Songs That Build Positive Attitudes and Self-Esteem
Source: The Crosbys
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The next point to be developed in this paper makes explicit reference to the appreciation of the FL as a useful instrument to communicate, solve problems, face tasks, and the like. Notwithstanding, getting learners to see this usefulness; and what is more, getting them to develop a taste for the FL area may turn into a hard nut to crack, unless we consider that it is the teacher´s role to motivate students and create the appropriate conditions for this kind of practical learning to take place.
In the field of FLL, motivation is widely recognized as one of the key factors that determine the learners´ attainment of the intended goals; in this case, the development of a certain degree of communicative competence. Indeed, motivation serves as the driving force that permits teachers generate learning and helps learners sustain the long and usually hard journey of acquiring a FL. In this sense, the word “motivation” is typically defined as the forces that account for the arousal, selection, direction, and continuation of behaviour; or in other words, the factors within an individual which arouse, maintain and channel behaviour towards a goal.
On the other hand, experienced FL teachers are aware of the fact that children do not come to the English lessons like blank sheets of paper; but rather they have views about and attitudes towards learning English. According to Moon (2000), these attitudes are formed by the social environment in which they grow up and by the people around them. In this sense, it is of utmost importance to be aware of these attitudes as they can influence pupils´ desire and motivation to learn and ultimately their success in learning a foreign language.
In more specific terms, FL learners’ attitudes in Primary Education are mainly influenced by the teaching methods, which may turn the FL area into a fun, active and engaging task; by the need of using the FL outside the class, for example by using the classroom blog to listen to a song; or by personal preferences. It seems clear that children vary widely in their attitudes; however, it is also likely that their attitudes can change according to their experiences. In accordance, the teacher´s role is undoubtedly a decisive factor in the development of our learners´ positive attitudes and motivation. Some prime examples may be the selection of appropriate learning materials, planning interesting learning activities and creating a positive classroom environment.
In what follows, we introduce a framework for the implementation of motivational teaching practice, analyzing several main elements:
Creation of basic motivational conditions. In this regard, the FL teacher is in charge of promoting a pleasant and supportive atmosphere in the classroom; and a cohesive group´s relations through appropriate norms. There is no shadow of a doubt that the creation of a positive learning environment may be the difference between success or failure in the implementation of an active methodology. In Carol Read´s (2007) words, “children don´t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”. These words entail a whole conception of the teaching action at early ages, in which the volitional factors play a key role, accepting that learning can be more productive and indeed take place more easily when there are positive attitudes. In Read´s particular framework (“The C-Wheel”), she considers the role of the context in which children will carry out activities, which needs to be relevant and allow for discovery and construction of meaning; the learning coherence, ensuring that the sequence of activities range from simple to more complex and demanding; the development of the learners´ curiosity and sense of community, so that children feel challenged, but at the same time supported by the teacher, their peers and accepted by the learning community; and finally care, as children need to feel they are cared about as individuals.
Generating initial motivation and maintaining a positive attitude. At early stages of FLL, children are especially receptive to the fun component and the surprise element. In this sense, introducing lessons through familiar and contextualised learning scenarios is indispensable to engage them and attract their interest. Therefore, as we shall subsequently illustrate, the use of games, stories, songs and playful interactions is at the heart of motivating teaching practice in FLT. Notwithstanding, there is an intrinsic value in the teaching of FLs which can be associated to the learners´ interest.
Dörnyei (2001) suggests a simple framework to arouse students´ expectancy of success:
Provide sufficient preparation. The perceived likelihood of success does not depend only on how difficult the task is, but also on how well the learners are prepared for the task. Pre-task activities have become standard features in modern language teaching methodologies, and these tasks increase success potential.
Offer assistance. If the students know that they can count on the teacher´s ongoing guidance and help while they are engaged in a learning activity, this knowledge will naturally increase their expectation of success.
Peer´s help. One reason why cooperative, small group tasks are particularly motivating is that students know that they also have their peers working towards the same goals.
Make the success criteria as clear as possible. Students can only expect to be successful with confidence if it is quite clear what `success’ means in the particular context. The criteria for success need to be obvious to them from the beginning of learning if they are to know which elements of their performance and production are essential.
Provide motivational feedback to increase the learners´ satisfaction. The use of caring and supportive language, together with a friendly attitude on the part of the teacher, are crucial factors that influence the learners´ motivation. These strategies include the consideration of error as a natural an indispensable factor that must be accepted as intrinsic to the learners´ construct of the foreign language. As experienced FL teachers would acknowledge, there is no point in trying to engage students in a real communicative situation, if we stop the exchange of meaning at every error they commit.
Nevertheless, maintaining interest requires an adequate level of challenge. In this regard, we must consider a balance of linguistic and cognitive challenge, building up activities not too easy, nor too difficult. At this point, the concept of Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), based on Vygotsky, is especially helpful to design activities which bridge the gap between what children are able to carry out without any help or support and what is simply out of reach for them and, consequently, cannot be attempted.
The initial idea of getting learners to value the FL as a useful instrument of communication, must go through the application of adequate learning contexts which recreate real-life situations. Additionally, these learning contexts should entail some kind of fun component, considering the age range in Primary Education. In this sense, we know that songs and games are invaluable resources to stir learners up, getting them to practise with the FL in a “hidden way”. Apart from being intrinsically motivating, games are a source of “authentic” contexts, because children need to use the FL with a purpose embedded in the game itself. This “hidden practice” is actually one of the greatest advantages of using games, as children are engaged naturally in them, whether they deal with any of the four skills and require an effort on the part of the students. Besides, playful activities add variety to the range of learning situations, they “lighten” more formal teaching and can help to renew pupils´ energy, and they help create a fun atmosphere.
As a final remark to this point, we cannot forget the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to provide a communicative framework for learners to communicate. This communication can be highly effective if we set a partnership exchange with another school. This activity can be motivating for learners to develop an interest towards real use of the FL and the FL culture. Some European programs like e-twinning or Erasmus+ may provide a safe digital environment for students to meet other European children and share some experiences that enrich their communicative and sociocultural competences. The experience of implementing European programs in the FL class, entails practising the language communicatively; but also meeting new aspects from the FL culture in a highly motivating way.
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