I want to share a few ideas about this that have helped me recently. This work is primarily with KS1/2/3 pupils but to be honest, depending upon your relationship with the class and how they relate to each other you could use it any level.
One of the concepts I have picked up from my recent singing training is how important it is to go through a warm-up routine for your voice. You can't jump straight into singing without awakening all of the vocal and body muscles that help you to be successful. Why should speaking in a different language be any different?
I know that we have been drilled to begin our lessons with a starter and end with a plenary, all good practice.
I would like to offer some starter suggestions that are a bit different.
The main aims I now have when considering what kind of starter to use are:
1) What time of day is it? Do I need to 'warm the class up', start of the day, or 'calm them down', immediately after lunch or break?
2) Is it a group activity that will help focus the whole class, get them listening to me, bring them together as a group positively engaged in the lesson? This rules out traditional Q and A sessions that involve individuals answering questions that 29 other pupils have to listen to.
3) Does it lift the spirits of everyone (including me!)? Does it make everyone glad to be in that moment, sharing it and beginning to feel good about themselves? Children arrive in our lessons with 30 different thought patterns bouncing around in their minds. Because they are like the rest of the human race, and we all find it much easier to latch onto negative thoughts than positive ones, and arrive in your lesson worrying about home, friendship fallouts, boy-girlfriend issues, feelings of inadequacy, failure, poor body image, bullying etc etc. Any teacher needs to have some activities which can 'switch' the mood and generate some positive thinking.
4) Speaking, like singing is a 'whole body' experience. Starters need to be both physical and mental warm-ups.
Before you begin, explain that you are looking for a WHOLE class response. They need to all respond, as one voice, all in time together. Repeat until you get this right, Insist upon it. Do in two teams if necessary and judge who does it best.
Here are a few ideas. First, the 'wake up' type of starters
- simple breathe and stretch exercises, moving/touching parts of the body, using the target language which they have to repeat as they do the actions. Add a musical backing track that will pick a mood up. (See a previous post on this here)
- Vary the above exercise from slow to faster, vary your pitch of voice. One thing I do that children seem to enjoy is to move your voice up and down a pitch as you i) lift yourself up/let yourself down by your hair and say in a rising/falling voice 'cheveux' ii) do the same with your ears iii) press your belly button and voice goes up in pitch as you say 'nombril' iv) do the same with arms/hands/legs being raised/lowered. As you will all look look and sound ridiculous doing this, including the teacher, it gives tacit permission to all to not worry about looking and sounding ridiculous when speaking the language, a crucial factor as your lesson develops.
- Introducing and practising group praise phrases. This has proved to be one of the most fun and positively reinforcing activities I have done. You teach your class 4 simple praise phrases in the language you are teaching in. In French I use 'Super, Excellent, Fantastique, Génial'. Pupils repeat the phrases after me in whatever voice I choose but we also do an action (thumbs up for super, skiing hands for excellent, index finger pointed up in the air first right then left then right hand, 3 punches out in front for each syllable of gé-ni-al. You need to match actions to syllables. This is a vital part of early language learning as it helps children with any phonic approach to language learning, to separate sound forms within whole words. The last part is the most powerful part as we take different pupils' names to attach to the praise phrase and add a 3 part silly action that everyone copies to their name. So it might be 'Fan-tas-tique, Co-o-nnor' 'Ex-ce-llent Ma-ri-anne' with a 3 part action to their name, disco sky pointing, hip wiggles, Egyptian shimmy, make up as many stupid 3 part actions you like! The beauty of this is that once the pupils get hold of it you can ask them to come to the front and lead the whole class in praising a pupil. This is quite often hilariously funny as they are all far more imaginative then me in the actions they choose.
- You could substitute praise phrases for any language you want to recap on at the start of the lesson. Put on a backing track with a great rhythm and you can put silly actions to absolutely any language or topic you like. Again get pupils to suggest the moves and the language to revise, hence revising it! Put some picture prompts or key language prompts on the board if necessary.
- Having done this next one once with pupils, I get requests to do it again regularly at the start of a lesson. It's the French / German / Spanish/ Urdu etc etc Haka. You simply take the vowel sounds of a language, get the class into warrior mode, knees bent, hands on knees, all facing me and looking fierce (model your own fiercest look!!), than repeat the actions and vowel sounds after me. I do 'A' + both hands pushed out in front, 'E' both hands back pointing to me, 'I' one hand streching up, the other down in front of me to draw an I shape, 'O' draw a circle 'o' shape with both hands either side of you, 'U' do a u-shape with both hands' fingers either side of you. You can do this loud, you can do this softly. I ask pupils to suggest a consonant to put in front of the vowels. If they suggest 'j' it's an ideal way to show that 'j' makes a vowel soft in French so we do the 'friendly Haka' in a soft voice! Adding other consonants means that you can repeat this activity.
Second, the 'calm down' type of starters
Simply put, you can do any of the above but change:
- to sitting instead of standing
- the type of music or slow down an upbeat track using sound editing software (Audacity / Wavepad)
- the speed of the exercises
- from louder voice to softer voice
- from whole group responses to two team responses where you award points for the best pronunciation, the team that best responds as a whole unit, as ONE voice
- A bit more of a challenge would be to build up a bank of singing stories. I have started to do this. To calm a group down, you could move a simple story to the beginning of your lesson. I then get them to sit and listen to the story, but get them to repeat key sections with a silly action. I also set bits of the story that are often repeated to music and create mini-songs within the story. Take a track from your stock of backing tracks I have been encouraging you to build up. You can then move from the story onto exploiting some of the language introduced in the rest of the lesson.
- You can add in a simple breathing trick to get quiet. Invite the class to take a breath, and hold it with you until you say a word/phrase you want to revise, which they then repeat letting out their breath as they do so. Usually the noisiest kids are also the most competitive about wanting to show how long they can hold their breath for! (Tip: get them all to take a gentle deep breath in)
Hope this is all of some use.
Post a comment to share some of your own lesson starter tips!