Dani Griffin
Currently the drummer for Fito y Fitipaldis & Miguel Rios, Dani Griffin wrote the songs for OUP´s Stay Cool series, as well as Espasa´s Aprende inglés con Dancing English. He is also the creator of Dancing English, a TPR-based method of teaching English through music. As Spain´s most successful English-language children´s music artist, Dani has performed over 2,000 concerts and published 8 CD´s. His work as a drummer includes 3 Latin Grammy-nominated albums. For more information see: www.dancingenglish.com

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Music is much more than just a way to break up the routines of the ELT classroom.  Songs are fun, physical, energetic and they can be ideal language texts. But how can we bridge the gap from the sheer joy of singing and dancing to language acquisition? First, remember that anything you can do with a text, you can do with a song.  But, in addition to being exploited in all the ways a “regular” text can, songs also give us some unique ways to stimulate language acquisition, many involving TPR (Total Physical Response).

The key to making TPR pedagogically useful is to create gestures that dramatize as explicitly as possible the meaning of each line. Ideally, every line of every song should have a gesture based on the line´s meaning (as opposed to simple foot tapping or hand clapping). A well-designed gesture or bodily movement can give many clues about the meaning of a phrase. In fact, good gestures sketch out the “story” of song, allowing partial comprehension of new texts almost immediately making them a very powerful tool.

Even better, adding the right TPR to a song makes it easier to memorize; students typically memorize 100% of a song´s movements long before they achieve full comprehension of its meaning. This means they´ve memorized a series of very specific clues about what the song says.

Using TPR to transmit the meaning of a song has a few other benefits as well. For example, six months after teaching a song, you can pop in the CD, then sit back and enjoy as students remember not just the song, but the gestures, too. The mnemonic power of music and movement acts on long as well as short-term memory. Lastly, TPR reaches students with kinesthetic learning styles, while offering a constructive way to help burn off  excess energy students often have.

Thoughtful use of TPR means songs will be easier to comprehend, easier to memorize–and a lot more fun to do in class!

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Example of TPR meaning-based song: Handsome Hercules, from Stay Cool 6

Listen to the song – CLICK HERE

Handsome Hercules (music, lyrics and actions by Dani Griffin)

I look in the mirrorSujeta con un puño un espejo de mano mientras extiendes el brazo hacia delante y te admiras con gran satisfacción en el espejo

And what do I see? – Tócate los ojos rítmicamente

A handsome man – Primera con la palma de una mano, luego con la otra, recorre sendos lados de la cabeza como para alisar o echar hacia atrás tu preciado pelo

Just like me!Señálate a ti mismo con los índices a nivel del pecho

I look againSujeta con un puño un espejo de mano mientras extiendes el brazo hacia delante y te admiras con gran satisfacción en el espejo

Who do I see?Tócate los ojos rítmicamente

Hercules!Coge una mano con la otra (como si hubieras atrapado una mosca dentro) y agítalas primero a un lado de la cabeza…

Hercules! –  ….y luego al otro lado

Brave, – Golpea el pecho como Tarzán

strong –  Flexiona los biceps como un culturista, con los brazos levantados hacia los lados, puños girados hacia la cabeza

me! – Sin mover los brazos de la anterior posición, señala la cabeza con los índices

He´s taller, – Extiende un brazo todo lo que puedas hacia arriba, con la palma de la mano paralela al suelo

stronger, – Vuelve a flexionar los bíceps

braver, – Vuelve a golpear el pecho como Tarzán

faster,Corre en el sitio

than anyone else. – Empieza formando una “X” horizontal con los antebrazos cruzados delante de ti, las manos abiertas y palmas hacia abajo, luego extiéndelos hacia fuera

Watch him go! – Con una mano encima de las cejas y cara de asombro, mira hacia un lado y gira la cabeza rápidamente hacia el otro (como si miraras un coche de Formula I pasar)

But most of all he´s handsomeLevanta y enseña un dedo índice; Con la palma de una mano, recorre un lado de la cabeza como para alisar o echar hacia atrás tu preciado pelo

So handsome – Repite el gesto con la otra mano y el lado opuesto de la cabeza; Y ahora el otro lado con la otra mano

So handsome – “I´m soooo handsome.” Echa la cabeza hacia atrás con una enorme sonrisa y extiende los brazos hacia los lados (como para decir “¡Quererme!”)

No one else comes closeMueve la cabeza de un lado a otro para decir “no,” a la vez que extiendes un brazo con el índice levantado y moviéndose de un lado a otro

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