Simple songs and first step language skills

How many familiar refrains can you hum? (frère Jacques, London’s Burning, Nice One Cyril, Here we go gathering nuts in May)
How many familiar refrains can the children hum and remember from songs in KS1 and links to traditional songs?

Let’s build on these simple refrains  to support initial language acquisition of transactional language ( e.g questions and answers in the first and second person singular , numbers and a key question ,colours and a key question etc.

Why? Well a traditional refrain means we don't have to worry about the tune - just the words and we can use the familiar refrains to focus on syllables  , repetition and  putting song (the words ) into memory and then recalling the words when we need them in a different context.I think                                             lots of us already realise this and use these methods!

Here's one way of developing this approach:

  • Introduce key simple phrases and add actions in the target language that generate a dialogue e.g greetings, feelings, a farewell
  • The actions can reinforce the number of syllables in the word (e.g. hallo in German is two syllables- so we would shake a hand twice)   or the type of sound we have to produce (we need to roll our “r” in French words such as “merci” so let’s use or hand to roll up from the bottom of the throat to remind us to try and roll that “r”) or maybe it’s a question – so let’s use our famous question mark(thanks Amanda Ziebeck one of wonderful former associate language teachers) with a flick at the end when we need our intonation to go up at the end .
  • Try this and see how it works. Draw a question mark in the air as you say “Comment ça va?” and add a flick upwards  on the last word….your intonation will automatically rise!
  • Discuss with the children why you have added the actions you have – can they think of their own too to help them remember the words or accurately reproduce the sounds?

  • Create a song to a familiar refrain of the phrases you have been practising with the children. Ask the children to listen to your song and just do the actions as they hear the words.
  • Set the children the task now of putting these phrases to new music- to a new familiar refrain and listen and watch what they come up with.
  • Alternatively before you sing or play your own song, ask the children to invent their songs and then see how many of their songs are very similar to your own.
Simple effective fun! and works every time!  A re-usable teaching and learning tool that involves listening , repetition, responding to spoken language ,rhythm and use of sound patterns and a little bit of  creativity