluency in the language they are learning.

What’s the role of motivation?
Motivation is vital in language learning. It makes language learners positive about their own learning. It also creates the drive in them to acquire the targeted language and enjoy the learning process.

What can we do to enhance our students’ motivation?
To improve our students’ motivation and awaken the power that will push them toward achieving their goals, which is learning English, we should:
1- Help students set a goal. It’s important to help each student set goals and to provide informative feedback regarding process toward these goals. Setting a goal demonstrates an intention to achieve and activates learning from one day to the next. It also directs the students’ activities toward the goal and offers an opportunity to experience success.
2- Create warm and accepting atmosphere, which will promote persistent effort and favorable attitudes toward learning. Interesting visual aids, such as booklets, posters, or practice equipment, motivate learners by capturing their attention and curiosity.
3- Repeatedly reinforce our students’ internal motivation by incentives, praise and / or concrete rewards. The use of incentives is based on the principle that learning occurs more effectively when the student experiences feeling of satisfaction.
4- Develop a mutual relationship with our students. To do so, we need to understand students who are from different backgrounds, have different interests, future goals, and most importantly, different personalities. Once we understand our learners better, we are able to apply specific teaching and communicating strategies “tailored” to each student, thereby creating a trusting relationship between us and our students. If this objective is reached, the classroom will undoubtedly become comfortable and enjoyable enough for our students to learn positively from us without any hesitation.

Makiko Ebata (Digital Hollywood University - Tokyo , Japan ) did a survey on motivation using the students in his class. Sixteen college freshmen were interviewed regarding the class contents, materials and the ideal teacher. The students answered the question, “What kind of teachers do you prefer?” like below.
A teacher who knows how to deal with students, especially teenagers.
A teacher who does not force ideas on the students.
A tolerant and responsible teacher with a sense of humor.
A funny teacher who can be serious when necessary.
A caring teacher.
A friendly teacher.
An active teacher.
A teacher who can understand what students' expectations are.
A trustworthy teacher.
We need to know what students pursue in teachers in order for them to be motivated in language learning. It’s understood that a teacher’s personality and behavior toward students have a strong influence. In order to produce successful language speakers, teachers should devote themselves to teaching.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Use of the Mother Tongue to Teach a Second / Foreign Language.

The Use of the Mother Tongue to Teach a Second / Foreign Language

The issue this article is going to tackle is whether or not the use of students’ L1 in the classroom by the teacher, the students, or both, hinders the learning of a second / foreign language (in our case English) or, on the opposite, can facilitate it. This debate, as our Egyptian colleague Shaima Nasr said, is not a new one. Still, there has been little research which has measured the exact effects of L1 use in the English classroom due to the difficult nature of measuring, and gathering evidence to answer such a complicated question.
When we surf the Internet, we find that proponents of the English-only policy are referred to as the Monolingual Approach. Those advocating the use of L1 in the classroom are known as the Bilingual Approach.
So, what are the reasons that supporters of the Monolingual Approach advance to justify the English-only policy? And what arguments do supporters of the Bilingual Approach offer to rationalize the use of L1 to teach L2?

Support for the Monolingual Approach:
There is a strong support for the Monolingual Approach to teaching in the literature and advocates usually organize their support around three claims:
1- The learning of an L2 should model the learning of an L1 through maximum exposure to the L2.
2- Successful learning involves the separation and distinction of L1 and L2.
3- Students should be shown the importance of L2 through its continual use.

The Monolingual Approach considers that L2 acquisition is similar to L1 acquisition, which is mainly based on the notion of exposure as being the determining factor for learning. Children learn their first language through listening and copying what people around them say, and, undoubtedly, exposure to the language is vital in the development of their linguistic skills. The Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) generally favored a monolingual approach with learners for similar reasons, justified on the pretence of maximizing communication in L2.

In regards to the second point, supporters of the Monolingual Approach have stated that translating between L1 and L2 can be dangerous as it encourages the belief that there are 1 to 1 equivalents between the languages, which is not always true. They believe the two languages should be distinct and separate.

According to the Monolingual Approach, it is considered likely that the use of L2 only in the classroom does help demonstrate the L2’s importance and can portray the usage of the language being studied.

Support for the Bilingual Approach:
However, supporters of the Bilingual Approach believe that the use of L1 could be a positive resource for teachers. For them, there is strong evidence that the use of L1 to teach a second / foreign language is popular and students tend to PREFER teachers who speak or, at least, understand their students’ mother language.

Many attempts to discredit the Monolingual Approach have focused on three points:
1- It’s impractical.
2- Native teachers are not necessarily the best teachers.
3- Exposure alone is not sufficient for learning.

Supporters of this approach say that the Monolingual Approach is impractical because of many reasons. The most important one is that to enforce the sole use of English can often lead to a reduced performance on the part of the teachers and the alienation of students from the learning process. They also think that the Monolingual teaching can create tension and a barrier between students and teachers, and there are, for them, many occasions when it’s inappropriate and even impossible to use the language being taught.

The Monolingual Approach also supports the idea of the native teacher as being the ideal teacher. Supporters of the Bilingual Approach see that this is not the case as being a native speaker does not necessarily mean being a better or a more qualified teacher. Actually, non-native teachers are possibly better teachers as they themselves have gone through the process of learning the L2 they are teaching now, thereby acquiring for themselves a perspective on learning the language.

Another problem with the Monolingual Approach is its belief that exposure to language leads to learning. Excluding students for the sake of maximizing their exposure to the L2 is not necessarily productive. Obviously, the quantity of exposure is important, but other factors such as the quality of the text material, the well trained teacher and sound methods of teaching are more important than the amount of exposure to L2.

Some researchers have attempted to demonstrate the positive effects of using L1 and have categorized when it should be used. These categories can be summarized as follow:

1- Students should be allowed to express themselves, and while they are still learning a language it is natural that they will periodically slip back to their mother tongue.
2- Students will naturally equate what they are learning with their L1. So, trying to eliminate this process will only have negative consequences and impede learning.
3- The use of L1 to explain grammar is acceptable, especially with beginners.
4- It’s also suggested to use L1 in situations such as eliciting language, checking comprehension, giving instructions and helping learners cooperate with each other.

Harold, 1992, concluded that there are three reasons for using L1 in the classroom.
Ø Facilitating communication.
Ø Facilitating teacher-student relationships.
Ø Facilitating the learning of L2.

In conclusion, researchers have found that evidence for the practice of English-only policy is neither conclusive nor pedagogically sound. In fact, it is often harmful to the learning process. The findings presented above indicate that the use of L1 to teach a second / foreign language can be effective and is even necessary in some situations. However, while arguing for the option of using L1 in the classroom, most researchers have at the same time cautioned against the overuse of it. They believe that this can create an over reliance on the mother language, oversimplify differences between the two languages and create laziness among students.
Therefore, dear Moroccan, Jordanian and Egyptian colleagues, we are allowed to use Arabic to teach English to our students, but we have to show great caution and attention in doing that. A good teacher is the one who knows when, how and how much Arabic he should use to reach his objective, which is making his students able to communicate in English.


§ Cook, V (2001). Using the First Language in the Classroom, in the Canadian Modern Language Review / La Revue Canadienne des Langue Vivantes.
§ Lewis, M (1993). The Lexical Approach. Language Teaching Publication: London.
§ Mitchell, R (1988). Communicative Language Teaching: in Practice CILT: London.
§ Harold, J (1993). The Use of the Mother Tongue in the classroom. ELT Journals.
§ Schweers, Jr, C.W. (1999). Using L1 in the classroom. Forum 37.