For our last English Alive session at the CEFIRE of Sagunt we looked at ways of using music and songs in the classroom. The activities fell into four different categories.
First we looked at ways of working on the text of the song. We listened to Abba’s “The Winner Takes it All” and filled in the gaps. Then we moved on to “I Will Survive”, and this time we had to spot which words in the lyrics had been changed and provide the correct word. One or two of us mentioned what associations the song had for us: for one it was a song played at her wedding reception, for another it recalled a group of women having a great time in a disco, dancing around a pile of handbags on the floor. It was also pointed out that this was another song about resentment (female) over a relationship that has ended. Finally we looked at “You’re So Vain” also with gaps but with clues about the missing word (e.g. a kind of animal, a weather phenomenon etc). Using these clues and predicting the rhymes we saw that students could work on their inferencing skills with this activity. Unfortunately it was yet another song about female indignation and male insensitivity. Where are all the songs about caring, intelligent men?
The next two activities involved moving around to song. First we used “Everybody Needs Somebody” for an activity with large cards. As you heard the word on your card you had to raise it above your head (the person with the word “you” was particularly busy). A fun activity that works well with a fast song with a lot of repetition in the lyrics. And great fun if the teacher forgets to bring the actual music and agrees, despite the risk to the windows, to sing it instead. The second activity was a kind of musical chairs: words from the song were spread all over the floor and tables and you had to rush to put your hand or foot on the right word when the music stopped. Not good for people with claustrophobia.
The third kind of activity was about responding to music, regardless of the lyrics. Everyone paired up to mime cooking pancakes together. Each pair had to cook in a way that reflected the mood of their particular musical excerpt. Hilarious performances from one pair miming to a march from Puccini’s La Boheme and another pair that turned cooking pancakes into a sensual, samba experience… I haven’t laughed so much for ages.
But of course the best thing to do with songs is actually sing them, and if possible with others. It has been said that group singing combines three benefits in one: physical (controlled breathing), artistic (musical self-expression) and social (group cooperation). So we ended the session, and the course, with a song. Adapted from a Zulu freedom song called Akanamandle, we sang: “He’s got no power over us no more,
He’s Got no power, Hallelujah.” Although a political song, it seemed also to fit the unplanned sub-theme of the day:– women breaking away from men.
And as we said our goodbyes, we all promised to see each other again for dinner in Valencia.
NOTA: Tim Herdon donarà un taller en les XI Jornades de Didàctica de la Dramatització (entreu a l'àrea d'Àmbit Lingüístic del CEFIRE de Sagunt i ja podeu fer la inscripció).