These pages will try to answer some of the questions about why it is a good idea to use modern songs during your lessons.
In general, research suggests songs are worth using as the lessons with songs are memorable for both students and teachers. Additionally they offer the language learning an undertone of global relevance, actuality and value. They offer classrooms a glimpse of the world outside, the world we live in and thus they carry an air of importance as well.
So, if you really want to make your lessons student-centred and relevant, you need to look around and observe the world our teenagers live in. It is a world where music is easily accessible, cheap and portable. It is a world where series like Glee and films like Pitch Perfect, Burlesque or School of Rock thrive not despite, but because they bring with them great music that has been written in the past decades.
According to corpus analysis, most pop songs are conversation-like, repetitive and occur at roughly half the speed of spoken discourse (Murphey, 1992). This helps in lowering the students’ affective filters as described by Krashen (1982). Music also has the power to change the hearer’s mood, because it stimulates our imagination. (Fonseca Mora, 2000, p.151) This is important for teenagers who generally listen to or even watch music more than 10 hours per week (Sun & Lull, 1986) and at the same time have to fight with so many drawbacks that generally accompany adolescence, such as low self-esteem, low motivation or lack of beliefs in their own competence (Wigfield & Eccles, 1994). Based on this, it is my experience that music generally makes it easier for a teacher to establish a bond with teenagers and focus their attention. This is perhaps also aided by the fact that having music during lessons is not practiced during other lessons in schools.
Fonseca Mora, C. (2000). Foreign Language Acquisition and Melody Singing, ELT Journal, 54. 146-152. http://www.academia.edu/1432536/Foreign_Language_Acquisition_and_Melody_Singing
Krashen, S.D. (1982). Principles and Practices in Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon.
Murphey, T. (1992). The Discourse of Pop Songs. TESOL Quarterly, 26(4), 770-774.
Retrieved 15.7.2013 from http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3586887
Sun, S.W. & Lull, J. (1986), The Adolescent Audience for Music Videos and Why They Watch. Journal of Communication, 36: 115–125. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.1986.tb03043.x
Wigfield, A. & Eccles, J. S. (1994). Children’s Competence Beliefs, Achievement Values, and General Self-Esteem: Change Across Elementary and Middle School. The Journal of Early Adolescence. 14: 107-138, doi:10.1177/027243169401400203