A key aspect in early language learning is developing and fostering a positive attitude towards the target language, which in our case is English, as we are a group of English graduates for primary and secondary education from the University of Education Karlsruhe (“PH Karlsruhe”). This is the first aim we would follow as teachers no matter where we teach.
In a new experiment, our professor of English started to prepare us for teaching English in Laos while we were still in the middle of our final state exams (October 2015). It was a very intense time for us all.
Prof. Dr. Martin organised/held six workshops for us (three with guest speakers) to acquaint us with the kind of teaching material and methodology which she estimated would help bridge the initial huge gap of complete non-communication and foreignness. In the absence of a common language, communication was to be started by way of non-verbal languages to ease the way into verbal communication, namely music, dance, and body language.
Singing is a means of transporting messages and expressing emotions. Most cultures make use of this and use songs for passing on their respective language and culture. Therefore, combining singing and English is a great technique for teaching English as a foreign language as well. Combining these two is a “clever” or natural way of motivating children for language learning through creating space for playful learning.
Playful learning is a part of holistic learning, which means learning in all aspects of human life. Most schools focus more on intellectual-cognitive competences while alternative methodological-didactic approaches like Waldorf education demand an equal focus on artistic and creative competences. Research on early language learning shows that Waldorf educators have created opportunities for holistic language acquisition successfully. Another approach, “Learning Through the Arts”, yields similar results (http://www.ltta.de/home.html). Recent research in the neurosciences also corroborates the evidence: music and emotional involvement influence language learning in a positive way.
This is why we set about expanding our repertoire of English action songs and finger rhymes. In one of the workshops, Heike Müller, an English student and lead member of Prof. Martin’s “Singlish” band, taught us fun English songs, rhymes, and action games on 10 October 2015 (and she donated her work and her Saturday to the project!).
This workshop was based on both Prof. Martin’s “Singlish” repertoire and a previous workshop with Prof. Christoph Jaffke (Freie Hochschule Stuttgart) on “Moving, singing, speaking in the lower school” held at the PH Karlsruhe in 2012. Prof. Jaffke has worked as a Waldorf educator himself all his life and also published about the significance of singing, moving, and playing for early language acquisition.
Clapping games as well as action songs and rhymes are a motivating way for young leaners to get in touch with the English language. The teacher uses gestures and facial expression to “explain” the meaning while singing and playing at the same time – a great chance for young learners to increase their English proficiency. We are looking forward to using the “music language” with the young learners in Laos for teaching English.
Text by J. Bauer and L. Kringe
Photos by I. Martin