Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Of American Idol and ESL Music

Music is a universal language. Long before they could speak English fluently, many Chinese students I knew were belting out current hits like professionals! No doubt, their foreign teachers provided some impetus. However, these days with American Idol, music videos and karaoke, students do not need adult motivation in this direction.

Since students learn more effectively if they are interested, why not take advantage of this to stage song competitions as part of language learning? Certain songs can be turned into dramas. I remember teaching my students Nat King Cole’s “Bicycle Built for Two" – an oldie but goodie. I then divided the class into different groups to present stories out of that song. I was pleasantly impressed by their performances! Trust young people’s imagination with romances! The most important thing is that the students are learning the language the fun way! A song can also be turned into a comprehension piece or a ‘fill in the blank’ passage.

American Idol as well as other reality shows can be used as the basis for oral English discussions concerning young people, trends, culture and new technology. Or it can be turned into a debate on the judging criteria, talent versus looks, comparison of American and Asian singers, comparison of the various contestants, an appraisal of the three judges and many more issues!

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