In the 2 primary schools I am priviliged to teach in, my lessons are in the afternoons so I get to hear the pupils' reactions as they come in from their lunchtime break and realise that French is up next.
It seems they can't wait to talk to me, try out the little bit of French they have picked up so far and there seems to be a lot of positive emotion attached to what we are doing.
I don't say this to pat myself on the back as I know for an awful lot of my professional career both at secondary and primary level, I never experienced this level of motivation. Motivating students was really hard work and often left me exhausted and disillusioned.
It is only since I have been really learning to apply the work on using music to support learning that such an attitude is becoming more commonplace. My own confidence in what I do with the children has soared and I seem to be able to achieve much better results with less effort.
So here is a little acronym to explain why I think this is happening.
I get the "Mmmm" response from pupils because
Music makes meaning memorable !
All the work I do using backing tracks to support learning convinces me that this is a very powerful tool that helps pupils assimilate language far more quickly and with a deal more fun had a long the way than was possible before using them.
As with most of my colleagues I would imagine, I have always used songs. What I have learnt recently however is that my understanding of how music and language learning compliment each other was upside down.
My focus as a language teacher was FIRST on the vocab content of a song and SECOND it's musical value.
The problem with this is that if other people are writing the lyrics, quite often there is nothing set to music that fully meets the needs of what I want to teach. And if I do find something either the language is too complicated, too infantile, too dense, contains too much irrelevant padding to suit my purpose, is too long or the tune that accompanies the lyrics is frankly rather naff.
So, I have reversed what I do. Now FIRST, I try and source backing tracks that are musically excellent, that the children will love and that are very strong rhythmically. SECOND we use these tracks as empty vessels to carry the content I need to teach in any given lesson. Brilliant!
It's the quality of the music that ensures this is succesful. Focus on the music first and add your own lyrics second.
If I told you that you could have a song to cover every possible topic that you could ever possibly want to teach, with music that the children love, that would maximise class participation and retention, wouldn't you want to use them? If you really learn to grasp the potential of using backing tracks to your lessons, this will become a reality.