Every time we had a song or rhyme from their student book, a group of students complained saying that was too silly, baby song, kindergarten stuff.
One day, after another complaining session, I handed over some slips of paper and asked them to write down the name of the songs they wanted to listen in our class. For my surprise, I got these:
Can you imagine how happy I was when I read that? And all the fun and laughs I had when “translating” their writing? YMCA, Bohemian Rhapsody, Twist and Shout, Beat it, We are the Champions, Here Comes the Sun, etc. I went home that day thinking how I could find a way to work with “their songs”, how I could do an interesting and challenger activity (avoiding the usual filling in the blanks). Since one of our priorities on 3rd grade is to improve student’s reading on second language I started the project “Reading with Music”.
As a warm-up, I started every class (yes, every class during the whole year) writing a sentence or two on the board of one of their songs:
“It’s fun to stay at the Y – M – C – A”
“We are the champions my friend, and we’ll keep on fighting to the end”.
The students’ task was to read the sentence and guess the music. Of course one of them always knew the answer and after trying to sing by themselves, I played the selected part of the song and just by the end of the class (if we managed to follow our class planning) we listened (and danced) the whole song.
We also worked on some vocabulary and I tried to link the songs with the class content. When we were studying the days of the week we played “I gotta feeling” from Black Eyed Peas. When I saw they were having some trouble to remember the alphabet I brought “YMCA” from Village People. They were so involved and were bringing so many songs to class that I had to post an envelope on our mural, “Any music suggestion?”. That way they were free to suggest their songs whenever they want (we only had classes twice a week).
I also sent a letter to parents explaining why I was using real life songs during our English class, how music enables students to relax in a learning atmosphere, helping to create a soothing and enjoyable environment for learning. Even quoted Brown in my letter (some theory to validate our practice):
“Humans beings are emotional creatures. At the heart of all thought and meaning and action is emotion. As “intellectual” as we would like to think we are, we are influenced by our emotions. It is only logical, then, to look at the affective (emotional) domain for some of the most answers to the problems of contrasting the differences between first and second language acquisition”.
Brown, 1994, p. 61 Principles of Language Learning and Teaching
Fortunately parents also enjoyed the project and some of them also sent us some music on cd, DVD’s etc.
This project is still going on this year…better saying, this project inspired another idea. Every two years we have an event at school named “Ciclo Cultural” where our students present their research or study about something related to the curricular grade and a theme. This year the theme was “O Passado Presente”. Students, family and community involved in projects from our past that still make part of our present. So I asked our music teacher to help me and all the students from 1st to 5th grade learned a song for our “New Old Show”.
We recorded some really funny videos of our rehearsals. The result, the presentation for the family and community was nice but nothing was better than the whole process we lived together.
You know how kids behave in front of their parents—their shyness was apparent!
Since I was their number ONE fan, I asked all of them to autograph my special t-shirt at the end of their shows. This t-shirt is now my new trophy.