Difficulty level (1 to 5): 2
Preferred prerequisite: Familiarity with the song Hey Ya by Outkast
Imagine being at the front of the classroom with an audience of 6 year old Korean students and all you have to do is count out the beginning to Hey Ya by Outkast and they all burst into song. It’s a tall order getting kids to learn an English song, especially a pop song, especially a rap, especially when they have only been studying English for a year. I knew it was possible to sneak in a good hook or two as part of our daily expressions, but could we do an entire song?
One week I was getting bored by all the songs my kids and I had used in the classroom (and let’s face it, that means they are bored, too). I felt that after 6 months together we earned a little break from the traditional nursery rhymes and/or EFL kids songs. So, I brought in the big guns. I found a great video on youtube of the Charlie Brown cast dancing to the song Hey Ya! by Outkast. At first, we would just dance around and shake the sillies out. The kids loved it. They shouted those three words every EFL teacher hopes to hear, ‘One more time!’ It was a great motivator from then on out for me to get them to act and work nicely in the classroom as I could then set up a reward system that if they wanted to do it they had to behave well as a class.
Now that I have been doing this teaching gig for over a year, I have a few tricks up my sleeve and my number one way to keep students under my thumb is: interactivity. So, rather than letting them just shake it like little polaroid pictures the entire time I decided to use it as a way to learn some fancy lingo. At first, I showed them the clapping parts. I told them that on my command they would clap three times. Pretty easy.
Next, I explained to them that ‘fellas’ meant boys. So when the man says, ‘Alright now fellas?’ only the boys should respond with a loud ‘Yeah!’ And when he says ‘Okay now ladies?’ that only the girls should respond since ‘ladies’ meant girls. I even call them fellas and ladies in regular class time for repetition. It’s amazing how their little sponge brains work.
Then, we went for the mother load. I asked the kids if they would like to learn a special daily expression. One that would make any of their other teachers extremely happy (i.e. amused). Of course, they were on board. Initially, I just asked them (out of sheer curiosity what their answers would be), “What’s cooler than being cool?” My response was a group of blank stares. They didn’t know what to make of this question. There were absolutely no words in it that they recognized. One brave boy, Aaron, replied, “Teacher, what is this ‘cool’? It is like ‘very good’ right?” I explained the sentence as best as I could, breaking it down piece by piece into words they would understand and then had them practice saying it with me. After they had it down, I explained to them that this is a special question with only one answer. Now at any given time, in any given place you can ask any of my kids, “What’s cooler than being cool?” and they will reply with a large smile: “ICE COLD!”
This random day of dancing turned into a learning opportunity and a way to have fun with my kids at the same time.
Here is my list of teaching skills used to make this successful and meaningful for me and my students. I hope it can inspire my fellow teaching friends:
- Have fun with your kids whenever possible.
- Use tested and proven fun videos or songs as incentives to motivate good behavior.
- Never underestimate what you’re doing as a learning opportunity.
- Break things down into the smallest pieces possible and build up ideas over time.
- Be interactive.
By doing just that, I have now been working with my kids for a little over a month on learning the entire song. We are taking it one verse at a time and they are about 3/4 of the way through the song. They will be performing it as entertainment for the Kindergarten graduation party this month. Check for future updates complete with video soon.