Oct 2014 22

Movement and sounds are essential parts of students’ learning experience. Children respond particularly well to activities that are heavily music-based. It is a good idea to use sounds, songs, dancing and TPR to aid you in catering to a wider range of students’ learning styles. It can help to cover almost all of the learning styles; Visual, Kinetic and Audio, and above all it is highly engaging, interactive and it can be very fun.

Taking words or sentences and chanting them out to your students, even incorporating a clap to go with it or a specific movement for a certain word, will have a huge effect on your students’ memory of English language interaction. This method of teaching can help students to recall these words much quicker next time. It can also help them to connect certain actions with a certain sound and therefore aid them in having a better understanding of the meaning or simply remembering how to say the words or sentences that have been taught.

Another great reason to use sound or actions in teaching English is to help with pronunciation or simply the breakdown of syllables. Chanting can help to emphasise the individual syllables and other key components of a phrase, such as its rhythm. A method to try is slowly clapping out the parts of a multi-syllabic word, whilst saying it and simply getting a student to follow and repeat. This method has also proven to be very effective when teaching adults who may struggle with pronunciation. With children however, you can incorporate far more things without fear of embarrassment; including dancing, TPR and music.

If a particularly long or difficult sentence needs to be taught then one technique to try is breaking down the words into sections and introducing a different dance move or action for each one. For example, a simple activity would be using the good old ‘hands on hips’ approach and sway your body forward, back and side to side, with each movement corresponding to a different word. However, star jumps, hops, the crab, crawl, waving and many other actions and dance moves are equally effective when used properly. This is great for kids who enjoy movement-based learning.

Language schools around the world often provide teaching staff with audio equipment and a range of songs to use in the classroom. I strongly advise making the most of them. The small fraction of time it is used for will have a huge impact on the memory building capacity of your students.  Moreover, if it’s a catchy song then your students will subconsciously repeat it in their heads, which, if they understand the meaning of the lyrics, does your job for you.

Try this: if you have an audio recording of a dialogue, song or story, play it and then stop the track suddenly part way through. Ask students what the last word they heard was, what they think the next word could be, if it was the end of a sentence, etc. Asking questions like these can encourage a student to listen more and work harder, but ultimately it helps you to know if they were listening or not.

You could also try having the words of a song clearly written on a piece of paper, give it to the students in pairs and have them sing or point to the words along with the music. Or you could have them dance and sing along and play the song often enough for the students to eventually learn the words and be able to sing along well.

Music is a great way to get children to learn. It really awakens their senses and forces them to interact and engage with the topic at hand. Failing to make good use of this valuable teaching tool will make your life harder and it means that your students are missing out on a rewarding and fun aspect of the learning process.