The small classroom was not built to contain thirty boisterous teenagers. I lose track of how many times I ask a question in English and they answer in their native language, Spanish. The inquisitive ones are constantly asking me to repeat things; the disinterested group is somewhere else entirely.
One day a student asks about my macbook – it’s the most interesting object in the room. We strike a deal: if they complete an assignment quietly, they can choose a song from my iTunes playlist. They put their heads down and work hard. Even the disinterested ones are tuned in, under the close watch of their classmates. In the last five minutes of class, we rock out to the Red Hot Chili Peppers… an assignment is born.
Over the next few weeks, pairs of students choose songs written in English. From Yellowcard to the Beatles to Taio Cruz, every Wednesday finds us filling the small room with ballads and jams. The students bring the music to class, print the lyrics and create listening exercises based on the content. At Christmas I chose “Let it Snow” by Frank Sinatra – the blue-eyed crooner with excellent diction. “It doesn’t show signs of _____,” a lyric true in my native Northeastern US but not so in December in a tiny pueblo in southern Spain.
We found ourselves in conversations about colloquial words and leave the textbooks closed. Bon Jovi has me standing at the board with chalk dust covering my hands, explaining “wanna,” “gonna,” and “ain’t.” We get into discussions about curse words and plurals, slurs and slang.
They dance and sing and make up lyrics; recommend bands and write down songs. They look forward to class. They become more comfortable with each other. They learn English.
Music, film and television are an easy, albeit unfiltered, medium for learning a second language. It brightens a classroom, it encourages questions, it broadens vocabulary. Even if as a teacher, you don’t watch the Simpsons or listen to Michael Jackson – your students might, and they are offering you a great place to start.
How do you learn another language?
[ infographic from Kaplan International: http://kaplaninternational.com/blog/how-to-learn-english/]
Infographic: How to learn Englishvia Kaplan Blog