“What kind of heart doesn’t look back?” – Breathe Again, Sara Bareilles
I spent some time working on my scrapbook this morning. I’m including some pictures throughout this blog, but I’ll admit that they’re a little cryptic. All of the pages I worked on today featured student work, letters, and pictures so I had to get a little artsy with the images for this blog. (At least, I tried.)
So, I have a “stuff to scrapbook” box that’s overflowing. While sorting through it today, I felt particularly nostalgic, especially while looking through my old lesson plans. (Yeah, I’m weird.) One of my favorite things to do with my students was sing songs. I’m a strong believer in the benefit of using music in the ESL/EFL classroom.
If you are an elementary school ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) in Japan, then one of the most basic tools in your metaphorical toolbox is the “Hello Song.” I say metaphorical because you don’t need a physical copy of a CD, a track on your iPod, a YouTube video pulled up on your computer, or any other kind of music playing device to benefit from the magic of the Hello Song. All you need to be successful is a smile and some silly gestures – you don’t even need to be able to carry a tune. I certainly can’t.
(Side note: It’s actually a good thing that you don’t need the music to sing this song because I searched far and wide on YouTube to try to find a recording of it and was utterly unsuccessful.)
The Hello Song is a great way to get a class warmed up for an English lesson, but it can also be one of those tricks you keep up your sleeve for the inevitable moment when things don’t go quite as planned. Take, for instance, something that totally never happened to me (not once! I swear!): When a teacher tells you that there’s a schedule change and you’ve got a class in 5 minutes that you weren’t supposed to have until the next week. Yay!
At times like these, the Hello Song is the perfect way to kill 5 minutes at the beginning of your unplanned lesson. If you’re super creative and talented, you might even be able to get that up to 8 minutes!
I’m going to go back to my ALT roots today and break down my favorite simple EFL activity. It’s easy-peasy and ridiculous – two of my favorite things.
The original lyrics of the Hello Song are as follows: Hello, Hello, Hello, How are you? I’m fine, I’m fine, I hope that you are, too. Pretty simple, yeah? The best part of the song is definitely its accompanying gestures, though! Check it out:
Hello, Hello, Hello: wave each hand
How are you: keep your hands spread in the “I’m waving!” position, twist your wrists around, and hold your hands out in front of you – palms up
I’m fine, I’m fine: cross your arms across your chest – making an “X”
I hope that you are…: uncross your arms
too!: clap your hands together as loudly as possible
It looks completely ridiculous when you do it as an adult, but your heart will burst with cuteness when you have a class of 30 1st graders copying you.
If you (yes, reader, you are an EFL teacher in Japan right now) encourage your students to sing as loudly and clearly as possible and get them excited about the gestures, you can keep repeating the verse for at least a minute.
But wait, I said at least 5 minutes right? So, here’s what you can do next:
Try walking around the classroom as you sing the song and stop in front of a different student at the end of the verse. Then, while singing, “I hope that you are, too!” high five the student instead of clapping your hands together. If the kids are familiar with enough English, you can also instruct them make new pairs after each verse and let them high five each other. Who doesn’t love ハイタッチ (hai tacchi = high five)?
If you are really feeling desperate and you want to max this activity out at 8 minutes – you’ve got to try changing up the lyrics. Call out a different “feelings” word at the beginning at each verse. For example, my absolute favorite modification of the Hello Song is: Hello, Hello, Hello, How are you? I’m sick, I’m sick, I hope that you are, too!
Yes, my friends. This is classic. The English might be bizarre, but it gets the kids laughing and is just plain silly! Don’t forget to do your best “sick gesture” – rub your belly, hold your head, pretend to sneeze and cough – to enjoy the full effect of the ridiculousness.
And now, congratulations, you’ve made it 8 minutes into class. Sometimes simple really is best. Now you’ve just got to figure out what to do for the remaining 37 (or so) minutes. Janken (= rock, paper, scissors), anyone?
When reflecting on the Hello Song, the full extent of the silliness of my daily life in Japan really surfaces. But, man, those kids were cute.
Have a beautiful weekend!