Thursday, April 25, 2013

Reaching Students Through Music

The thing I miss most about teaching preschool is the little kid music. (I may be the only teacher that listens to kiddie music to relax when I'm alone.)

This year I am teaching three multi-age English Language classes.  My little ones (K-1) love my little kiddie music (Yay, that I can now listen to it as "lesson planning!").  It has been trial and error finding the music they like and are willing to practice their English with by singing along. We were stuck with the ABCs and "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" for the longest time. Though it was cute catching them singing in English during free time!  I finally got desperate for a change and started singing other content to the tune of "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes."  I really made them laugh the first time when I started singing the ABCs while doing the motions of "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes."  We chanted our numbers and colors to the tune too. 

I noticed that what really engaged my students was the movement.  (They do spend most of their Spanish language day seated doing worksheets.)  So, next I went in search of a great "Hokey Pokey" track.  I tried a few, but the ones my students like most is by Dan Zanes & Friends.  They love the way he plays with his voice in the song.  Low and behold, after the first few times of just me singing, students started chiming in playing with their voices as they sang English sounds.  Success!  It has taken many months (due to being in a Spanish environement) for my students to break out of the silent period and start trying out English.

I have tried so many other songs repeatedly.  My students have enjoyed almost every one and learned with each one, but I was still struggling with getting students to sing along.  Then I tried CJ Handy's "5 Little Monkeys." 

This song holds a very special place in my heart as it was one of my PreKs favorites.  My Preschoolers loved the song so much, that we went to the University video production lab and made our own music video for the song!  (One of the many perks of teaching at a University lab school!)  I was so happy to see my ELL students singing along to this song.  We are still working on the exact wording, but right now each students gets a huge bravo for trying to speak English!  I also caught them singing it after school hours!  I really won them over with this song by incorporating motions (jumping, shaking their finger, etc.) and also with the fun voices CJ Handy uses.  Now I know my students' weakness!  I am on the lookout for other great movement and vocal play songs.  Suggestions welcome!

For my middle schoolers and high schoolers, I am enduring some Justin Beiber and One Direction.  Singing their favorite songs are huge motivators for practicing pronunciation and trying to extract meaning from the lyrics.  I also use my crazy teacher skills to find examples of good and bad grammar.  I am always amazed how I can tie it all together!

There you have it, all three classes (K-12) engaged by music!

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