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TEACHING ENGLISH THROUGH SONGS AND GAMES

TO GRADE 0 LEARNERS

Ortean Andreea Simona, Colegiul Naional Octavian Goga- Sibiu

Abstract
This work comprises the benefits that songs and games have in teaching or learning English, in adittion to
some other theoretical issues about these two methods and a list of some games that can be used in
teaching English to 0 graders.
The word child is often associated with the word play. Why? Because playing is children's favourite and
most important activity. That's why learning a new language at an early age means acquiring that language
naturally, without much effort and the best way of doing this is to use songs and games in the learning
process. Games make learning fun.
Both games and songs have purposes and outcomes. In order to play or sing children have to say things.
They have to repeat things and it is very well known that repetition is the mother of skill. 0 graders have a
lot of energy and they are not good at attending formal lessons for long periods, so if they participate in a
game involving physical movements from time to time, they will never get bored. It is difficult for teachers to
keep a class of thirty 0 graders engaged in a 50 minutes lesson. But if we alternate different games, activities
or songs the students will not get uninterested or impatient.

Key words: Grade 0, songs, games, teach English, vocabulary, benefits

Teaching English to Grade 0 students can be both a rewarding and a demanding


experience. How can we react when some of them are crying and dont want to be IN THE
classroom? What should we do when they start crawling under tables or throwing different
objects? How do we deal with the children who dont want to say or do anything? And how
can we manage to organise trips to the toilet without finding ourselves with an empty
classroom?

Teachers are new people in their lives and they also find themselves in a new environment
with new rules. All of these can be very destabilizing for very young children who are used
to being around their parents and people they know. We really need to build up their trust,
to offer them enjoyable time before they can learn anything.

How can we do that?

We should always keep them busy with various activities

They should always be challenged because if they are bored then they will soon
play up.

We should help the children who dont understand even if we use stronger pupils as
resources. Children love helping other children even at 6!

We always should have back up, a reserve of extra activities for those who finish
quickly.

If we teach large classes we should try to limit activities where everyone has to
listen to us. So the key is to vary the type of activity and grouping we use.
30 students aged 6 usually means noise. The louder we shout, the louder they will
become. We have to find some methods to chill them out. For example, I use a short
poem for this: 1,2,3- Lock your mouth and throw the key!

It is proved that young learners have short attention spans and a lot of physical
energy. In addition, children are very much linked to their surroundings and are more
interested in the physical and the tangible. For young students, from ages 5 to10
especially, it is a good idea to move quickly from an activity to another. We shouldn't spend
more than 10 or 15 minutes on a single activity because children become bored easily. As
children get older, their ability to concentrate for longer periods of time increases. So for
students aged 57, we should try to keep activities between 5 and 10 minutes long and to
repeat or re-examine that topic/activity for the following classes. For example, if we teach
a song, a vocabulary lesson or telling a story, we shouldn't stay on that song or story the
whole class time. We might follow up the song or story with a related TPR (Total Physical
Response) activity. Then have students play a quick game in pairs. Grade 0 children move
from a 30- 35 minutes kindergarten activity to a 50 minutes school class, they also move
from a group of 20-25 to a class of 30 that means a less spacious place. In consequence,
as shown above, varying the types of activities helps to keep young learners engaged in
the class.
Teaching young learners is very difficult in comparison with teaching teenagers or adults
because young learners get distracted very fast.
Children love to have fun and play, so teachers should choose suitable teaching methods
that are appropriate for them. Games and songs are those methods that could be used in
order to avoid boredom in the classroom. They have a special role in any foreign language
teaching. Teachers may achieve all the educational outcomes by using games and songs
especially when teaching vocabulary. Although language structure is considered the
skeleton of the language, it agreed that vocabulary is the vital organs and flesh (Harmer,
1991). Vocabulary is the basic part and a key element to learn any language.

Teaching vocabulary through the use of games and songs has become important for
English language learners because they sustain enjoyment and interest in learning and
encourage using the language in a creative manner.

The benefits of teaching English through songs

1. Listening to songs means learning vocabulary, grammar and syntax


Children hear whole sentences and assimilate grammar and syntax subconsciously. It's an
easy way for them to learn and remember words and phrases.
2. They can use meaningful language in context
Children hear vocabulary and phrases in a natural and meaningful context and no longer
as isolated words or sentences.
3. Songs can be catchy and re-usable
A song is catchy, entertaining and fun and students will be happy hearing it many times
over a several months, as long as you don't play it to death in a single lesson.
4. Songs improve listening skills
Naturally listening to any English song helps listening skills as long as the language is
within the grasp of the learner.
5. They enhance speaking fluency with the natural rhythms of language
When using songs for young learners that are performed by native speakers children hear
the natural rhythms and stresses of English and this helps their pronunciation and
speaking fluency.
6. Integrating music and actions makes your lesson more interesting
Actions can go along with the music, melody and rhythm. Actions may be used with any
song and not just with obvious 'action songs' like Head Shoulders Knees and Toes
7. Songs are fun and motivate pupils
Using music can lift the atmosphere in class, it captures children's attention and motivates
them in their attempt to learn English.
8. Songs can build confidence
Using songs is a way for children to listen and practice English in a group, joining in when
they can without being singled out, and gradually achieving more with each listening
activity.
9. Songs are memory aids
The lyrics of songs stick in our heads and this is exactly what we want for our English
language learners.
10. Songs help with classroom management
All pupils join in with the actions and/or start to sing along. The teacher now has their
attention if he/she did not before!
(http://www.teachingenglishgames.com/eslsongs.htm)

In conclusion songs allow pupils to hear English in context, naturally, to listen repeatedly,
to enjoy learning, to be more involved with TPR (total physical response), to be focused
and motivated and remember language more easily and for longer. Songs also help with
classroom management.

The importance of games in teaching vocabulary to young learners

A game is an activity with rules, a goal and an element of fun. There are two kinds of
games: Competitive games, in which players or teams race to be the first to reach the
goal, and co-operative games, in which players or teams work together towards a common
goal. The emphasis in the games is on successful communication rather than on
correctness of language (Toth 1995: 5).

Young learners are often willing to take part in a given activity based on a game so their
level of motivation is high. Furthermore, games also have a didactic function.
If we refer to the structure of games we might distinguish various types depending on the
tools and materials used in order to play it. Such a classification is put forward by Lewis
and Bedson (1999: 17), who distinguished the following types of games:
- board games
-card games games based on assembling cards, guessing, disclosing, exchanging,
sorting, and counting them. As a result, learners can develop associations between the
names of the activities in English, the pictures and the subsequent movement.
- dice games
- drawing games
- guessing games
- role -play games - they make use of the childs imagination and constitute tests of real
communication and simulation.
- movement games - students are physically active, they are not bored and this kind of
game enables them to learn through application

The benefits of teaching English through games

1. Rapid acquisition of the language


Games are very effective because they absorb a language rather than learning it.

2. More control in classroom


Any class means children with different abilities, mood changes or attention spans. By
changing the activity, by using different games the vocabulary learning moment is
presented in a different way.

3. Games improve cooperation between classmates


The benefit of taking turns, sharing or accepting rules in a constructive and not a
competitive way is a thing to be learnt by the young learners.
Words combined with action are remembered quicker, as children learn words best in a
meaningful context.

4. They also improve the relationship between teacher and student

Pre-schoolers want to please, they seek approval and praise from the new adult in their
lives. The interaction provided by games will create a relaxed and friendly atmosphere
during the lessons.

Examples of games for Grade 0


Hot Potatoes -The class is divided into two groups. We have to elect one person from
each team to sit in the Hot Seat, facing the classroom with the board behind them. Then,
the teacher draws/ shows a picture of an object, but the student on the chair will not see it.
Each team will have two minute after signing the beginning of the game. The other
students are allowed to use words/sentences so that their seated teammate can guess the
word drawn on the board. They should not say the exact word on the board.
In order to be easier to guess, I also tell them the category that word belongs to (e.g. fruit,
vegetables, domestic animals...)

Last One Standing- where a topic is given to the children e.g. fruit. They have to stand
up in a circle and the teacher counts to three and gives out the topic. After that, the first
student in the circle will have to give a word related to the topic and so on. The students
who cannot say a new word or repeat the word of the last student within a few seconds
has to take a seat. The last student standing will be declared the winner.
Because I don't have enough room to stand up in a circle with all my students I play twice,
once with half of my students and after some time, with the other half.

Pictionary -The class have to be divided into two teams. Each team will sit on the
opposite side of the classroom. One student from both teams will be asked to come to the
board where the teacher will give out a word or phrase for the student to be drawn on the
board. The word will be different for each team. The team who can guess the word will get
the point.
Drawing can be difficult for some learners so we can use dotted line drawings for more
complicated pictures in order to help them.

Bingo-In this game, the teacher shows students 10 or more flashcards/pictures. After
that, the teacher selects one picture in a random way without saying it and give the
students its description, definition or synonym. If a student guessed the right word, he or
she should shout BINGO! and wins the round.
The washing line
It is essential to pre-check the childrens knowledge of new vocabulary even if they had
learned it a week before.
Get two children at the front of the class who will hold the rope. Divide the class into two
teams and each team should choose a representative. Now ask for an item: Could you
bring me a yellow sock? The two representatives search in the bags or boxes for the
clothes item and the one who chooses the right thing should hang it on the line.
The first who hangs all the clothes items is the winner. Then another two children are
going to compete. The game is over, when one team has their line full of clothes.
I don't choose only two representatives because I think there should be as many students
as possible involved in the game, so children from each team take turn to bring clothes to
the washing line.
There are many other possible ways of playing this contest by changing the title.

Simon Says

The person chosen as "Simon" stands in front of the classroom and issues commands.
The rest of the class only follows these commands if prefixed with the words "Simon says".
If someone follows a command not prefixed by "Simon says", he is out of the game. The
last person remaining becomes the next "Simon". To make it harder, speed up the actions.
Some examples of commands are: stand up, sit down, touch your left ear, say "yes" and
so on.

What's Your Name?


One student sits in front of the classroom (usually in the teacher's chair) with his back to
the other students. The teacher then points to students in the class and asks "What's your
name?" The student indicated must respond "My name is__________" with either his own
name or the name of someone in the class. The student in the front cannot see who is
speaking. The teacher says to him, "Is it___________?" and he must say "Yes, it is" or
"No, it isn't". If the student in front is correct, he gets to stay there, but if he's mistaken, he
changes place with the student who fooled him.
This game is worth playing at the beginning of the school year. To make the game more
interesting, the students are encouraged to disguise their voices.

Ball Game
Students stand up in a circle around the teacher. A ball is tossed to a student and the
teacher asks a question, e.g.: "Say a colour". The student then responds and throws the
ball back to the teacher. The teacher then throws the ball to another student and asks
another question.

I also use this game to revise the previously learned vocabulary, with each student sitting
in his desk.

Category game
This activity can be used as a review. Students usually get very excited.
The teacher chooses a category (animals, colours, school objects, kitchen gadgets...) and
each student has to say a word that belongs to that category. If a student doesn't know,
he / she stands up. Then, the teacher chooses another category the following student
starts again. In the following round, the student who's standing will have another chance. If
he / she can say a word that belongs to the new category, he / she can sit down.
It's a great game for revision and to get students tuned into the lesson topic. It may also be
used to elicit from the student what they already know about a certain topic.

"Tic Tac Toe" or "Noughts and Crosses"


This is a good game for a revision or for a reader's discussion. Divide the class into two
groups. Draw a grid of nine squares on the board and write a number on each square
(from 1 to 9). Prepare nine questions and set one question for each number. The groups
call out the numbers and if they answer the question correctly, they get the point. The goal
of the game is to make a line (either horizontal, vertical or diagonal).

Whispering Game

Divide the class into two teams. Line up the players. If there's an odd number of players,
one can be the teacher's "helper". The teacher or his helper whispers a message to the
first person of both group A and group B. The game only starts when both players know
the message. Then each player whispers the message to the next player in his group
successively until the last player gets the message. The team which can repeat the
message first and correctly receives a point. Start the game over with the second student
of each group becoming the first ones in line.
I sometimes play this game with children sitting at their places.

Guess the Object


You put more objects/toys inside an opaque bag and ask one student to come to the front
of the class and to choose an object from the bag. His eyes are covered. He has to guess
the object. If he is right, he will pick somebody else to come and if he is wrong, he will go
back to his place. He can make tries but no more than three times.

Colours in the Air: This is good for very young ones. Give each student two pieces of
different coloured paper (origami paper is ideal for this). Teacher calls a colour (e.g.
"Blue") and the students with that colour hold it up.

Colour Circles: A good activity for young kids. Get some pieces of A3/A4 paper and draw
a large circle on each one. Pin the circles on different walls in the classroom. Model the
activity: Say "Blue", take a blue crayon, walk over to one circle and colour a small part of
the circle. Do this for each colour you plan to teach. Then, say a colour ("Blue") to a
student and she/he should pick up the blue crayon and go over to the circle you coloured
in blue. Let him/her colour it a little and then call him/her back. Continue with other
students.

Touch: Have students run around the classroom touching things that the teacher orders
them to do (e.g. "Touch the table" "Touch a chair" "Touch your bag"). Colours work well for
this, as students can touch anything of that colour (e.g. "Touch something green").
I do this activity with two or three students in the same time not with the whole class.

Train Ride Game: Have students form a train (standing in line holding onto each other).
Go around the classroom and call out instructions (e.g. faster, slower, turn left/right, stop,
go).
Follow the leader: students line up behind the teacher and follow him/her around the
classroom. The teacher does an action and shouts out the word for that action. The
students copy the action and repeat the word. Good actions include: wave hello/goodbye,
it's cold/hot, stop, go, run, hop, skip, crawl, walk backwards, jump, sit down, stand up.
Give Me Game: You can use with objects or flashcards. This works well with plastic fruit
or little toy animals. Gather and elicit the different kinds of plastic fruit/animals you have
then give each student an item. Once the students have the fruit/animal, the teacher says
"Give me an apple". The one with the apple should hand him/her the fruit "Here you are".
There will be more students with the same type of fruit or animal.
Another alternative of this game is that of asking a student to say Give me. .

Action Race: This is a fun game using actions. Use actions like jump, hop, clap, run etc.
Have the students split into two teams and sit in lines with a chair by each team and one
chair at the other end of the room. One student from each team stands next to their chair
and the teacher calls an action, e.g. "Jump". Students must jump to the chair on the other
side of the room and back, sitting down in their chair students say "I can jump". First one to
do it gets their team a point.

Bibliography
Harmer, J. (1991). The Practice of English Language Teaching: New Edition. New York:
Longman.
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