At a recent teachers meeting there seemed to be a fair bit of interest in how I use music in my English lessons. I have written on here before about using songs in adult English lessons which is very much a part of learning whereas this is more about fun, entertainment and creating a relaxed atmosphere.
My use of music in lessons dates back to about 2006 when I thought it might be fun to use the ‘Theme From Mission Impossible‘ during a ‘hunt the flashcard’ kids activity not that they really had any idea what the accompanying soundtrack was! However, it seemed to work and the length of both track and activity inadvertently ended up finishing together at the same time.
As a result I looked at ways of incorporating other classic pieces of music into my lessons. The ‘20th Century Fox Fanfare‘ was first up and at 21 seconds was the ideal length for getting the students in the room and seated. ‘Extreme Ways‘ by Moby features at the end of the Bourne movies and has been a staple end theme to my lessons and that’s often preceded by a clip of Arnold Schwarzenegger saying “I’ll be back” which, to my surprise, still gets laughs more often that not.
Other tunes regularly used by me include themes from Thomas & Friends (kids lessons only!), Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, Terminator, Champions League, Back To The Future, Curb Your Enthusiasm, 5 Live Sports Report, James Bond, Jeopardy as well as Dance Of The Knights and loads, loads more. All very well but how do you use them in lessons I hear you ask!
Students walking into my classroom early is something I dislike so until I’ve played the starting theme they shouldn’t make their way into the room. My students are all fairly well trained to enter the room and usually file in to the lesson when they hear the music blasting out! It also alerts the receptionist that its lesson time and they can tell the students in Japanese (who may be otherwise engaged) that its time to study English!
Of course, I’m not going to kid you (or myself) that music is used for anything more than adding a bit of razzmatazz to proceedings but the tunes really do have other uses. One such example is timing. With most tunes clocking in at between 3-4 minutes they are ideal in length to time pair-work and bookwork activities.
When I did my Tesol course back in 2009 one of the first things I was complimented on in my initial lesson was the use of music throughout. Even back then I was so at home with using famous movie soundtracks as background music that I had never really thought of a trainer thinking it a good thing. It was just what I did and I guess its become something of a trademark. With silence being uncomfortable for many of us foreigners it is quite a nice idea to have some music playing gently in the background whilst the students do an exercise or two from the book or take part in a pair work activity. Of course the music should never be played at a volume which interferes or affects the students concentration.
I guess I’m a bit of a frustrated DJ in the classroom so having a CD or two at hand with many classic TV and film soundtracks on it (as well as the odd sound effect!) can “entertain” the student(s) when used at the right time such as when there’s any reference to that particular movie or whatever whether it be in the textbook or just in conversation. It also makes for a great warmer by way of a ‘Guess the Theme’ game when the topic of movies is in the book.
The music is only used when appropriate so it’s not used in all lessons but when it does appear it usually puts a smile on peoples face, relaxes them and helps welcome them into a comfortable atmosphere.