Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Physical Break Chants

As we are having overloaded classrooms, with small space, and mixed ability groups, learning English as a second or third language can become an extra boring task which keeps our pupils away from their friends, computers and other “more interesting” subjects in the school.

During the hour long sessions, the concentration span of even the most diligent pupils drops considerably and those who are tired or without motivation, often distract me, away from my teaching and on to their behaviour.

My pupils need a rest and so I stop teaching midway through the lesson and gave them 4 or 5 minutes in which to do some physical exercises.

They have called this break time as a “five-silly-minutes” and it is an opportunity to “go wild” a little.

The success of this break time depends to a large extent on the general dynamics of the group and the mood of the day; but I found that if I set clear limits –now it’s time to work, now it’s time for “fivesillyminutes”- The children generally accepts it and responds well.

By now “fivesillyminutes” has become a valuable routine to encourage and maintain my pupils’ participation in class.

The idea is not to take the pupils’ minds completely off English. So we “compose” our own Physical Break Chants (or use some very good published chants) as a way to use English without straining children powers of concentration too much.

First, they memorised the Physical Break Chant with the help of the IWB and some illustrations for support. Then I give them a combination of the chant’s rhythm and rhyme pattern, the pictures and appropriate physical actions, made it easy for them to learn it. After my pupils have said and performed the chant, I usually give 2 or 3 minutes free.

Children like a certain ritual element to their language learning and these chants provide just that. And with them (unlike many nursery rhymes) the language needn’t to be too childish.

An important step would be the use of these few guidelines to help you compose a Physical Break Chant and make it memorable and effective (at a later stage you can let your pupils make them up!)
  • Use the rhyme.
  • Devise mime gestures to go with the words.
  • Alternate stretching and contracting, immobility and movement.
  • Include touches of humour.
  • Illustrate it with cartoon pictures.

As a result, you will have children’s positive reaction and a decrease of “some” negative feelings about having to learn English.

This just an example of a Grade 3 (8 year olds) chant, composed by the pupils, (with a little help from the teacher, of course!).

One, two, three, four

This is a hat, this is a hat,
What do you wear on your head?
A hat!

These are two gloves, these are two gloves,
What do you wear on your hands?
Two gloves!

Look at these shoes, look at these shoes,
What do you wear on your feet?
Brown shoes!

New ideas are welcomed!

Here you are some stuff it may help in your way of using Physical Break Chants:
  • GRAHAM, C (2006) Creating chants and songs. Oxford: OUP
  • WILL, S and REED, S (2010) Primary Music Box. Cambridge: CUP
  • PHILLIPS, S (2010) Young learners. Oxford: OUP
  • REILLY, V and WARD, S (1997) Very young learners. Oxford: OUP
  • GRAHAM, C (2001) Jazz chants old and new. Oxford: OUP
  • GRAHAM, C (1993) More jazz chants. Oxford: OUP (American English)
  • GERNGROSS, G and PUCHTA H (2001) Do and understand. Longman.

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