Singing with 4 to 5 years old. Brendan Dunne


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Singing with 4 to 5 years old. Brendan Dunne

  1. 1. Brendan Dunne Singing with 4 to 5 year olds 1INTRODUCTIONSome years ago, while travelling to give a workshop on singing for teachers of primaryage children, I was reminiscing with a colleague about songs from our own childhood.She asked me if I had heard a song which went “En el coche de papa….” I hadn’t, butthis song was apparently very popular when she was a child; although she hadn’theard it for years. I was particularly interested in “singing and memory” at the time as Iwas conducting a small action research project on the effects of singing on recall ofvocabulary items. I decided to conduct a further little experiment.At the workshop, and then in a series of workshops on singing that I gave over the nexttwo years I asked participants if they could continue singing a song after I’d sung themthe first line. Without exception I was given a thundering response of “Nos iremos depasear…” again and again. In fact the teachers often didn’t want to stop singing it.When asked when they had last heard the song the response was usually “abouttwenty years ago.” This seemed to confirm a belief I already held; that the songs welearn in childhood can often stay with us for life.THE BENEFITS OF SINGING FOR THE YOUNG LANGUAGE LEARNERNot only does singing leave a deep trace in the memory but it also has a number ofother benefits for the young language learner. Singing allows the children to be activelyinvolved in their learning from a very young age. Singing as an activity can alsoaddress the whole child and not just the language learner, as songs often draw on theircommon experiences outside the language classroom. There are songs for almostevery theme or occasion. Not only can we practise common language topics such asnumbers, colours, animals, food, actions etc; but we can also explore a range ofemotions and situations that are part of the child’s everyday life. Songs linked tocalendar events such as festivals may also give the children insights in to their own andother cultures.The physical benefits of singing should not be underestimated. Singing not only haspositive effects on breathing and voice control but also exercises all the muscles of thehead and neck. As songs are often combined with action and movement they can alsohelp with developing co-ordination.Singing is something that many children will already be familiar with from theirexperiences at home with parents and siblings. Indeed, songs can provide an importantbridge between the classroom and home. Parents are often delighted to hear theirchildren singing songs they have learned in class and this can enable them to share inthe learning experience too.THE BENEFITS OF SINGING FOR THE LANGUAGE TEACHERSinging as a classroom activity also has a lot to offer the teacher. As mentioned abovesongs can cover common language themes and topics for this age group and can beused to practise a wide variety of vocabulary and expressions. Songs may contain lotsof repetition and can provide enjoyable opportunities to work on pronunciation. Theycan combine well with other classroom activities such as stories, games, movementand dance; and also paper-based activities such as picture, colour and numberdictation.L’aprenentatge de l’anglès a l’educació infantil
  2. 2. Brendan Dunne Singing with 4 to 5 year olds 2Singing can have beneficial effects on enjoyment and motivation of students and canbe an enjoyable way to channel the children’s need to move around and make a noise.It can be useful for varying the pace and energy levels of the class and can be used atany point in the class to calm or stimulate the students. It also allows for whole classinvolvement; even those who aren’t ready to sing can join in with actions.PERSONAL AND PEDAGOGICAL ISSUESA number of issues need to be considered with singing as a classroom activity:Which songs work best with this age group?There are a number of important considerations when choosing songs for youngchildren:The lyrics must be immediately meaningful or simple enough that the children willunderstand the song with a little pre-teaching of vocabulary or expressions. Songs thatinvolve a lot of repetition will be easier to learn.The melodies should also be simple and repetitive and avoid any leaps in pitch. Mostchildren at this age will not have enough control to sing in tune and this shouldn’tmatter. The simpler the melody, the less important it will be to sing in tune. Simplerhythm and strong rhymes will also make the song easier to sing.Does the teacher need to be musical?Unfortunately for some, classroom singing may not have been a positive experience inthe past and this may have led to unwillingness to try singing with students. Othersmay want to sing but do not feel confident enough because of how they seethemselves as musicians.Nevertheless, singing to children seems to be a perfectly natural thing to do and manyparents, carers and teachers seem to take to it easily and without concern for any lackof musical training. Singing is used to soothe, stimulate and entertain. Humour is ofteninvolved when singing to babies and toddlers and older children and the experience isusually positive for both children and adults.Singing in the classroom, however, is a more public activity and some teachers mayfeel shy about taking the plunge. Confidence, as in any performance activity is animportant part of success. Yet, as with any other teaching technique, ability andconfidence will usually improve with practice.If you really don’t want to sing then it is worth considering that talking, (which mostlanguage teachers would see themselves as being good at) is itself musical. It alsoinvolves control of rhythm and pitch yet to a much higher degree than needed to singsimple songs.Chanting or Rapping are good alternatives to singing. Rapping, which involves a noless sophisticated range of melodic and rhythmic skill has now become a dominantform in popular music and the children may already have heard a great deal of it. Evenjust using a sing song voice can be as enjoyable and effective as singing.L’aprenentatge de l’anglès a l’educació infantil
  3. 3. Brendan Dunne Singing with 4 to 5 year olds 3Is instrumental accompaniment necessary?It can’t be denied that there is something special about having an instrumentalaccompaniment to singing but it is by no means necessary. In some ways it may evendetract from the singing by taking the children’s attention. It would also effectively stopthe teacher from reinforcing actions where they are part of the song.Why not just listen to a cassette or CD?If children experience singing as something that only comes from a machine then theymay have a more passive approach to it. Children learn a great deal by copying adults,so if they see their teacher apparently enjoying singing then they will be much morelikely to do so themselves.What if children don’t want to sing?Some children may also be reluctant to sing. The experience for them should be just aspositive. Lots of smiles and encouraging nods from the teacher will help them to feelrelaxed enough to join in when they are ready.The grammar of songsThe language of songs may differ from Standard English in certain respects. There is apoetic imperative involved here. Rhythm and rhyme can be more important thancorrectness of form in songs.There may be some concern about teaching the children what are seen as incorrectforms. However young children are learning that language is used differently indifferent contexts and are already coping very well with this phenomenon in theirmother tongue.It might be short-sighted to discard songs because of concerns about correctness ofform. Songs may be useful for language learning even when the words are completenonsense; as they may offer a fun way to practice the sounds and rhythm of thelanguage.THE SONGSMost songs for young children can be divided into clear groups such as numbers,animals, food, body parts, actions, story songs etc. Though some will combine two ormore of these themes as in the case of Alice the Camel (see below) which is a numbersong about an animal. The Old Grey Cat is a song about animals but also aboutactions e.g. sleeping, eating etc. Some songs are specifically about actions e.g. This isthe way we brush our teeth. Here the children will mime the action that they are singingabout. Many songs, although not specifically about actions will use actions to reinforcethe meaning, e.g. Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, and The Old Grey Cat (seebelow) or to add an element of humour as in Alice the Camel.L’aprenentatge de l’anglès a l’educació infantil
  4. 4. Brendan Dunne Singing with 4 to 5 year olds 41. Alice the Camel Do - Mi Do Alice the camel’s got, (Bob!) five humps Re - Mi Do Alice the camel’s got, (Bob!) five humps Do - Mi Do Alice the camel’s got, (Bob!) five humps Mi Sol Fa-Re Do So go Al-ice! Go! Sol La Si Bump! bump! bump! (Bob!) (Bob!) (Bob!) Alice the camel’s got, (Bob!) four humps etc.Note:“(Bob!)” means - bend the knees. This helps to fill the gap between “got” and “fivehumps” and also provides an element of humour, especially for “Bump! bump! Bump!”Teaching NotesIt is likely that young children will need to revise and practice numbers throughout acourse so this song could be used at any point in the year once numbers 1 to 5 havebeen established. It could be introduced as part of a topic on Animals where thechildren will be learning the different English names of animals they are already familiarwith in their mother tongue. • Although the words are very simple, this song is quite challenging for young children as they have to co-ordinate singing and action and remember to count down from five to one. It will need to be practised over several classes before most children will be able to manage it. This shouldn’t be a problem as the song is quite appealing and may often be requested by the children. • The song can be introduced by drawing a picture of a camel on the board with five humps – you can write the numbers on each hump checking counting from one to five with the children. • Tell the children that this camel’s name is Alice; or get the children to choose another name, although this may mean that the rhyme between Alice and Camel is lost. • Get the children to stand in a circle holding up five fingers • Demonstrate the first verse showing them where to bob • Encourage the children to join in on the second verse, checking that they are now holding four fingers up.L’aprenentatge de l’anglès a l’educació infantil
  5. 5. Brendan Dunne Singing with 4 to 5 year olds 5 • Once the song is well established, you may wish to add another humorous element by finishing the song with: Alice the camel’s got, no humps (etc.) So Alice is a horse! This will have to be explained and not all children will immediately see the joke. • If the song is popular it may be further extended by counting down from ten to one. • Here’s a picture dictation activity which could be used after the song has been introduced;Give the children a photocopied picture of Alice with her five humps and get thechildren to draw different characters sitting on each hump: e.g. “Draw a monkey onHump no.1.” “Draw a spider on hump number 2” etc..2. The Old Grey Cat Sol Do Sol Do Re Mi Do Re Si Mi Do The old grey cat is sleep-ing, sleep-ing, sleep-ing Sol Do Sol Do Re Mi Do Mi Si Do The old grey cat is sleep-ing in the house. The little mouse is creeping, creeping, creeping The little mouse is creeping through the house. The little mouse is eating, eating, eating The little mouse is eating in the house. The little mouse is sleeping, sleeping, sleeping The little mouse is sleeping in the house. The old grey cat is creeping, creeping, creeping The old grey cat is creeping through the house. The little mouse is running, running, running The little mouse is running through the house.(One particularly bloodthirsty five year old boy once suggested that the song should befinished with a verse: The old grey cat is eating – etc.)Teaching NotesThis song will also combine well with a topic on animals but could also be used topractice the words for basic actions; eating, sleeping, running etc. • This song can be introduced with the children sitting on the carpet in front of you. Or if you don’t have a carpet then the children could be seated at desks. Once established it can be performed with the children moving around the class and miming the actions – creeping, running, etc. if space permits.L’aprenentatge de l’anglès a l’educació infantil
  6. 6. Brendan Dunne Singing with 4 to 5 year olds 6 • The song can either be introduced with toy animals, flash cards or blackboard drawings. The children may already know the words for cat and mouse. • Each verse is accompanied by actions: Sleeping – rest your face upon joined hands Creeping – make a tip-toe action with your hands Eating – rub tummies and mime putting something into your mouth Running – mime running with arms. These actions alone should make the meaning of the song clear for the children. • The dramatic element of the story can be further enhanced by singing the sleeping and creeping verses quietly. In the creeping verses you can also separate each syllable and sing more slowly to emphasise creeping. The eating verses should sound joyous. And the running should obviously be sung quickly. • To give further practice with the action words in this song you could play Freeze. This is played by getting the children to do an action together e.g. running, creeping. When you say “FREEZE!” the children have to become statues. If they move they are out and have to go and sit down. This could also be done using music and stopping when you want the children to freeze.3. Witches of Halloween Mi La - La Si Do Si La Mi La We’re Witches of Hal- lo- ween ooh! ooh! Mi La Si Do Si La Mi La Our faces are ugly and green ooh! ooh! La Mi Mi Do Re Re Si Do Do La Si We fly through the sky on our broomsticks so high Mi La - La Si Do Si La Mi La We’re Witches of Hal- lo- ween oooooooh! ooh!Teaching NotesThis song could form part of a lesson on Halloween and so would be taught at the endof October. • The children may already know something about the festival; if not, this should be explained to them in their mother tongue. It may also be introduced with a story about a witch: for example “Room on the Broom” –Donaldson/Scheffler (ISBN 1405035412) or Meg and Mog –Nicoll/Pienkowski (ISBN 0140501177). It may also be necessary to explain some of the vocabulary in mother tongue (ugly, fly, sky), although this could also be done with mimes and pictures. • To add an element of humour and emphasise the “scariness” of the song, the children could accompany “ooh! ooh!” with an action; raise the arms with fingers pointing down menacingly. You may also vary the length of the penultimate ooh! (See above).L’aprenentatge de l’anglès a l’educació infantil
  7. 7. Brendan Dunne Singing with 4 to 5 year olds 7 • The song may be further extended by singing at different volumes. Start at a whisper and gradually get louder. • As a follow up activity you could do a simple colour dictation using pictures of witches and getting the children to colour their faces different colours other than green.SUGGESTED READINGThis Little Puffin (Matterson, E. - Puffin Books 1991)The Singing Game (Opie & Opie - OUP 1988)Very Young Learners (Reilly, V./Ward, S. – OUP 1997)Bobby Shaftoe Clap Your Hands (Nicholls, S. - A&C Black 1992)Children’s Songbook (Amery, H. – Usborne 2000)Tinderbox (Barrat, S./Hodge, S. – A&C Black 1982)Useful web-sites with songs for children:http://www.eslkidstuff.com’aprenentatge de l’anglès a l’educació infantil