Secrets to Teaching Songs in Young Learner English classes

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If you teach young learners, you probably use chants and songs in your class. But how do you teach them to use them most effectively?

Each song we use has different challenges and is magical in its own unique way. Your challenge is to find that unique magic and share it with your students.

Do you know the secrets to teaching songs to young learners? You'll find helpful tips here.

I’m sharing an example from my online Zoom class with English students in Japan to help you see what we did with songs. Today we’ll look at the first song in this video called She Has a Shirt, from Magic Time 2.

Let’s talk about the parts of the lesson that lead up to the first song in this video. Magic Time, Unit 6 lesson takes place in a jungle where everyone has packed their clothing for the trip. In a Magic Time lesson, students first learn the six new vocabulary words (shirt, skirt, cap, dress, jacket, sweater). I like to introduce this vocabulary by making it magical, such as using a suitcase to hide the clothing items or the picture cards. The students are surprised to see them. In the textbook, students search for the vocabulary items in the double-page spread and practice the words in a chant. In the final listening activity, I invite students to predict which number will be said. They say, “I think number one is ________,” and put their eraser on that picture in their book. Then they write the number. This continues until all six numbers have been called. This activity pushes output from an early stage. The kids love it! We play additional games, too.

In the next lesson, students add the grammar paradigm: She/ He has a _________. When I’m in a classroom with the students, I make a rebus sentence using the grammar paradigm and the picture cards.

Now that the students have practiced the vocabulary and grammar, they’re ready to sing the song. Make sure that you listen to the song before you teach it. The first time my students listen to the song, they’re looking at the images in their book. The second time we add movements. You can see the students pointing to their clothing, too. They really love the silly monkey part.

The children really loved this song. It helped them use the vocabulary naturally. What makes this work?

First of all, the language was gently scaffolded. Students had an achievable step. This is called the Zone of Proximal Development.

Next, the language was taught in a variety of ways. On the right, you can see the “Multiple Intelligences Pizza.” This theory was developed by Dr. Howard Gardner and adapted for the classroom by Dr. Thomas Armstrong. Some teachers have used this theory to look at students’ talents. I use it, however, for planning varied ways to teach my lesson. In our lesson, students looked at pictures (individually and in context), followed patterns, explored musical songs and chants, and moved their bodies. They learned alone and played games with their classmates. Learning like this provides repetition that is varied and engaging. When you use MI (Multiple Intelligences) strategies, you create variety in your lessons. 

Remember: Repetition, Repetition, VARIATION.

Last of all, making learning a positive experience is a very important aspect of learning. To nurture students’ imaginations and fun, use hands-on materials, including picture cards, stuffed animals, puppets, instruments, beanbags, scarves, and found items.

Songs build fluency. Games build on the language taught in class. This dice game is so much fun and builds fluency along with reading skills. You can see the children rolling the dice, adding the sight words, then reading the sentence. This activity creates some funny sentences, such as “He has a dress.” (dice pattern in MT 2 Teachers’ book). Alternatively, you can use picture cards. Students turn over one of the character cards, choosing he or she. Then the student adds “has a,” followed by another vocabulary picture card (i.e. shirt).

Just a note that before students go home, I like to play the song again. Create the chance fo students to catch SSIYH, the “song stuck in your head” phenomenon. Good songs are easy for students to repeat. Repetition helps, too. Students will sing independently and happily.

Do you have a secret to teaching songs? Let us know at magictimekids@gmail.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Kathy loves to write music for children. If you’re looking for songs for little ones, check out these two CDs, available on iTunes.

Kathy Kampa is a passionate educator of young learners. She seeks to nurture children’s imaginations and spark creativity through fun and engaging activities. Kathy believes that music and movement should be a part of every young child’s learning.

Kathy and her husband Chuck are co-authors of Magic Time, Everybody Up, Oxford Discover, and Beehive (published by Oxford University Press). They have been teaching young learners in Tokyo, Japan for 30 years. Kathy and Chuck also active as teacher trainers, inspiring teachers around the world. They have currently returned to their home state of Minnesota in the US.

If you’re interested in more of Kathy’s work, check out her YouTube channel at Kathy Kampa. Kathy has collected numerous activities to link with her here on Pinterest.

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Happy Earth Day!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Earth Day is now celebrated around the world on April 22nd. Since its inception in the US in 1970, it is now observed by more than a billion people globally every year. Earth Day is a day to take action and make changes. We can create global, national, and local policy changes to protect our beautiful planet Earth.

What can we do with our young learners? Let’s look at some music and movement resources that help our young learners recognize ways they can take action.

  1. My students loved this song! It teaches them some simple things they can do to protect our planet. Ms. Linky models some movements for the chorus. Write the letters EARTH on the whiteboard. My students really enjoyed spelling the word “E-A-R-T-H” with whole body shapes. They had a lot of fun dancing in their own way on the “na-na-na” part. Have fun!

2. Protect Our Planet is a simple song with a short chorus. It gives children ideas of the actions they can do.

3. My song Hello Spring teaches children to appreciate the beauty of the world around them. Follow this link for the video.

Hello Spring lyrics by Kathy Kampa on Jump Jump Everyone

Hello bluebirds. Hello bumblebees.

Hello red tulips. Hello cherry trees.

Hello warm sun. Hello blue skies.

Hello little ants, and orange butterflies!

For Earth Day, students can sing this version, then think about the things that they appreciate about their world. Write your own class song called “We Love The Earth” by adding seven new ideas.

We Love The Earth

Your version:

We love _______________. We love _____________________.

We love _______________. We love _____________________.

We love _______________. We love _____________________.

We love _______________. We love the Earth.

4. This is definitely one of my favorite songs by children’s singer/songwriter, Linda Arnold! It reminds children that our earth needs people who can live together peacefully. I’ve been singing and dancing to this song at the end of my volunteer lessons with children in Ukraine. Perhaps the first step to having a beautiful planet is having peace. You can watch my video from my online class here.

You’ll find the lyrics followed by the audio track below. Students can just hold hands in a circle, or add the following dance movements:

One Earth, one world (make circle shapes with arms first in front of body, then overhead),

One home (keep arms overhead, bend elbows to look like a roof), for you and me (point)

Together we can learn to live (gesture to friends or turn in a circle)

Peacefully (fold hands together).

Lyrcis for One Earth by Linda Arnold

There are many beautiful songs to help you celebrate Earth Day! I hope that you can help your children make a difference in the world.

You can find Kathy’s music at iTunes and ETJbookservice.

Jump Jump Everyone
Songs for the seasons, songs to transition, songs to move to . . . it’s all here in JUmp Jump Everyone!

My second album is filled with many happy songs that have grown in my young learner classroom. The songs encourage children to move. Many songs link to classroom content. Children can dance like falling leaves, bloom like a spring flower, move through the butterfly life cycle . . . . you’ll find LOTS of fun and magic in this album.

Happy teaching!

Kathy Kampa is a passionate educator of young learners. She seeks to nurture children’s imaginations and spark creativity through fun and engaging activities. Kathy believes that music and movement should be a part of every young child’s learning.

Kathy is the co-author of Magic Time, Everybody Up, Oxford Discover, and Beehive (published by Oxford University Press). She has been teaching young learners in Tokyo, Japan for 30 years. Kathy is also active as a teacher trainer, inspiring teachers around the world. She has currently returned to her home state of Minnesota in the US.

If you’re interested in more of Kathy’s work, check out her YouTube channel at Kathy Kampa. Kathy has collected numerous activities to link with her here on Pinterest.

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