Using Google to motivate and teach via English songs

Jodie Campbell, Kyoto Notre Dame University


Quick guide

  • Key words: Motivation, ARCS, lyrics
  • Learner English level: Any
  • Learner maturity: Any
  • Preparation time: 15-20 minutes
  • Activity time: 30-45 minutes
  • Materials: Any song, Google, CD player or Internet access if streaming the song from an online source, computer lab (if desired)

We all know motivation plays a significant role in any second language (L2) learning activity and not every activity we prepare is going to motivate our students to learn. However, following Keller’s (2010) four-step ARCS Model of Motivational Design (Attention, Relevance, Confidence, Satisfaction) for sustaining and promoting motivation, we can see that teaching English via songs is a great resource for achieving motivation. The Internet and music fulfill the ARCS model criteria in the following ways: stimulating curiosity to learn by activating learners perceptual level of curiosity via music (Attention), meeting personal needs/goals by relating material (i.e., music) to learners’ lives (Relevance), helping learners believe they can succeed by providing personal control in their learning (Confidence), and reinforcing accomplishment by showing learners the skills they’ve acquired via Internet song-searching (Satisfaction). Thus, the Internet and songs are resources that should be utilized in the L2 classroom, particularly now that computer-assisted language learning (CALL) and autonomous learning are moving toward the forefront of L2 teaching methodology.

Step 1: Choose any song, making sure that it is at the right level of difficulty.
Step 2: Find the lyrics for the song online and make a gap-fill exercise (See Appendix). For lower-level classes, I include the first letter of the words.
Step 3: Distribute one copy to each student.
Step 4: The gap-fill activity can be assigned in class, in a computer lab, or as homework.

Step 1: Distribute the gap-fill exercise and have the students read through the song with a partner, and ask about anything they don’t understand.
Step 2: Play the song while students fill in the blanks. Encourage guessing. Have students check their answers with their partner.
Step 3: Play the song again. Have students check their answers again.
Step 4: Elicit student answers.
Step 5: Have students sing along with the song. Encourage them to sing along with the tempo, rhythm, and intonation of the singer(s).
Step 6: Ask students how many of them listen to English songs. Then ask how many of them listen to English songs to study English. In my experience, the number is quite low.
Step 7: Introduce students to using English songs to study English. Show them that a Google search of any song lyrics will produce an enormous amount of search results. Teach them how to do a Google search. For example, take a screenshot of a Google search for a particular song and show them that all they have to do is type in performer name + lyrics OR performer name + song title + lyrics. I recently used Rihanna’s song Only Girl In The World, so I showed my students that I typed, Rihanna lyrics in the Google search bar, scrolled down to Only Girl In The World, and found the lyrics.
Step 8: Have students search Google and explore how to find English songs and their lyrics. This can be done in a computer lab or assigned as homework.
Step 9: Assign some songs as homework, again using a gap-fill exercise. Tell students to search the Internet for the missing words. They can check their answers with their partners during the next class.

If we consider Keller’s (2010) ARCS Model of Motivational Design theory for sustaining and promoting motivation in the L2 classroom alongside the facts that the Internet is a prevalent part of our students’ lives and our classrooms and that songs have been a part of human existence for time immemorial, this activity is a very effective learning tool. Because activities following the ARCS Model are intrinsically and extrinsically motivating, they develop autonomous language learners who become responsible for their own learning.

Keller, J. M. (2010). Motivational design for learning and performance: The ARCS model approach. Tallahassee, FL: Springer.

I (1) w_________ (2)________ (3)______ (4) l___________ (5) _______, like I’m a hot guy
Be thinking of me, do what you like
So boy (6) f___________ (7)________ (8) t_______ (9) _____________ cuz it’s gonna be me and you tonight
I (10) w______________ make your bed for ya, then I’m gonna make you swallow your pride