Using FunSongs action songs

Maria Carmen Triola (Jul 17, 2011)

Some thoughts about teaching kids and why songs are so important.

When was the last time your young learners repeated a language exercise again and again outside the classroom just because they wanted to? Probably never, unless that “exercise” was in the form of a song.

I would like to share some thoughts about teaching kids and how songs have become such an important part of my approach.

We sing because we love singing, and songs help us learn language. Students feel a sense of achievement every time they reproduce a song, even just two lines of it. Songs are multi-sensory, they appeal to both the right and the left hemispheres of the brain, as well as our desire for pleasure.

All of us still remember the nursery rhymes we learned when we were very young, and good action songs play the same role, students will remember them forever.

An effective exercise for body and mind together, tune and rhythm help us remember words and chunks of words. Repeating actions helps us remember the sequence and the meaning of words, and on top of that encourage correct pronunciation.

In class we have no difficulty repeating lines many times because we like to move and we want to enjoy the actions many times. Therefore, each action song can be scrambled and then, through a scanning and reading processes, put back in the correct order. This approach allows students to picture the actions, the words, and their meaning. Using songs is not an activity I introduce into my programs for fun, but as a way of presenting language chunks in a memorable, meaningful way. This humanist approach to language teaching makes the classroom a place of inclusion and safety for all students, whatever their gender or origin.

I use FunSongs action song modules extensively throughout my courses. I always record the children’s voices and play the results back to them. Hearing their voices motivates students to give a better performance when they sing and act out these catchy songs in front of parents, friends, relatives and students from other classes.

There are plenty of songs for children on the Internet, but at FunSongs you can easily download the action song packages to play on your computer. Each action song package has a teacher’s guide version, a child’s version, and a video. The video is especially useful at home where kids do not feel embarrassed to sing in front of a screen.

Each action song package comes with graded worksheets which you can photocopy and use to focus the children’s attention and work on the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. I use them to help students picture the language chunks in their minds and strengthen memory retention.

When confronting a new class for the first time, I always introduce the free song, “Time to Play” miming the actions as suggested in the FunSongs Teacher’s Guide.  I have successfully used this action song with preschool children through to adults. It really is an effective learning technique - something they will never forget - like learning to ride a bicycle.

Finally, I would like to add that FunSongs action songs are also useful for teachers who do not have an adequate command of English - all too common in Italian primary schools. Languages are hard to learn in the classroom, we can only expect limited results. However, I know so many teachers, passionate ones, dedicated to their mission as professionals who can get blood from a stone. This is a way of doing it.

Today, all the elements we need for successful language teaching are accessible; we just have to learn how to combine them properly.

 

 

Maria Carmen Triola is the Italian teacher appointed by the MAE for the C.I.A.O. project. She has been working during thirty years as an English teacher in primary schools in Italy. Moreover, she has worked for a long time with the Università di Bolgona, responsible for training internships for future English teachers in primary schools. carmen.triola@unibo.it

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