As I begin my second year as an AET, my mind begins to turn to matters of teaching and how to be a better teacher. One aspect of classes that always gets me is the warmer.
The theory behind the warmer is to get your students ready to start thinking in English mode and to get them hyped up for the lesson. In an elementary school this usually takes the form of a game or a song. The difficulty with warmers is striking a balance. If you find a game the kids like you have to be careful that you don’t let it completely engulf the rest of your lesson or that you don’t use it too many times, familiarity breeds contempt.
Songs tend to be more repeatable but you have to be careful with the older kids, they tend not to like the singing. I can vouch for this, being faced with a whole class of stone faced, frowning 6 graders just staring at you as you try to get them to sing If You’re Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands can put a bit of a dent into your enthusiasm.
One set of songs that I really found interesting though is Dansinglish. Only used in one of the schools I teach at, Dansinglish is used as a warmer for the entire of the third and forth year classes. In total there are 8 songs and over the course of 2 years they are taught to the kids.
For those who are not au fait with the lyrics here is a small example:
What’s your name?
My name is Masami.
Are you alright?
Let me try! Let me try!
This is fun.
That is a small part of the first song which is imaginatively titled Hello. Each line has a corresponding action, for example, Ouch! has you touching your head, while My name is Masami has you showing an imaginary name tag.
Thinking back, it was my very first day of work that I was confronted with this and my impressions were: This is rubbish. I didn’t know any of the dances, the kids didn’t seem to know any of the words and the only one who seemed to be getting anything out of it was the home room teacher.
Gradually though, over the course of the year I learnt the dances and the kids (mostly) learnt both the words and the actions. It became rather fun, I would genuinely look forward to doing it (especially with the 3rd years). It was a great opportunity to ham up the mimes and see if I could get the kids to do the stuff in the same over the top way.
By the end of the year I felt that most of the kids knew both the actions, the words in the songs and, most importantly, enjoyed it. However other than a bit of a laugh, what is the educational value of all this? Are the kids just parroting lines and not realising the meaning of their words or are they taking it all in?
I hope that with the actions they have a bit of context about what is going on and in similar situations would be able to repeat this language even if the usage or tense is not quite right. Next year I think I will test them by conspicuously banging my shin on a table yelling “OUCH!”, to see if I can get an “Are you alright?” out of them. I do hope though that the next time I go up to one of them and ask “What’s your name”, I’m not told “My name is Masami”.
That would be heartbreaking.
Unless their name actually is Masami, then that would be ok.
When I searched for this stuff on Google I was shocked to find the only mention of Dansinglish was on a forum where some teachers were moaning about it, but how could you not enjoy this: