Saturday, 18 October 2014

Are the words important?

Earlier this evening, before I went out to play the Joanna and conduct at a concert, I watched Celebrity Pointless with my family.  The first round was a good one (countries with A as the first vowel in their name) but the second round was truly inspired: misheard song lyrics.  I am well chuffed that I knew all the answers, probably because they were nearly all songs of a certain age.  It reminded me of this book that I've had for a while, which is full of misheard lyrics, malapropisms and "other linguistic gaffes".  Right up a word nerd's street.

Here, for your entertainment and amusement:  From which songs do these misheard lyrics come?

  1. Listen to the rhythm of the gentle boxing gopher.
  2. Sparing his life for his mum's sausages.
  3. No Dukes of Hazzard in the classroom.
This reminded me of something that my elder daughter told me last week.  She said that when she was in Year 6 (last year) one of her jobs as house captain was to operate the hymn words in assembly.  This meant sitting next to the Year 1 children.  One day, as they were all saying the Lord's Prayer, she heard one of the little ones say:

".....And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us by email...."

Yesterday I spent another day at Manchester University with the primary trainees.  We spent a lot of our session looking at storytelling, now an important part of the new Key Stage 2 programme of study.  We practised and told five stories, among them Le Navet Enorme (lesson 7)  I think songs, poems and stories in the primary languages classroom are great, as they offer learners the opportunity to hear and speak passages of extended language and let them hear the music and rhythm of the language.  If you do the Navet Enorme, you can have children with very little French speaking confidently for a five-minute stretch because of the repetitive nature of the story.  One of the trainees asked if, when teaching stories, poems and songs, we should explain to the children what the words mean and make sure that they say all the words properly.  In other words, should we take steps to avoid our pupils delivering us by email and listening to gentle boxing gophers?

Last week I taught my Year 1 Spanish group a new Adiós song from this book.  They sing all the words, some of which are pretty complex - "Me dio mucho gusto/Estar con vosotros", with gusto, do all the actions enthusiastically, and their articulation of the words is pretty good.  They enjoy the song, but they don't know what most of it means.

Some of the songs, poems and stories that we use in the classroom are designed specifically to convey and practise a specific grammar point or structure, and so it is important that the children say the words correctly and know what they mean, if they are to understand the structures and use them in their own speaking and writing later.  For example, my Year 4 Spanish class need to be able to say accurately and understand those little, repetitive pages in the middle of La oruga muy hambrienta  when we are telling the story together, as they then go on to adapt the story using those little pages as the basis for their writing.  The same children happily belt out Chiquirritín at Christmas time without understanding all the words.

It seems to be a careful balancing act between enjoyment and participation, and ensuring understanding where necessary.  I would be interested to hear your thoughts!

  1. Petula Clark, Downtown
  2. Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody
  3. Pink Floyd, Another Brick in the Wall

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