Tuesday, November 4, 2014
By Sandra Heyer
ESL Teacher and Author of the textbooks True Stories Behind the Songs and More True Stories Behind the Songs
Songs and Activities for English Language Learners
Not long ago, I was flipping through radio stations in my car when I came across an oldies station playing “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” the song that accompanied the iconic scene in the 1969 movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I began to sing along, a little surprised that I knew the words. But the bigger surprise was that I wasn’t singing in English — I was singing in German. Ach, du lieber Himmel! Where did that come from? I had probably memorized the lyrics when I was teaching German in the early 1970s. There they were, pretty much intact, over four decades later.
Language learners and teachers know that singing popular songs in the target language and memorizing their lyrics can be a powerful learning technique. However, if you teach beginners, as I do, your attempts at having students sing along with recordings may have had mixed results. For the activity to work, the planets have to be perfectly aligned: The song’s lyrics have to be simple, the tempo not too fast, the rhythm predictable, and the melody universally appealing. That’s a pretty tall order.
After several disappointing experiences with sing-alongs in my beginning class, I had pretty much abandoned the activity. Then came the “Ah ha!” moment —
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