Here is a short post in a continuing series on what makes a great foreign language song that engages kids.
Having blown the trumpet for quite a few other MFL songsters, on this one I'm puffing on my own! Shameless I know but there we go …
My first example isn't actually my own composition - it is perhaps one of the most widely used songs for Early Language Learners, 'Heads,Shoulders,Knees and Toes'
The point I want to make though in this post is that even very familiar songs can be given an added twist of your own that make them even more memorable.
Children love a bit of fun in a song, a chance to look and sound ridiculous. You can inject this element into songs that you already use with a bit of imagination.
First example then is this French version of 'Tête, Epaules, Genous et Pieds'. I'm grateful to the early learning website Speakaboos.com for permission to use the tune. I think it is a cracking version of it and like the hip-slapping country feel that I think perfectly compliments the fact children are pounding parts of the body as they sing!
I have overdubbed a French version of the lyrics using Mixcraft software and added an idea that I use a lot when warming children's voices up for singing. When you get them to repeat 'oreilles' pull yourself up onto the tip of your toes as you say the word and slide your voice from low to high up the scale as you say the word. Children LOVE it. Here's the tune and the French Lyrics I use.
Backing Track + Main Vocals
Backing Track + Harmony Vocals
Backing Track + 2 part Vocals
Download a zip file with all of the musical tracks and a powerpoint file of the song.
My second example is one of my own tracks which you are welcome to download and use for yourself. If you like it please leave a comment. It is a simple French numbers 1 - 20 song but with 2 elements in it that I know add a funny twist and add a linguistic context.
Here is the whole resource in a zip file. This includes a Samrtboard Notebook file of the lyrics. You can import it into Active Inspire whiteboard software if necessary. It also contains the song sung at different speeds, another favourite trick to keep children interested and willing to repeat an activity.
The lyrics at the end of the song have some inbuilt self-deprecation. As they finally get to 20 they are invited to lingusitically puff and pant their way to the top of the song: "Ca y est, c'est fini, c'est fini ENFIN!" The thing is that though you invite them to say "At last! We've got to the end of this song" they seem very happy to go back and repeat it all over again!
As for the humourous hook, for some reason, after the first 1-10, when the children sing 'la la la la' that is the bit that gets the loudest vocal and engages even the most distracted. Perhaps you can explain it to me. Ok, it's not French, they can sing at least this but why does that appeal?
One theory I have is that any excuse you can give to children learning a language to ham something up, exaggerate, lose their reserve and inhibition, is a great facilitator. Any good language learner has to overcome inhibition, reserve and be prepared to sound stupid. My theory is that both of these song examples are successful because of these in-built opportunities to sound ridiculous.
Perhaps you have examples of other songs that you have adapted to do this. Please share them here!
As Miranda's Mum would say, "Such fun!" (Follow the link if you don't understand the reference - my current favourite comedy show on BBC - the art of the ridiculous perfectly crafted)