I gave a talk on Saturday at ACEIA, the annual conference for language schools in Andalucía. Towards the end I asked participants to share their favourite activities with VYLs and as I was wandering around, I heard one of the participants mention Kids TV 1,2,3 – a youTube channel which has a great range of songs and rhymes for VYLs – a great standby for the last five minutes of class, or to be incorporated into your daily routines!
Hmmm…my first use of tagxedo! Can’t quite figure out how to make it bigger though, without it looking distorted. This came from a staff meeting we had on using music in the classroom – using it in the foreground, in the background, as a reward, as part of a routine with YLs…lots of fantastic ideas. As they’re not so easy to read, I’ll pop them in below as well 🙂
TPR – songs with actions – karoke – running dictations before listening – gapfill – listen and point – invent the tune/video/ new verse – work with rhyme – predict vocabulary – bingo – use it for a grammar/vocab focus – as an introduction to a topic – stream of consciousness writing – visualisation – listen for mistakes in the tapescript – musical statues – musical consequences – guess the film – name the instruments – song posters – starting/ending the lesson – transition between activities…I’m sure you can think of more too!
Keeping students occupied is a tough job and a range of fast finisher activities is always a good thing to have to hand. But what about keeping students entertained before the lesson starts? In a perfect world, our classes would start punctually with students arriving dead on the time they’re due to come into class, rather than ten minutes earlier or later. Well, one can dream!
I’ve found with YLs that it’s important for them not to build up too much energy with friends before coming into class. Left to their own devices whilst waiting they often get a bit over-excited and this then spills over into the class. Fortunately our school has a reading area where students can sit and look through some books or magazines whilst waiting. The other day however, I also found something else to keep them occupied – I gave them cards with the names of different songs (our routine songs and some from the coursebook) and they say outside and merrily sang away. I don’t know if the secretary was too enthused, but it was a lovely way to keep them entertained and using English, so ready to come into class and continue.
As I wrote before, I’m doing more songs with my YLs this year and thoroughly enjoying myself as I lead them in a few verses of “If you’re happy and you know it”. However, the original songs can be somewhat restrictive in the language they expose our students to and I’m always on the look out for ways to incorporate a wider range of vocabulary into the lessons. Fortunately, a town close to us has a zoo which the majority of students go to at some point on a school trip. So the lyrics of Old MacDonald have now begun,
In Jerez there is a zoo
E I E I O
And in the zoo there is a…
Before starting the song I ask students to think of a number of animals they can see at the zoo and write them on the board, making the song more personal for them as well. The trouble is sometimes figuring out on the spot what sound some of the animals make…koala (snoring), seal (clapping), giraffe (munching on tiptoes), lemur…I’m still stuck on that one – any ideas!?
I started using lots of British nursery rhymes with my early primary learners last term. It was a great way to get them up and using a bit of energy before settling down to do a quieter activity. I found I could remember a lot of the actions from when I was a child and, if there were any I wasn’t sure about, I just invented something which seemed to fit.
Here’s are some of the songs I’ve been teaching them…
Incy Wincy Spider
If you’re happy and you know it
I’m a little teapot
The wheels on the bus
The Hokey Cokey
Anyway, as I was singing and doing the actions, I started thinking whether it actually meant anything to the students and whether by singing and miming they were actuallyy learning any new vocabulary. It made me question whether I was doing the nursery rhymes for a good reason. But then I thought back to when I was a child and some of the songs which we used to sing which, thinking about them now, didn’t make much sense to me at the time.
Take for example, “Ring a ring of roses” (if that’s even the correct title). The lyrics to that make more sense to me now having studied a bit of history, but twenty-five years ago, it was just a song we’d sing and dance to.
A seven-year-old has much more fun in class standing in a circle and singing the Hokey Cokey than filling in a worksheet of body parts. So perhaps teaching English should be more about enjoying using language in as natural a state as possible.