How to go from studying English to speaking it?
"Music is the piece of art that goes in the ears straight to the heart."How do young people learn best? This is something I think about a lot when teaching foreign languages to young people. I often find that traditional teaching methods are neither always effective nor stimulating for young brains to absorb a foreign language.
After moving to southern Italy I was fortunate to have had the chance to run a private course teaching English to under 7s. I was aware children like to sing and definitely enjoy games so I wanted to use these tools to help my students develop English conversation skills. I found some fun and easy songs on-line, which they loved. I also found the English version to some nursery rhymes they recognised. All of which were very entertaining and helpful but students could still not have a basic conversation in English.
I knew I wanted these guys to be fully immersed in the language I was teaching but I also wanted them to speak it. I was keen to deliver 90% of my lessons in English but I knew it'd be difficult to get them to speak in a foreign language they have little or zero exposure to outside our lessons so I had to come up with a simple yet effective plan.
One day I decided to prepare an elementary dialogue in English and rather than simply getting students to repeat the phrases, I got them to sing and chant them. I discovered that chanting along to some conversational sentences was the way to get students to speak in English - it worked! I cannot emphasise enough how well this worked and how much they enjoyed it. I then realised that coming up with our very own catchy chants was the way to help students to go from studying English to start to speak English.
So when I teach English to young people now, I encourage them to make up their own songs and chants to help them remember idiomatic expressions or complex sentences. Since I've seen this work so well, I've now started doing the same with my adult students to help them remember complex sentence structures.