“Music and Movement – Using Gestures”

by Super Simple Learning December 5, 2011

“One way to really enhance language development in the classroom or at home is through the use of music and gestures together. There are a number of studies that indicate that both music and gestures on their own greatly assist learning (see “Songs as an aid for language acquisition“, “Gesturing makes learning last“, and “Music and movement; instrumental in language development” for a starter). From our time in the classroom, we know that songs and gestures together absolutely assist learning. Songs allow students to feel the language, and gestures and movement help them make sense of it. Kids learn more quickly and retain the knowledge longer when they sing and move together.”

ABC Song video of Super Simple Songs is displayed in Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany.

From October 21, 2011 to April 22, 2012, our “ABC Song” video from the SuperSimpleSongs YouTube channel will be exhibited alongside works by Marcel Duchamp, László Moholy-Nagy, Oskar Fischinger, George Lucas, Kyle Cooper and Alex Gopher (as well as opening credits from films like Matrix and James Bond) in the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany.

The “Moving Types” exhibition shows a retrospective from of the beginnings of the film to the 21st century, using filmlets, film excerpts, advertising films, video clips and a media facade in the Gutenberg Museum to illustrate historical and contemporary examples in which letters play the main role.

For more on this, please see the Super Simple Learning blog.


“Why should songs be used MORE in the Young Learners classroom?”

Why should songs be used MORE in the Young Learners classroom?

Published 11 May 2011

Songs are a great way for children to learn English. But what other benefits does using songs in the classroom bring? In this post, Devon Thagard, co-owner of Super Simple Learning and songwriter for the new primary course, Everybody Up, shares his thoughts.

My first day teaching a class of kindergarteners many years ago started with me greeting the students one by one at the classroom door. When I turned around after greeting the final student in line, I discovered that, before the lesson had even started, I’d lost all control. With my back turned for a minute, the children’s nervous energy had them running around the room, screaming, and tearing apart the foam tile ABC carpet I had laid down for a story time area. My pleas for calm had no effect. For the children, all they knew was that a big strange man was saying some odd words (loudly) in a language they didn’t understand.

Needing a minute to think, I walked over to the CD player and, not knowing which song was first on the children’s music CD I had ready to go, pressed play. I was rescued that day by a song. An old classic clean up song started playing, and I started simply picking up the foam tiles as I sang along.

Midway through the song I noticed the children had joined me in tidying up, and some were singing along, too. By the end of the song, the classroom was clean, the children were quiet, and they were all looking up at me with an expression on their faces that said, “What’s next?” We had a good lesson, and songs have been an integral part of my classes ever since


The benefits of songs as teaching tools go well beyond just teaching the language. Here are a few reasons to implement songs in your lessons from start to finish.

Songs create a positive atmosphere. Just as we take great care in decorating our classrooms to make them warm and conducive to learning, we should think about how we are decorating our classrooms with audio. Learning a foreign language can be stressful for anyone, especially young learners. Fun, simple English songs playing as students enter the classroom help create a welcoming environment.

Songs help to balance energy levels. Some children come to class bouncing off the walls, while others are quite reserved. Starting class with an active song allows the higher energy students to “get the wiggles out” and the lower energy students to pep up a little.

Songs are very effective in signaling transitions. Students often get confused, and subsequently tune out, during transitions from one activity to another. Verbal directions alone can be difficult to understand, especially when a student was focusing on different activity. Using songs to signal changes helps students understand what is going on (and helps save the teacher’s voice, too!). Try using different songs to signal when it is time to start class, time to clean up, time to make a circle, time to take out your coursebook, etc.

Songs allow everyone to participate. These days, some students come to our classes having learned English from birth, while others in the same class may be learning English for the first time. Singing is an activity that children of all levels can enjoy equally. Students with low English levels will be able to follow along with gestures and dances as they gradually learn the language in the song. More advanced students can also enjoy singing and dancing while improving their rhythm, intonation, and pronunciation, even if they already know all the words.

Songs allow for quick review. It can sometimes be difficult to provide as much review as we’d like for our students. Songs are a fun, easy way to quickly re-introduce language from earlier lessons.

Songs are ‘sticky’. When you teach with songs, you be assured those songs will bounce around your students heads long after the class is over. The same can’t be said for most other teaching tools.

A classroom full of songs is a warm classroom where students are getting lots of quality English input in a fun and easy-to-understand way.


The advantages of beginning early

Text from booklet of the British Council - http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/parents/articles/how-young-children-learn-english-another-language

“Young children are still using their individual, innate language-learning strategies to acquire their home language and soon find they can also use these strategies to pick up English.

Young children have time to learn through play-like activities. They pick up language by taking part in an activity shared with an adult. They firstly make sense of the activity and then get meaning from the adult’s shared language.

Young children have more time to fit English into the daily programme. School programmes tend to be informal and children’s minds are not yet cluttered with facts to be stored and tested. They are less stressed by having to achieve set standards.

Children who have the opportunity to pick up a second language while they are still young appear to use the same innate language-learning strategies throughout life when learning other languages. Picking up third, fourth, or even more languages is easier than picking up a second.

Young children who acquire language rather than consciously learn it, as older children and adults have to, are more likely to have better pronunciation and feel for the language and culture. When monolingual children reach puberty and become more self-conscious, their ability to pick up language diminishes and they feel they have to consciously study English through grammar-based programmes. The age at which this change occurs depends greatly on the individual child’s developmental levels as well as the expectations of their society.”

Beginning to talk

“After some time, depending on the frequency of English sessions, each child (girls often more quickly than boys) begins to say single words (‘cat’, ‘house’) or ready-made short phrases (‘What’s that?’, ‘It’s my book’, ‘I can’t’, ‘That’s a car’, ‘Time to go home’) in dialogues or as unexpected statements. The child has memorized them, imitating the pronunciation exactly without realizing that some may consist of more than one word. This stage continues for some time as they child picks up more language using it as a short cut to dialogue before they are ready to create their own phrases.”

Building up English language

“Gradually children build up phrases consisting of a single memorized word to which they add words from their vocabulary (‘a dog’, ‘a brown dog’, ‘a brown and black dog’) or a single memorized language to which they add their own input (‘That’s my chair’, ‘Time to play’). Depending on the frequency of exposure to English and the quality of experience, children gradually begin to create whole sentences.”