The inspiration

A fresh approach…and the inspiration behind it

This is how it all began.

Around 2010, an idea started to brew about how to revolutionise the use of songs and song lyrics in the English language classroom. I felt what was currently on offer in coursebooks and even on the internet lacked innovation, and so I sought out ways to inject novelty and variety into its use; to break free from, what I and many others view as, a ‘same-old, same-old’ approach to the use of this resource.

Inspired by over 20 years of using songs and song lyrics in the classroom I felt it was time to share these ideas so that all EFL teachers could further exploit this resource’s potential, making its use and teacher’s lessons even more engaging. The intention of this mini coursebook and the approach, in general, is to challenge the existing status quo in the way this resource is employed, and by doing so guide and inspire teachers towards new and innovative ways of maximising the benefits that the use of songs and song lyrics in the language classroom offers.

A key feature of both this sampler book and all books in the Teaching Tracks series is the absence of gap-fill activities. The tendency I feel is that producers of materials are prone to fall into what I have dubbed the ‘gap-fill trap’. As well as the pedagogy behind gap fills being somewhat questionable, its inclusion limits, even dictates, what can be done and, more crucially, what can’t be done – severely restricting the scope of the exploitation of the material. Publishing-wise it is also problematic to include the lyrics themselves as copyright permission is required – it is though notoriously difficult to obtain.

Creating teaching and study materials without the inclusion of the full lyrics within the actual materials has, in fact, been a revelation. This freedom (from the proverbial box) made exploring the possibilities of the song, its theme, the multifarious elements of the language within the lyrics, its video and associated activities, much more satisfying with extremely innovative outcomes.

As already mentioned, due to copyright complications, the lyrics are not included within the lesson plans but they can, of course, be easily (and legally) obtained from a variety of sources; where possible, official links to these are given at the beginning of the materials. The ebook format is ideal for Teaching Tracks as it allows instant links to many lyric sites as well as audio sites like Spotify, and music video sites site such as YouTube and Vevo.

Despite the ease of access outlined above, practitioners often seem to limit the use of songs in the classroom to that of little more than a tool to change the pace of the lesson or to create a lively, fun mood. But I think songs and their lyrics have far more to offer than this. Songs are a multi-purpose text type, tailor-made for the language classroom. They are perfect as they are invariably concise, contain interesting everyday vocabulary, and are a really effective way of analysing grammar in situ. They are also, of course, great for listening, pronunciation, and phonetic work. Songs are a real-life text type, excellent for analysis of informal language like slang/colloquialisms, idioms, common usage and the like. That is not even to mention their thematic use which, if the right song is chosen, can be extensive.  In short, the multi-skill based materials here and in the Teaching Tracks series are both content and culture rich, and crucially they are authentic too.

Teaching Tracks is the way forward in using songs and song lyrics in the English language classroom.

Feel free to get in touch to share your comments and feedback, and to pre-order the 10-song coursebook, Top Ten.