Table of Contents
2. Literature Review - Music in the English Language Classroom
2.1 Reasons for Using Music
2.1.1 Affective Reasons
220.127.116.11 Group Cohesion
2.1.2 Cultural Literacy
2.1.3 Language Proficiency
18.104.22.168 Vocabulary Acquisition
2.2 Types of Music
2.3 Criteria for Choosing Songs
2.4 Techniques for the Classroom
3. An Empirical Classroom Experiment
Table of Tables
1. Comparison of the music and non-music group’s mean scores
2. Comparison of female and male students’ vocabulary scores
3. Vocabulary scores from the students in the music group
Table of Figures
1. Students’ responses to whether they find singing in the English classroom motivating
2. Students’ views about whether they find singing in the English classroom beneficial
3. Comparison of the male and the female students’ responses..
“Music inspires language, and language makes music come alive” (Kao & Oxford, 2014: 120)
As this quote indicates, music and language are strongly related. Although they appear to be two entirely different concepts, they do have several features in common (Mora, 2000: 147). Since music serves as a mediator to express feelings, emotions, attitudes, as well as memories, it possesses a central position in people’s personal lives.
Likewise, there is a well-known phenomenon in relation to certain situations in which a specific song is unconsciously playing and constantly repeating itself mentally. Not only for what Murphey (1990a) refers to as the song-stuck-in-my-head-phenomenon (SSIMH), there seems to be a connection between music and memory. Therefore, a number of educational studies have been conducted in order to find out whether, or to what extent, music influences students’ language skills and vocabulary recall.
As a matter of fact, music has a great significance for people, especially for youths (see for example JIM Studie, 2011). Music is present in all sorts of surroundings - classrooms included. Since communicative approaches have been established in language teaching, songs have found more and more their way into the language classroom. In order to use materials that fit the students’ interests, teachers and researchers, therefore, have been searching for ways to incorporate the medium of music into the English language classroom. But is the use of music or singing beneficial for language learners?
The purpose of this study is to find out whether music-based activities can lead to better vocabulary recall than conventional classroom activities in the English language classroom. Accordingly, the research question is: Will students recall more words when a text is rehearsed by means of singing rather than by conventional classroom activities? A second purpose is to find out how students perceive singing in the classroom and whether they are motivated by the incorporation of music.
Since it is widely acknowledged by researchers and practitioners that vocabulary acquisition is a vital component of language learning, techniques that enhance the memorization of new words are highly valued. These techniques, supplemented with tools that would simultaneously motivate students, could lead to a facilitated vocabulary acquisition. Hence, supplementing vocabulary with melodies and rhythm might be one way of achieving that. Considering these factors, it is hypothesized that the students who sing the text will recall more words than those who only speak it. Also, it is assumed that students will enjoy singing and therefore be more motivated.
In order to find answers to these questions, first, reasons for using music in the English classroom will be regarded (see chapter 2.1). In this section, the effect that music has on students’ affect, their cultural literacy, their language proficiency as well as their vocabulary acquisition will be examined. The next chapter will present a selection of types of music that can be used in the classroom (see chapter 2.2). Subsequently, criteria for selecting songs that are appropriate for the classroom as well as songs that should be avoided will be presented (see chapter 2.3). As a transition from the theoretical to the practical part of the study, chapter 2.4 will look at classroom techniques and provide examples of how music can be incorporated into the classroom in order to attain specific language learning objectives. Chapter 3 will introduce an empirical classroom experiment in which the amount of the students’ retained vocabulary was measured. For this experiment, the students were required to either sing a text or deal with it by means of conventional classroom methods. In chapter 3.5, the results of this experiment will be discussed, followed by implications for language teachers. Based on the results of this study, it is intended to find answers whether singing can be used in order to enhance the memorization of new words in an English language learning setting.
2. Literature Review - Music in the English Language Classroom
In this section, the literature concerning the benefits of music, types of music, criteria for song selection and techniques for the classroom will be reviewed. In this study, vocabulary acquisition is important.
2.1 Reasons for Using Music
2.1.1 Affective Reasons
The affective filter hypothesis (Krashen, 1985: 3) explains the influence of affective factors in language learning. According to this theory, a positive learning atmosphere evoking positive emotions leads to a low affective filter, in which students “seek and receive more input, interact with confidence, and are more receptive to the input they receive” (Richards & Rodgers, 2001: 183). Hence, negative emotions like fear, embarrassment or self- consciousness prevent students from acquiring language (Medina, 2002, Krashen’s second language hypotheses section, para. 4). According to Dörnyei (2002), however, the language classroom is a place in which anxiety can easily occur, since students have to consider many language aspects simultaneously in order not to make mistakes. For this reason, he believes that teachers should provide a positive and comfortable classroom atmosphere (p. 40). Hence, several authors note that the use of songs can be an effective technique to lower the affective filter (Lieb, 2005: 92; Medina, 2002, para. 4; Schoepp, 2000, Affective reasons section, para. 2).
Likewise, Lo & Li (1998), emphasize the benefits of songs in providing a “non- threatening atmosphere”, which especially concerns students who are timid of speaking in front of others (para. 1). Also, not only does it offer a diversion from routine classroom methods (Lo & Li, 1998, para. 1; Saricoban & Metin, 2000, Songs section, para. 1), but it also creates a relaxed atmosphere in the classroom (Abbott, 2002: 16; Eken, 1996, para. 1; Guglielmino, 1986: 20; Griffee, 1992: 4; Lake, 2002, A nest of music section, para. 2; Mora, 2000: 151; Murphey, 1992a: 8) as well as enjoyment and fun (Abbott, 2002: 16; Baoan, 2008, Advantages of using English songs section, para. 2; Berman, 2014, para. 6; Domoney & Harris, 1993: 234; Griffee, 1992: 4). At the same time, Dörnyei (2002) points out that enjoyable learning conditions can enhance learners’ involvement and thereby sustain their motivation (p. 72).
Richards and Rodgers (2010), according to second language research, point out that self-confidence and anxiety are two of the important factors that influence students’ affect (p. 183). Accordingly, Medina (2002) believes that collective singing promotes the feeling of group affiliation and thereby increases students’ confidence level while simultaneously decreasing their restraints in second language learning (para. 1). Similarly, Cheong-Clinch (2009) mentions that students’ self-esteem can be strengthened by the application of music activities, through which they gain “meaningful experiences of success and accomplishment” (p. 51). Considering these aspects, it seems that songs have a positive impact on students’ affect.
An important consideration with regard to affective factors in second language acquisition is motivation (Brown, 2007: 160). Due to the fact that the amount of motivation can determine the level of success (Cook, 2007: 139), it is noted that it plays a central role in learning a second language (Dörnyei, 2002: 1; Harmer, 2003: 51; Lile, 2002). Lieb (2008) argues that “any educational behavior is most likely to be successful when it is rooted in the needs and interests of the learner” (p. 519). Therefore, Cook (2007: 139) and Lile (2002, Achievable, relevant material section) recommend teachers to regard students’ interests while choosing classroom materials. Accordingly, many researchers and practitioners promote the use of music in order to motivate students in the language classroom (Adkins, 1997, Musical motivation section; Baoan, 2008, Introduction section, para. 3; Domoney & Harris, 1993:
235; Kanel, 1997: 217; Kao & Oxford, 2014; Lems, 1996: 2; Mora, 2000: 152; Murphey, 1992a: 3; Saricoban & Metin, 2000, Songs section, para. 3). In addition to that, Kao & Oxford (2014) claim that music can increase students’ intrinsic motivation as well as “sustain[s] the inspiration to learn a language” (p. 120). Moreover, there are several reasons that support the belief that students are motivated when music is part of the English lessons. For instance, according to Domoney & Harris (1993), this is due to the fact that music “is ever present in students’ daily lives” and classroom tasks involve “their knowledge, their music, and their language” (p. 235).
Another reason is that the use of music brings some variety into the classroom (Y. Chen & P. Chen, 2009: 17), which Lightbown & Spada (2006) consider as an important factor. They emphasize that monotonous lessons that consist of the same patterns could lead to a decrease in students’ motivation and thus cause boredom among them (p. 65). Additionally, Adkins (1997) points out that such changes in the pace of a lesson can maintain students’ attention and keep them from “drifting into sleepiness or daydreaming modes” (Brain-Based Learning section, para. 1).
According to Saricoban & Metin (2000), a further reason for why music motivates students is the exposure to authentic materials (Songs section, para. 2). Consequently, Domoney & Harris (1993) highlight the importance of music being the only source of English outside the classroom for many students. For this reason, they believe that an English curriculum containing more music would both increase students’ motivation and compensate the lack of authentic English outside the classroom (p. 235). Nevertheless, it is essential to consider that the materials should be suitable to the students’ proficiency level, since materials they are not able to understand might cause demotivation among them (Harmer, 2003: 133).
Furthermore, the motivational properties of using music in the classroom are also supported by empirical findings. Y. Chen & P. Chen (2009) conducted a study to investigate the effect of English songs on students’ motivation. In this study, 6th grade students were regularly exposed to musical activities during one semester. As a result, the findings of the questionnaire at the end of the semester revealed a significant increase in their motivation. A similar study by Lieb (2008) yielded that students’ attitudes toward English showed a remarkable increase. Likewise, Green (1993) surveyed college-level ESL students by passing them a list of seventeen classroom activities that they were supposed to rate with regard to enjoyableness and effectiveness. In terms of enjoyableness, listening to music gained the highest scores, while singing ranked fifth. Consequently, these results confirm the motivating aspect of music in the classroom.
22.214.171.124 Group Cohesion
Another aspect noted by the literature is that using music and collective singing helps encourage harmony within a group (Huy Le, 1999; Murphey, 1992a: 8) and promotes “class bonding” (Lems, 1996: 2), which is a crucial factor in attaining learning goals in the classroom (Huy Le, 1999, chp.2, para. 7). During her teaching career, Willis (2013) experienced music as a facilitator of co-operation and mutual listening among students. To strengthen this idea, empirical support is provided by Anshel & Kipper (1988), who investigated the effects of group singing on trust and cooperation in an adult group setting. The participants each attended a session in one of four groups. These four groups included singing in a group, listening to music, reading poetry, and watching movies. The results of a questionnaire showed that among the four groups, collaborative singing had the highest scores concerning trust and cooperation, which confirms the idea that music facilitates social interaction and cooperation among language learners.
Apart from enhancing harmony among students, responses to a qualitative study conducted by Huy Le (1999) also indicate a facilitated relationship between teachers and students in “bringing [them] close together” (The significance of music in education section, para. 4). Dörnyei (2002), in turn, believes that a good relationship between teachers and students is a motivating factor in second language learning (p. 36).
2.1.2 Cultural Literacy
In addition to affective reasons, some authors claim songs are an aid in developing language learners’ cultural literacy (Brand & Li, 2009: 73; Guglielmino, 1986: 23; Griffee, 1992: 5; Kramer, 2001; Lems, 2001, Cultural knowledge activities section; Mishan, 2005: 196; Murphey, 1992a: 10; Saricoban & Metin, 2000, Songs section, para. 2). According to Brand & Li (2009), “song lyrics are embedded within a culture, its values, symbols and beliefs” (p. 73). He further regards songs as “ambassadors of a culture” that provide students with information about cultural norms and ideals of the target language so that students can acquire a better understanding of that culture (p. 73). Mishan (2005: 196) states that songs are products of a culture and thus mirror social changes or movements as they reflect the beliefs, anxieties and sounds of a certain time (Griffee, 1992: 5). Therefore, Kramer (2001) recommends using songs “with a particular sociopolitical or historical context or literary history that lie within a specific musical genre” (Songs and their pedagogical application section, para. 1). For instance, these would include American anti-war protest-songs of the 1960s or traditional folk songs, which reflect the poorness und unhappiness of people from the country in the past (Mishan, 2005: 197). Because of the authenticity and meaningfulness of songs, Saricoban & Metin (2000) believe that they are very effective in introducing cultural themes (Songs section, para. 11).
2.1.3 Language Proficiency
This section will further examine the effect that music has on basic language skills such as speaking, reading, listening as well as grammar and vocabulary acquisition. The use of music to enhance listening comprehension is highly valued for various reasons. Lynch (2005) notes that by listening to songs, students are introduced to idioms, new vocabulary and grammar. Furthermore, he mentions that songs can expose students to a range of different accents and varieties of English. Moreover, Guglielmino (1986: 22) and Mishan (2005: 203) state that discourse intonation and the rhythm of natural speech can be reinforced with the use of music. Accordingly, songs familiarize listeners with conversational English (Guglielmino, 1986: 22; Lems, 2001, Listening and oral activities section; Mishan, 2005: 203). Common features found in many songs are, for instance, reductions like “wanna” or “gonna” (Mishan, 2005: 203). In like manner, Lieb (2008: 520); Lo & Li (1998, para. 1); Saricoban & Metin (2000, Songs section, para. 1) argue that music can be exploited to foster listening skills. Comparing the effectiveness of music-based activities to conventional activities with regard to listening comprehension, Kanel (1997) carried out a study in which non-English major students of a university in Japan were divided into two groups and attended 14 lessons that involved either pop-song gap fill exercises or non-music activities. Pre- and post-test data revealed that both groups developed their listening comprehension equally. However, results of a questionnaire yielded a significantly higher interest in English among the students of the music group.
With regard to improving reading skills, Lieb (2005) emphasizes that songs allow the same amount of diversity for activities as normal texts do, while also providing extra- linguistic support1 and a lowered anxiety level (p. 94). Lems (2005) further refers to the unique opportunity of song lyrics in appealing to the students’ interests while offering a tremendously popular resource in form of lyrics websites (p. 19). Similarly, Berman (2014, para. 7); Lo & Li (1998, para. 1); Nchindila (2011) and Saricoban & Metin (2000, Songs section, para. 1) agree that reading abilities can be improved through music. Exploring the effects of music on students’ reading skills in general, Butzlaff (2000) conducted a metaanalysis on correlational studies. All of the studies included a comparison of students who have had experience with music to those that had no experience with it. In fact, a strong relationship between music instruction and reading was noticed even though it could not be determined that music was the main reason for the results.
According to various practitioners, the use of songs is a useful technique to practice students’ pronunciation and speaking skills (Guglielmino, 1986: 22; Griffee, 1992: 6; Lake, 2002, Pronunciation and singing section; Lems, 2005: 16; Lieb, 2005: 93; Lo & Li, 1998, para. 1; Ornerova, 2009: 26; Saricoban & Metin, 2000, Songs section, para. 1). Consequently, Lake (2002), who included songs in his English lessons once a week, reported that a “dramatic improvement in pronunciation” was noticed at the end of the school year (Pronunciation and singing section, para. 1). According to Guglielmino (1986), songs offer students the opportunity to improve their pronunciation without drills and repetition, which, creates boredom and anxiety (p. 22). Furthermore, Mora (2000: 151) and Schoepp (2001, Cognitive reasons section) state that learners’ speaking automaticity and fluency can be fostered through songs due to their repetitive features. Accordingly, it is commonly believed that music positively affects learners’ language proficiency with regard to the basic language skills.
In terms of teaching grammar, Abbott (2002: 11) and Guglielmino (1986: 22) state that songs can help to strengthen grammatical patterns. They can be utilized to both present and review grammar (Griffee, 1992: 6; Saricoban & Metin, 2000, Songs section, para. 4). However, an important issue that teachers must be aware of before choosing songs is that some of them contain incorrect grammar (Lynch, 2005), which could distract learners (Graham, 1992: 43). According to Nchindila (2011), however, this can be regarded as an opportunity to reinforce the right grammar form since students presumably “remember mistakes in language use” (p. 120). Also, through the exposure to informal English, students can be prepared “for the genuine language they will be faced with” (Schoepp, 2001, Linguistic Reasons section, para. 1). Mishan (2005) supports this idea and points out that textbooks often lack forms of non-standard or colloquial English (p. 203). Nonetheless, Saricoban & Metin (2000) indicate that materials and techniques should be selected carefully and well-conceived in order to provide a lesson that students can benefit from (Introduction section).
126.96.36.199 Vocabulary Acquisition
Another reason why researchers and practitioners recommend the integration of music into the language classroom is that it facilitates vocabulary acquisition, which “is the foundation of language learning” (Lieb, 2006: 84). In particular, songs can be used to expand students’ vocabulary (Griffee, 1992: 15; Guglielmino, 1986: 22) or reinforce words that they already know (Guglielmino, 1986: 22; Lieb, 2005: 94). In order to acquire vocabulary, Cook (2007: 60-61) and Schmitt (2010: 34) state that words should be repeated, recycled and grouped with related words. Accordingly, these strategies can be applied through songs, due to the fact that they are usually simple, repetitive, “contain high-frequency vocabulary”, (Lems, 2005: 14) and “provide a meaningful context for the vocabulary” (Griffee, 1992: 5).
Also, songs have the characteristics of rhyming patterns that are paired with melodies and rhythm, which help students remember vocabulary quickly (Wallace, 1994: 1472; Wassink, 2011: 10). Apart from these aspects, affective factors play an important role as well in enhancing the memorization of words, since “music seems to leave a particularly deep trace in our memories” (Mora, 2000: 150). Furthermore, Berman (2014) cites a personal communication with Douglas Wulf saying that it is easier for learners to recall words when they can connect them to something. Therefore, in contrast to rote memorization, music offers students more opportunities to build mental connections with words (para. 5).
Additionally, Murphey (1990a) built up the song-stuck-in-my-head (SSIMH) phenomenon, which describes the unconscious mental repetition of a song that can occur a couple of minutes after listening. It is believed that these common, mental rehearsals positively effect students’ memorization of phrases and words (Murphey, 1990a; Salcedo, 2010: 23). Again, Wallace (1994) claims that music aids students store vocabulary in their long-term memory due to a repeated rehearsing of the combination of text and melody, which “make[s] the memory more unique or more connected and therefore more accessible” (p. 1471). According to Mora (2000), the storing of sounds in one’s long-term memory, which is facilitated through music, allows “access” to these mental rehearsals (p.152).
In order to explore the efficiency of music with regard to vocabulary recall, numerous studies have been conducted to compare conventional classroom methods to those that involve music. Legg (2009) carried out a study with 8th grade learners of French, who were each divided into a music and a non-music group. To measure the efficiency of both groups, a pre-test and post-test were given to the students, in which they were asked to translate phrases and words into French. Between the tests, both groups dealt with the same poem. While the music group sang and rehearsed this poem, the non-music group applied traditional methods like reading and repeating. Afterwards, the results showed that the students from the music group had significantly higher memory scores in the post-test compared to the non-music group. In a study conducted by Wallace (1994), students were asked to listen to a ballad excerpt that was either sung, spoken, or spoken in a rhythmical intonation accompanied by a background beat. The students that listened to the sung version had the highest vocabulary scores whereas those who heard the spoken version had the lowest. Moreover, Salcedo (2010) not only compared the impact of musical input to spoken input on students’ vocabulary recall, but also the effect on their long-term vocabulary recall and the occurrence of the involuntary mental rehearsal. Results show that the music group performed significantly better than the non-music group. Furthermore, a much higher occurrence of the din phenomenon was reported within the music group, while no significant differences could be found in terms of delayed vocabulary recall.
A study conducted by Brand & Li (2009) with Chinese law students who were taught vocabulary in three different ways (all music, half music, no music) revealed no statistically significant differences on vocabulary gains between the three groups. Likewise, a study by Sims (2008), in which students’ vocabulary was tested after listening to sentences that were either spoken slowly, spoken fast, sung slowly or sung fast, showed that spoken sentences were recalled better than sung ones, regardless of the tempo. Similarly, Hazel-Obarow (2004) found no statistically notable results concerning the spoken or sung condition.
Additionally, Medina (1990) notes that the use of songs, when supplemented with extra-linguistic support, can increase learners’ vocabulary gains. She refers to Krashen’s (1985) Input Hypothesis, which indicates that learning new vocabulary is fostered through “comprehensible input” conveying meaning in form of pictures or actions (p. 2).
In order to test this hypothesis while comparing traditional methods to those involving music to teach vocabulary, she carried out a study in which 48 second-grade students were divided into four groups. The first group listened to a story that was spoken, the second group heard the sung version of the story, while the third and the fourth group not only listened to the spoken and the sung version but also were simultaneously watching illustrations of the target words. Post-test data revealed that the highest gains were observed in the group in which music was combined with extra-linguistic support. Apart from that, no significant differences could be found between the music and the non-music group, as they acquired a similar amount of vocabulary. Similar results were found in Schunk’s study (1999), in which the students who sang the text paired with signs had significantly higher scores than those who just spoke it.
The results of these studies indicate that music activities can be more effective than conventional activities but do not necessarily have to. When paired with extra-linguistic support, the efficiency can be increased. Additionally, in two of these studies (Brand & Li, 2009; Hazel-Obarow, 2004), qualitative data showed an increased interest and motivation among students that were exposed to music.
2.2 Types of Music
An additional advantage of using songs in the classroom is that a wide range of student interests can be addressed (Kramer, 2001, para. 4). Pop music, which is “arguably the most pervasive, the most stimulating, and the most unifying of all these interests” (Lieb, 2005: 91), is an impressive tool that should not be ignored in the classroom (Ornerova, 2009: 30). Since popular culture has a “significant impact” on teenagers (Cheung, 2001: 56), activities that involve pop music can be very motivating in learning a second language (Abbott, 2002: 16; Ornerova, 2009: 30). Murphey’s (1992b) corpus analysis of pop songs reveals possible reasons for this. For instance, listeners can “use them in personally associative ways” since they contain many unspecified referents (p. 771). He also notes that most of the songs contain the personal pronouns “you” or “I”, which may unconsciously give listeners the feeling of taking part in the conversation.
Diamond & Minicz (1994) recommend the use of country music for several reasons. For instance, country songs offer a good opportunity to discover American values and traditions, since they are “a window to American culture” (para. 4). While students practice pronunciation, they are also exposed to idioms, vocabulary and “the language from the streets” (para. 7).
Milano (1994) experienced working with Broadway musicals to be an effective method to supplement the language classroom. In this way, students can be provided with insights into the American culture, since many of them concern socio-cultural themes. Similarly, students can be introduced to conversational language and thereby expand their vocabulary (para. 2).
Kao & Oxford (2014), who provide a practical guide on how to incorporate hip-hop music in second language learning, argue that students’ motivation can be highly increased with the use of hip-hop music. When used with the right materials and methods, it can also facilitate language proficiency, boost confidence and bridge gaps between different cultures. However, Abbott (2002) notes that many teachers avoid using certain rap songs due to their offensive lyrics (p. 11). Although “somehow incompatible with the world of the classroom”, Domoney & Harris (1993) recommend making use of rap songs because they experienced a strong popularity for it among students (p. 235). Also, Kao & Oxford (2014) believe that dealing with the genuine ideals of the hip-hop culture “enables the learner to select material well [...] and avoid choosing criminally-minded material that might bring a negative climate” (p. 119). However, a self-directed approach like this seems only possible with autonomous or adult learners.
Some authors also recommend the use of jazz chants, which are rhythmic interpretations of natural, conversational speech (Abbott, 2002: 13; Graham, 1993: 3-5; Gugliemino, 1986: 24; Mishan, 2005: 205; Murphey, 1992a: 121). Thus, they can be helpful in practicing stress and intonation (Guglielmino, 1986: 22). Moreover, Abbott (2002) mentions that teachers can alternatively use them with students that are afraid of singing in front of others (p. 13).
According to Griffee (1992), instrumental music has “the ability to produce strong images in the minds of its listeners” (p. 112). Hence, students’ language and creative writing can be enhanced with the use of instrumental music (Mishan, 2005: 199). Mishan further states that activities with instrumental music reduce learners’ stress and thus make them more receptive to learning.
In two similar studies examining the effect of background music during language learning tasks, Kang & Williamson (2014) and Yelbay (2011) found that the presence of background music significantly effected participants’ word recall. In a qualitative study conducted by Cunningham (2014) with prospective English teachers, more than half of the subjects stated that they would make use of it in their future teaching career during group discussions.
Additionally, Saricoban & Metin (2000) propose the use of traditional folk songs to broaden learners’ knowledge about the target language (Songs section, para. 3). Murphey (1990b) refers to “made-for-EFL songs”, which are songs that were produced for different language learning objectives (p. 154).
As these examples show, the literature presents various musical genres that could be used. In this section, some of the most frequently mentioned genres were regarded. Indeed, there could be more types appropriate for the classroom.
2.3 Criteria for Choosing Songs
As previously mentioned, the literature provides many reasons and various types of music for the use of songs in the English language classroom. However, there are several factors that have to be taken into consideration when choosing songs.
1 According to Krashen’s (1985) Input Hypothesis, “clues based on situation and the context, extralinguistic information, and knowledge of the world make comprehension possible” (Richards & Rodgers, 2010: 182).