Where Words Fail, Music Speaks

Where Words Fail, Music Speaks.

(Hans Christian Andersen)

In one of our earlier posts, we mentioned the benefits of building pre-literacy skills with the Nursery stages (2-3 year olds) through the use of simple, everyday activities such as stories, rhymes and arts and crafts. This also gives ESL-learners the opportunity to reinforce those much prized skills; language acquisition comprehension.

The simple tool of music is available to all caregivers and educators, regardless of the budget we have: we still all have our voices.

Songs and rhymes are a natural link to building essential literacy skills from the earliest stages of childhood development. Music is also especially relevant for second language learners as they can also be linked to the sounds that we use in speech, pronunciation and the musicality of a particular language (English).

As children sing, they also gain confidence through the easy pattern of repetition, which in turn helps to embed the spoken word. The spoken word is then linked to the written word. This promotes reading readiness with young children, making the their first steps onto a formal literacy programme a (hopefully) easier transition.

Very Young Children need to be exposed to as much language as possible from as early as possible. Most are still developing their language skills so it helps if they are taught short, easy songs. Adults should also introduce these songs in a slower manner as children find keeping up to the often fast pace of CDs quite challenging! As they become more confident with the songs and rhymes, their pace will quicken, their rhythm will change as will their understanding of the words that they are singing.

Action songs and rhymes are also excellent ways of reinforcing fine and gross motor skills. Encouraging children to use their fingers to imitate a spider crawling up a drain (Incy Wincy Spider) or swinging their arms from side to side (See Saw), will strengthen their fingers, arms, shoulders and wrists, essential body movements that will help them later hold a pencil with a better grip and supporting their new writing abilities.

Music should be a joyous and uplifting experience. Many children find both a physical and emotional release when singing that is not always possible when speaking. Young learners may become tongue-tied or shy when answering questions or participating using their second language but find that singing together or on their own motivates and encourages and they are able to find their “voice” through songs and rhymes.

Here is an easy rhyme that will take 5 minutes of your time. The children love movement songs, especially when their teacher adds silly or funny actions into the mix!

Copy Cat (traditional rhyme)

Copy cat, copy cat,

Sitting on the doormat!

This super simple, easy rhyme covers:

1) Links to letter sounds in the English alphabetic code such as /ck/

2) Pronunciation of the English language.

3) Memory skills through repetition.

4) Introduction of vocabulary such as “cat”, “ sitting” and “doormat”.

5) Fine and gross motor skills as the children repeat the different actions.

6) Listening skills and the ability to follow (guided) instructions.

7) Rhythm, rhyme and pace.

Introduce the rhyme slowly, line by line. When you are satisfied that the children are familiar with the words, you can then say the whole rhyme together from beginning to end.

Next, demonstrate a simple physical movement that the children will be asked to repeat back together as a whole group (for example, clapping their hands, stamping their feet, clicking their fingers, patting their heads, etc) as they chant the rhyme.

This can be repeated as much as needed or until the children tire.

What are your own experiences using music with young learners? What are the benefits of songs and rhymes with ESL-learners? What tips would you give other educators? Please feel free to post and share your opinions below.

Beki Wilson.

http://funphonicspain.es/ – Fun Phonics Spain