English classes are one of Valpo Surf Project’s regular activities with our students. Weekly, we go to our students’ neighborhoods to hold classes in their schools, community sports clubs, or neighborhood council buildings. This the past month, we’ve been teaching English through music.
We started our unit on music by delving into one song: “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan. It’s a great song to teach, well-known from the 2010 World Cup, with catchy music and easy to understand. In class, we taught vocabulary from the song, worked through the meaning of the lyrics, and looked at various grammar points in the lyrics, according to each student’s English proficiency. The song was so good and we listened to it so many times during our classes that we found ourselves singing it throughout the month.
We followed up on our first lesson by learning another song: “Stand By Me,” covered by Playing for Change, a multimedia project that brings together musicians from around the world. We taught some English words used to talk about music and then used the nationalities of the many musicians featured in the song as a springboard to teach countries of the world. We even had time to play Pictionary to review the words that our students had learned.
The next week we turned our focus to instruments. We started off with a game (or two!) of musical chairs, dancing to the songs that we had learned in the previous weeks. The students learned about the four categories of instruments and the names of various instruments in English. We then listened to a series of songs from diverse genres, and discussed whether we liked the songs and which instruments we heard in each of them.
We wrapped up the unit with an especially fun class in which we made our own instruments — kazoos and rice shakers — and played a giant game of Jeopardy to review material from the past month. That week’s classes were an opportunity not only to review, but also to be playful and creative with our students.