The power of song

In the workshops I have been doing in phase 3 of the new secondary curriculum support programme for the Association for Language Learning I have included a session on using songs because they can be such powerful aids to language learning.  Indeed at a recent meeting for Links into Languages trainers we were asked to think back to our early language learning experience and to share that with those around us.  Although I can’t claim to recall my very first lesson I do remember that my first year of learning French, somewhere around the age of nine or ten (yes there WAS some primary language teaching going on in the sixties), was spent using magazines published by Mary Glasgow called “Bonjour”, a title which of course still exists to this day.  Although I can’t remember whether the accompanying tapes were reel to reel or cassette such is the power of song that to this day some forty plus years later I can still visualise the classroom in which those lessons took place and can recall the words of one of the songs we learnt:  “Un elephant qui se balançait sur une toile d’araignée…” 

So, if nothing else songs are a great aid to memory – helping through rhythm, music and repetition to fix sounds, words, phrases even whole grammatical structures in the mind.   I’m sure I’m not the only teacher to get a brief rendition of “Quelle est la date de ton anniversaire?”  from the “Kilo de chansons” collection in response to a date related question!

It’s also worth noting that whilst consideration of VAK learning preferences (all the rage some years back with the backing of the then DfES), current resources in support of the SEAL agenda on the National strategies site has a questionnaire based on Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences.  According to his theory musical intelligence is one of the nine forms of “intelligence” which individuals have in different combinations and strengths, so let’s make sure we remember and include those “music smart” pupils when we are planning learning and teaching.

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