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Using songs and chants in the YL classroom

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wpid-fb_img_1426189219067.jpgBoom Chicka Boom!

Thank you to those of you who attended my session at the IH Torun Teacher Training Day, April 18 2015. You will find a link to the handout at the bottom of this post.

Literature is full of references to the efficacy of music as a tool for both first and second language acquisition, but are songs and chants utilized as much as they could be in the second language learning classroom? I’ve loved singing and music for as long as I can remember, and been interested in using them in the classroom since I stepped foot in one.

How do you feel about using songs in the YL Classroom?

YL coursebooks are full of songs and chants. And why not? Using songs and chants as a pedagogical tool to teach children language is a natural and logical choice. Singing is a natural and popular medium for both parent and child and by the time children come to us in the second language learning classroom, they are often already equipped with a catalogue of songs, chants, and rhymes. Children live in musical worlds. In fact, according to research, babies as early as in the womb pay more attention to singing than speaking and it’s suggested that from very early ages there is little distinction between singing and speech.

Are you happy to sing? Why? Why not?

According to Trinick (2012), Lee believes songs are not being used as much as they should be in the classroom and suggests the root may be that they are viewed purely as entertainment, or that teachers lack understanding into the theoretical underpinnings or application and methodology. Could it be as Carless and Douglas (2011) surmise that the significance of the ubiquity of songs goes unnoticed? Trinick (2012) concurs and cites Tracey, ‘there is a tendency to overlook familiar, everyday materials and resources’. As Rogers (no date) attests, literature ‘abounds with positive statements regarding the efficacy of music as a vehicle for first and second language acquisition’. Indeed countless resource books for teachers, coursebooks, TESOL websites and blogs proffer advice, activities and encouragement*. *See handout link for resource list

Are you ruling the TEFL world Beyonce style in your classroom? Or are you pressing play on the CD and hoping for the best?

Maybe you do want to sing in class, and it’s not that you’re afraid to, but you just:

• can’t be bothered • don’t have time (you do one at the end of the lesson if you need to fill in time)

• aren’t sure what songs to sing

• aren’t sure how to sing the songs

• aren’t sure how to teach the songs

• have never done it before

• hate the songs in the coursebooks

• would rather teach grammar and other important things

• are actually a T-rex and therefore can’t sing. Or clap.

I urge you to think about using songs and chants in the YL classroom.


‘Children love rhythm, music and movement, and it is widely recognised that the use of rhymes, chants and songs contribute to young children’s overall social, linguistic, physical, cognitive and emotional development. When starting to learn a foreign language, rhymes, chants and songs play a special role in drawing children into producing language in ways which are natural, spontaneous and enjoyable. As well as enhancing children’s learning and acquisition of language, the use of rhymes chants and songs promotes the development of positive attitudes and motivation towards learning a foreign language in both immediate and longer term. Give their many potential benefits for learning, there is a strong case for making rhymes, chants and songs a fully integrated component of any programme to learn English.’

(Read 2007)


It’s all about confidence, enthusiasm and having fun. Songs and chants are perfect for the YL classroom as they present language in a fun and memorable way and allow our students to experiment with the sounds of English. Many teachers, however, despite being fully aware of the potential of songs and chants fall a little short because they lack the confidence to pull it off in the classroom. Confidence and enthusiasm is key. Students need to know the teacher feels good about the song in order for them to. It really doesn’t matter if you’re a little off key and no Mariah Carey. Chances are your students won’t notice or will feel more comfortable knowing you are normal just like them. What will stop your students joining in is if they see you aren’t 100% comfortable. It’s fine to have a CD player for back up. But don’t rely on it, and whatever you do don’t stand at the front of the class lip syncing and conducting (but not actually singing) expecting them to do all the work. If you are enthusiastic and singing along you are more likely to get them to join in.

Want to know more?

You can read my 5 tips for using songs in my YL Column in the next issue of the IH Journal here

You can get a handout on Using Songs and Chants in the YL Classroom here Boomchickaboom_handout_April2015

I’d love to know how you feel about using songs and chants in the YL classroom.

Until next time!

CARLESS, David and DOUGLAS, Kitrina (2011). What’s in a song? how songs contribute to the communication of social science research. British journal of guidance & counselling, 39 (5), 439-454.

READ, Carol (2007). 500 activities for the primary classroom. Oxford, Macmillan. Macmillan Books for Teachers.

TRINICK, Robyn Margaret (2012). Sound and sight: The use of song to promote language learning. General music today, 25 (2), 5-10.

Children Learning English Affectively

Last summer I had the pleasure of meeting and working with the wonderful Juan Uribe,

English Teacher, Storyteller, Methodology Cook, Puppeteacher, Dreamer with young learners, Teacher Educator, ELT Management Strategist, ELT Magician, Frog Collector, Kindergarten Pop Star…

and blogger extraordinaire at  ‘Children Learning English Affectively‘.

One of the best things about meeting Juan was getting to know his wonderful blog, so I am absolutely honored that he invted me to be interviewed and has published the interview here.

Thanks Juan and Buddy!

Juan and I in Konya, Turkey

Juan and I in Konya, Turkey

Boom Chicka Boom!

I recently got to do my favourite all time sessions, not once, but twice! First at the ‘Young Ones’ Conference at ILC Brno and then at the SCIO project conference here in Prague.

Boom Chicka Boom: Using Songs and Chants in the YL Classroom is a session I’ve done quite a few times now. I mix it up a bit each time, but the principles remain the same. Each time I do it it gets a great response and people request slides and handouts. Until now I didn’t have a handout. Drum roll….here it is!

Boomchickaboom_ handout October2014

I’m also uploading the powerpoints

boom chicka boom BRNO 2014

boom chicka boom SCIO 2014

I’ve added some resources to the bottom of the handout. Please share more in the comments if you have them. I have a little project up my sleeve and hoping to collect as many resources and links as I can.

Until next time…


Kaboom! IH Palermo is da bomb

In case you didn’t already know, Jonny Ingham from IH Palermo has a fantastic blog called Recipes for the EFL classroom.

Jonny recently posted a great guest post from his YL Coordinator, Jenny Holden, on establishing routines in the YL classroom

While I was looking around his blog, I found all sorts of fabulous practical ideas, but got very excited when I came upon this little beauty….


There’s nothing I love more than a simple activity that is versatile, and requires no fuss, no photocopying. Just a marker and a whiteboard or flip chart etc and away you go. The possibilities are endless with this one.

Thanks for sharing, Jonny and thanks for your blog.


Until next time….


Teaching VYL

Teaching VYL

I’ve been busy the last year being a part of the writing team for a new IHWO teacher training course, the IH VYL.

International House Certificate in Teaching Very Young Learners

We piloted the course face to face  in 4 different schools around the world and now it has been released online via the IHWO OTTI (Online Teacher Training Institute).

First online course starts 27th September 2014 October 25th!

Carry on Konya

KonyaThis summer I had the opportunity to  again go to Turkey as a freelance Teacher Trainer working on a CTS Primary course with SELT Academy. This year I was in Konya.

It was a fabulous 2 weeks with trainees from Algeria who both delighted and inspired me and fellow trainers from around the world that made me laugh daily. I wasn’t sure at first about leaving hubby and my now 2 yr old sausages behind for a second time, but I dragged along a friend I adore for the ride and away I went. What can I say, I’m sure glad I did 🙂

When I arrived in Konya I was greeted by a stinky cramped hotel room that backed onto a noisy alleyway and had electrical wires hanging out the bathroom wall. I really wasn’t feeling it. Homesickness and missing my tucking my little sausages into their beds wasn’t helping. I didn’t sleep a wink the first night in fear of bed bugs and electric shock and any other yucky thing my sleep deprived mind could conjure up.

How quickly things change though. A new hotel room, meeting my colleagues properly, seeing the school, meeting my trainees… Everything from that moment just kept getting better and better. I fell in love. Deeply in love. With my trainees. My colleagues. Konya. Turkey. It was a magical two weeks full of smiles and laughter. Not even the oven-like conditions in the air-con-less classrooms could dampen my happiness (well, maybe a little).

Whenever I think of my time in Konya, I smile.

My wonderful trainees made me smile. Especially their jazz hands and, well, total awesomeness.


The best trainees in the world


Everything is better with jazz hands

And who doesn’t love a trainee that brings the whole class ice-cream?


Lovely Jesus saves us all. Hip Hip hooray for ice-cream on a hot day!

In fact, even though I was sad to say goodbye to my lovely Algerians, I’m so happy to have known them.


A happy goodbye? We walked and we walked and we walked….all the way to lunch

My wonderful colleagues made me smile.


The trainers and their pilot, Tarik.

My daily bus rides made me smile. And laugh. A lot!


Benjicek-cek-cek ja jsem Benjomil…


Everyone’s buddy. Buddy.

Actually, My colleagues didn’t just make me smile. They made me laugh out loud on a daily basis.


Tuna comes from trees. Not inebriated donkeys.

My favourite…

Ben quote, “Is it under the table?”

Magdi quote, “No, it isn’t”

Anette quote, “Is it in the tree?”

Juan quote, “Tuna!!!”

So many things to make me laugh and smile. Hichem bringing me tea. Juan telling alphabet jokes…..


My favourite cheeky monkey.


The Pink Panther aka HJ

Sitting on a terrace late into the night with a cuddly frog called Buddy. So much to smile about!


Buddy, Buddy, Buddy. No words!

Meeting and working with the lovely and talented  Juan Alberto Lopez Uribe, author and creator of popular TEYL blog Children Learning English Affectively, has inspired me to write more on this blog. There is a real blog post coming. I just need to put aside some time to write it. And my new ‘school’ year’s resolution is to post more frequently.

In the meantime, if you are looking for a way to get your young learners smiling and laughing, I highly recommend two of Juan’s blog posts inspired by our carry on in Konya….

Affective puns for young language learners and alphabet riddles for young learners

and while you are there, there are tonnes of other great posts on Juan’s juan in a melon blog (see what I did there, Juan?), like this fab one he posted today listing 50 ways to use flashcards affectively (and effectively!)

Thank you juanderful Juan for encouraging me to dip my toes back into the blogosphere. I promise to set aside some time for a real post real soon. Starting with one just for you.


How many days have you wasted lately?

Until next time…..

Ziga Ziga ah!

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Ziga Ziga ah!

This year seems to be year of the project work presentation for me. In January 2014 I gave a short mini-presentation called ‘Bringing Language to Life’ at the IHWO DOS Conference in London. I wrote a ridiculously long blog post about it. Anyway, I was overwhelmed by the positive response so I wrote about project work for my column in the IH Journal and went on to give a full presentation on spicing up project work for YL’s at the 2014 YL Conference in Bristol. As luck (or bad luck in this case) would have it, we were running over, technology failed me, I was full up with a head cold and couldn’t hear myself speak let alone think or put clear sentences together etc etc, yes please do play tiny violins, I was really disappointed in myself. It ended up being a rushed mush of a few potentially good points hidden in the gabble. Well, that’s how I felt about it anyway, so I decided that instead of moping around thinking ‘Ohhh if only blah blah’…I would revamp it and give myself a second shot ready for the Akcent IH Prague Teacher’s Conference.

The Akcent Confernece has now been and gone, and a number of people from both conferences have requested the presentation. So below are the slides (for the IH Prague version) and here are my ‘notes’.ziga ziga ah IHP notes I must point out that when writing my notes I was flicking through the books listed at the end of my slides. I never intended to publish or share my notes. They were intended for my eyes only to read through before I stood up and did my thing, so there is no referencing or citation through the text, or paragraphing, proofreading, full sentences, any of that normal stuff. But you asked for it and I’m feeling generous. Just not generous enough with my time to change them in anyway.


Until next time…


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