The other day in one of my classes (young learners) we discussed the solar system. The text which the kids were supposed to read was part of the English across the curriculum section of the book, and apart from the fact that it was included in the coursebook in order to reinforce the knowledge of comparatives and superlatives, to me it seemed totally out of place. It was 1) uninteresting 2) I didn’t know how to handle the topic, and 3) I had no idea what to do with the text afterwards; I couln’t come up with an engaging way to recycle the material.
Nevertheless, it took me only a few seconds to find this song on YouTube, and suddenly millions of ideas came to mind. I found this material 1) engaging and more appropriate relative to the age and interests of the kids 2) amazing in relation to potential linguistic benefits 3) easy to elaborate on in a meaningful way (see another link below and the whole lyric is included right under the jump break). Apart from the fact that certain words and structures are repeated throughout the song, which is perfectly convenient for language acquisition, it’s dense with various structures and vocabulary items:
- It includes examples of contracted as well as uncontracted forms of verbs (I am, I’m).
- It includes useful collocations (the same size as, the other way, very big indeed).
- It includes basic grammatical structures (I am, I have, I spin, there is …) as well as an example of the passive form (are made of).
- It is full of useful prepositional phrases (on Earth, depends on, closest to, a ball of, in our solar system, from the Sun).
- There are examples of the ‘only one negative in a sentence’ rule (I have no water, I have no moons) – something Czech learners struggle with.
- There’s an example of relative clause (The place where we all live).
- There are examples of countable and uncountable nouns and their quantifiers (lots of land, many storms).
- The text can be useful for practising articles (a moon/the Earth/Mars) and comparatives/superlatives of adjectives and adverbs (farthest, more slowly).
- There are various linking devices (so, but, and).
- Although I’m not in favour of presenting vocabulary items in lexical sets, I’d say it’s useful to know certain lexical sets by heart, such as days of the week, months, seasons, planets of the solar system, etc. These are lexical sets even native speakers of the target language are expected to be familiar with. Learning these sets in songs or rhymes is an ideal way of making the experience less tedious.
The next step I made with my learners was introducing them to lyricstraining.com, where the song is available for spelling practice. The kids chose the game mode they felt up to (beginner, intermediate, advanced, or expert) and started completing the gaps while listening to the song.