Action songs for engaging YLs

Action songs.jpg

At the weekend, I attended another workshop at Adhyayan. This one was on Action Songs and was facilitated by three students, Becky, Bonnie & Rachel, from the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama in London. One of my CPD goals this year is to develop my ability to work with YLs and Action Songs couldn’t have come at a better time.  I’ve divided the activities we did into warmers & energisers (sans songs!) and ones that used songs.

By the way, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, action songs are as the words suggest, songs that involve actions.

Warmers & energisers

Ball game 

Students stand in a circle and toss three or more balls to each other. In round one, they say their own names while passing the ball. In round two, they say the name of the person they’re passing the ball to and in the final round, they don’t say anything all and indicate they’re about to toss the ball with eye contact.

Ha Ha Yeah 

A tweak of the classic Hee Haw Ho. Students stand in a circle with one in the middle. The student in the middle puts his or her palms together and points to another student while saying “HA”. Students who are pointed at by the one in the middle must raise their hands over their heads, and also say  “Ha”. The two students on either side need to do a chopping gesture and say “Ha yeah”. An additional tweak is to ask students who are out to die the most dramatic death to rejoin the game.

Splat 

A variation of Ha Ha Yeah. The student points an imaginary gun at a student in the circle. This student then ducks. The students who are to the immediate right of the student who ducks must shoot each other with imaginary guns while saying ‘splat’ really loudly.

Counting … eyes closed 

Students sit in a circle with their eyes closed or heads down. The group needs to count to 20 without interrupting each other. The T starts by saying one. Any student can then say two. If students talk on top of each other, the T starts the count again. This is a brilliant activity for teaching the value of listening, being patient and supporting your peers.

Similarities & differences

Students walk around the space and when the T calls out a number, they form a group of that size. They then have a minute to discuss their similarities and present a still image representing these similarities. The other groups try to guess what the similarity might be. Repeat for differences and other variables.

Seven-up

Students stand in a circle and each person says a number in sequence from one to seven. While students say a number, they should also indicate the direction by folding the left or right hand across their chest. They can change directions at any time and their neighbours need to stay alert. The person who says seven places her hand on top of her head and says either seven or seven-up. The direction of the hand indicates whether the person on the right or the left needs to start again at one.

Action songs

Everywhere we go 

T  leads this call and response. Here are the lyrics and here’s a protest march using the same tune.:

Everywhere we go,

People want to know

Who we are

Where we’re from

So we tell them

We’re from <city’s name>

Mighty, mighty <city’s name>

My name is <name>

(and then everyone sings) Her name is <name>

And then it goes around the circle with these last two lines until everyone’s had a chance to share their names.

Number game 

T shows the students how to sing this song after which the students take over. The pitch rises as the numbers ascend and falls as the numbers descend. Many thanks to Anahita from Adhyayan for recording the tune for us.

1

1 2 1

1 2 3 2 1

1 2 3 4 3 2 1

1 2 3 4 5 4 3 2 1

1 2 3 4 5 6 5 4 3 2 1

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

When students have mastered this sequence, ask them to now do it backwards from 8. Then make them put it all together (start at 8 and then when they get to 1, start the ascending sequence).

Number-finger game 

This one’s a bit tough but lots of fun. Get the students to count on their fingers as they sing the numbers. And here’s Anahita with the tune.

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4 5

1 2 3 4

5 1 2 3

4 5 1 2 3

4 5 1 2 3

4 5 1 2 3

4 5 1 2

3 4 5 1

2 3 4 5 1

etc,

The pirate song 

You can get the tune from this YouTube video but the lyrics I experienced were a bit different

When I was one

I broke my thumb

*The day I went to sea

I climbed aboard a pirate ship

and the Captain said to me

We’re going this way, that way

Forward, backwards

Over the Irish Sea

A bottle of rum

To fill my tum

That’s the life for me

Second stanza: When I was two, I broke my shoe (and then repeat from *)

Third stanza: When I was three, I sat on a bee (and then repeat from *)

Fourth stanza: When I was four, I knocked on the door (and then repeat from *)

Fifth stanza: When I was five, I felt alive (and then repeat from *)

After the facilitators got us to sing this as a whole group, they divided us into smaller groups and got us to create our own verses but substituting English numbers for Hindi ones.  For example, when I was ‘ek’, I baked a cake the day I went to sea etc.  and then teach our version to the rest of the group. A lovely little adaptation to bring some multilingualism into the classroom.

Listen & respond

Students listen to a piece of music (in our case, it was by Moby) and respond to it in groups either through a freeze frame, drama or dance.

The grand old duke of York 

Teach the students the lyrics of this song along with some appropriate actions. You can get some inspiration from this YouTube clip.

Oh, The grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men;
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.

And when they were up, they were up,
And when they were down, they were down,
And when they were only half-way up,
They were neither up nor down.

When students get a hang of it, ask them to swap actions on up and down. So instead of pointing up when they say up, they should point down. Then ask them to do the actions without saying the words up and down. Finally ask them to do the reverse actions without saying up and down.

Bear hunt

The T starts this off by doing a call and response but students will get a hang of the chorus pretty quickly and after the second stanza, you’ll need to do call and response with just the new stanzas and not the chorus.  You’ll need to add appropriate actions – here’s a great video by the original author of the Bear Hunt, Michael Rosen (lyrics may differ a bit)

We’re goin’ on a bear hunt
We’re going to catch a big one,
I’m not scared
What a beautiful day!

Oh-no Grass!
Long wavy grass.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
Oh no!
We’ve got to go through it!
Swishy swashy! Swishy swashy! Swishy swashy!

We’re going on a bear hunt…

Oh-no!
A river!
A deep cold river.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
Oh no!
We’ve got to go through it!
Splash splosh! Splash splosh! Splash splosh!

We’re going on a bear hunt…

Oh-no!
Mud!
Thick oozy mud.
We can’t go over it,
We can’t go under it.
Oh no!
We’ve got to go through it!
Squelch squerch! Squelch squerch! Squelch squerch!

We’re going on a bear hunt…

Oh-no!
A forest!
A big dark forest.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
Oh no!
We’ve got to go through it!
Stumble trip! Stumble trip! Stumble trip!

We’re going on a bear hunt…

Oh-no!
A snowstorm!
A swirling whirling snowstorm.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
Oh no!
We’ve got to go through it!
Hooo wooo! Hooo wooo! Hooo wooo!

We’re going on a bear hunt…

Oh-no!
A cave!
A narrow gloomy cave.
We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
We’ve got to go through it!
Tiptoe! Tiptoe! Tiptoe!
WHAT’S THAT!
One shiny wet nose!
Two big furry ears!
Two big goggly eyes!
IT’S A BEAR!

RUN!
Back through the cave!
Tiptoe! Tiptoe! Tiptoe!
Back through the snowstorm!
Hoooo woooo! Hoooo woooo! Hoooo woooo!
Back through the forest!
Stumble trip! Stumble trip! Stumble trip!
Back through the mud!
Squelch squerch! Squelch squerch! Squelch squerch!
Back through the river!
Splash splosh! Splash splosh! Splash splosh!
Back through the grass!
Swishy swashy! Swishy swashy! Swishy swashy!

Back home!

Now comes the really fun part. Divide students into groups and ask them to come up with their versions. They’ll have to think of something to hunt and six places they will need to travel through and the actions that will accompany their song. As students get their song ready, give them chart paper, colours, glitter and miscellaneous craft supplies and ask them to draw the thing they’re hunting as well as their path through these six places. Each group then teaches their song to the rest of the students.

Living machine 

Students stand in a circle. Tell them that they’re going to construct a living machine.  A student goes into the middle of the circle and performs a repetitive action along with a sound. The other students join this student one by one and construct a living machine. Ask students to construct a new living machine, this time using more expansive gestures and actions.

Heads, shoulders, knees & toes

The facilitators used this classic action song to suggest that content could be taught through action songs. They first got us used to the song along with the actions:

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes

And eyes and ears and mouth and nose

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes

And then taught us the French version.

Tête, épaules, genoux pieds, genoux pieds

They elicited that to a child learning a language, this can sound like gibberish and that it might be important to isolate word and actions within the song. You continue doing the action (for example touching your head) while saying hmmm.

Hmmm, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes

Hmmm, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes

And eyes and ears and mouth and nose

Hmmm, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes

 

Heads, hmmm, knees and toes, knees and toes

Heads, hmmm, knees and toes, knees and toes

And eyes and ears and mouth and nose

Heads, hmmm, knees and toes, knees and toes

etc.

We then practised the French version with the hmmms before the facilitators asked us to come up with a Hindi version we could teach them. It was actually quite catchy – here are the words in Devanagari & IPA.

सर कंधे घुटने पैर घुटने पैर
/sʌɽ kʌnɖheː gʊtneː pɛ:ɽ gʊtneː pɛ:ɽ/

आंख और कान और मुंह और नाक
/aːŋkʰ oːr ka:n oːr mʊʰ oːr na:k/

We had a lot of time on our hands and this being multilingual India, we also tried our hand at heads, shoulders, knees and toes in Marathi and Tamil.

The extension activity involved working with our groups to come up our action song inspired by heads, shoulders, knees and toes to teach the facilitators something about India. We used the same tune to teach Indian states and capitals and pointing to different parts of our body as if it were a map of the country.

I like the flowers

Teach the students this song along with some actions. Here’s a YouTube clip for the tune.

I like the flowers

I like the daffodils

I like the mountains

I like the rolling hills

I like the fireside

When the lights are low

Singing ah doo wopa, doo wopa, doo wopa doo

Singing ah doo wopa, doo wopa, doo wopa doo

Divide the students into three groups and have them start singing in staggered way. As an extension activity, you can ask students to replace the nouns with ones of their own.

Green screen 

Any of the action songs that involve students creating and performing their own version can be coupled with a green screen recording.  Green screens are used in television studios to enable a computer to superimpose a background during production. They’re quite reasonably priced (around ₹500) like this one. Get students to select an image they’d like as a background and load this into an app on your phone or tablet such as Green Screen for iOS and voila you’ll have a video of students performing with an interesting backdrop. If you’d like to know more about using green screens, check out this video and this lovely showcase of what children can do with green screens.

While action songs are meant for YLs, I have a sneaky suspicion that I am going to be trying them out on my unsuspecting adult learners. 

Image attribution: Public domain

 

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