Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Of drilling and music in YLE classroom

I was thinking about drilling last week, and not just because I've got a hole in one of my teeth...and I put  the idea into my 'blog about this soon' folder. This folder is just next to 'go home & eat dinner' in my head, and I think I must have been hungry that evening.

I just came across Martin Sketchley's timely post on his really good blog http://www.eltexperiences.com ARGH!!! on drilling which reminded me I had something to say! Martin's post is here by the way, and I especially agree on using music to do the hard work. A couple of the other ideas are new to me, but as our landlord complains about noisy kids (yes, he's a real gas) the full-volume one will have to wait a while. Find Martin on twitter as @ELTExperiences

Devon Thaggard of Super Simple Songs fame is an exponent of using music all the time - warmers up, coolers down (if that is a proper phrase I don't know!), scene shifting & transitioning, background & subliminal input...all of which I like but I find myself up & down like a yo-yo doing that, and so do this once in a while. But I do like to use his songs a lot - check out some of our Audioboos here.

Songs obviously have rhythm, and I enjoy the challenge this brings to my learners as they are in (L1) habit of giving each consonant the same weight, and not elliding (joining words together). Enunciating nicely yes (I hope - they are copying me after all!) but not getting whole chunks out quickly enough or with too much "oomph" (my favourite technical phrase in EFL since my CELTA course!).

The other day I was introducing my YLs to the this/that concept...by way of a song in English Time 1 (OUP). The children already knew the vocab, so simple matter of sticking the flashcards out of arm's reach (around the room, spread out a bit). Having never hear the song before, I just asked them to listen and touch or point at the approriate card. Windmills! Second time was more co-ordinated, and they wanted to join in (fine - not me forcing them too, and they wanted to know what the other words were...OK, I gave them!). They wanted to try again and do better...it's working!

The lyrics for the songs are in the back of the classbooks, which I really like - and they are also indented to identify different 'parts' in back & forth or question/answer chants.
This is a flower
       That's a bird
This is a flower
       That's a tree......
This makes it really easy to assign parts to students individually or in pairs/little groups, reading their 'bit' and hearing the other bit (a slow read through, focusing on actually reading - remembering? - the words). And then press play for a full speed go with all the words in, emphasising the this/that distinction as a 'battle'. Replay quickly with roles switched, and the little troopers will be singing all the way back to home :)

Here is a very impromptu audio grab of our efforts - remember, this was the 1st time they'd come across the song!


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Drilling is not a dirty word in my EFL classroom...it is just nicely disguised as 'fun'!