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Humanising Language Teaching
Year 4; Issue 4; July 02

Short Article

Choral Reading

Henk van Oort

( see below for chral reading texts)

An important methodological aid in teaching a foreign language is choral speaking. It can be done right from the first ever lesson at any age, in any class, in any culture. Choral speaking imitates the situation in which any human being masters his or her native tongue. By listening and repeating the pupil tries to produce identical sounds in both situations.* But during choral speaking lessons in the classroom the effect is enhanced due to the amplifying effect of the whole group. Moreover, the weaker pupils will be supported by the more skilled ones. The pronunciation of the former will be improved with none of the embarrassment of special attention in front of the others. The forward thrust of the group will help all pupils.

An additional advantage of choral speaking is the fact that it is a tremendous memory support. The sounds will reverberate long after the last text has been recited and will be remembered in a better way for this reason. The intensity of the sounds produced is such that the child cannot possibly lose itself in anything else. The aural effect will be deep because no other, or at least very few, distracting elements will be given a chance. In choral speaking pupils have to listen to one another very carefully. Even the slightest deviation in speed, rhythm or loudness even a wrongly timed pause for a fresh mouthful of air may bring a chastising reaction from the rest of the group. A socialising exercise at the same time.

If we allow the pupils during the choral speaking lesson to move whilst speaking, the rhythm of the language, the entire musical element, will be kinetically reinforced. The whole child is involved. The movements that are meant in this case are clapping hands, stamping feet, jumping, even walking whilst speaking is a possibility. Pupils may also, if the text suggests this, make themselves tall or small, squat, etc.

The teacher can help a pupil that needs extra attention by starting off reciting a couple of lines with the whole group, then reducing the group of speakers to half the class. The rest will turn into listeners. Then the speaking half is again reduced to five pupils. This group is reduced to two. At last the pupil for whom this exercise has been carried out, says his text on his own. This pupil will by then have lost his shyness and will have been able to memorize the lines.

Various sorts of texts are suitable for choral speaking.

In the first place, of course, poetry. In poetry rhythm, assonance, alliteration, and rhyme play a prominent role. Although your classroom will probably not have the excellent acoustics of the Epidauros theatre in Greece, you will be impressed by the beautiful sound that e.g. thirty-five children can produce whilst reciting a good poem. Language is really brought to life in this way and will not fail to help shape the children's powers to master the foreign language. The teacher should prepare the lesson by studying the meaning of the text but also by studying thoroughly the inner dynamics of the poem and of the language in which it is written. Elements as fast/slow, loud/soft/fading away, tense/relaxed, high/low pitch, should be well in the teacher's mind before the lesson starts.

After a couple of choral speaking lessons, when the pupils are used to this work, the teacher may introduce some musical instruments to accompany the recitation. A simple drum could well indicate the rhythm. Even a combination with a string instrument is very well possible. It just depends on what musical instruments are available.

In the second place poetical dialogues can be used for choral speaking. Especially texts with more than one voice are excellent. For the young learners we could use a dialogue between e.g. the blowing wind and bending reed, or between a bee and a flower, or a tossing ship, the captain and the wild sea.

In the third place dialogues from everyday life can be used. E.g. a boy that cannot find his shoes and asks his mother for help. (see example). A dialogue between a person in a room and another person who forgets to close the door (see example).
In these dialogues there are various possibilities as to casting. The class may be divided into two groups or the teacher could take the one, the class the other part. One pupil, or even two or three may take one part, the rest of the class the other part, and so on.

In the fourth place choral speaking can be used in teaching grammar. E.g. the irregular verbs can be said aloud in chorus whilst clapping or stamping. Even famous or notoriously difficult example sentences from the grammar lessons, - any teacher uses stock examples may be said aloud by the whole class two or three times. They will be remembered in a better way.

Choral speaking is a huge help in teaching foreign languages as may be derived from the above. At the same time the pupils' artistic sense will be educated.

The texts that follow have proved excellent for choral reading

* Editorial note: some psycholinguists might take issue with Henk on this point.

THE TAP

The tap! The tap! The tap!
The tap is running! The tap is running!
Water! Water! Too much water!
Close the tap! Close the Tap!

Water here, water there,
Water everywhere!
Water on the floor!
Water on the table!
Water on the door!

    What did you say?
The tap! The Tap! Close the tap!

    What did you say?
Who forgot to close the tap?
Who forgot to close the tap?

    I did. I did. Yes, I did.
There is a river in the kitchen!
There is a river in the kitchen!
A river, a river, a river on the floor!

We get flooded! We get flooded!
Look at the cat!
Look at the mat!

    I'll go and see
    I'll go and see
    I'll go and see
    This is too much water for you and me!

    Ssssssssssstttttttt

    I have closed the tap.
    Closed the tap.
    Closed the tap.
Yes, this is better
Yes, this is better,yes.
What a mess, what a mess!

Mop till you drop!


SHOES

Where are my shoes?
Where are my shoes?
Where are my shoes?

    Look under your bed
    Look under your bed
Cannot go to school
Cannot go to school

    What have I said?
    What have I said?
    Look under your bed!
I left them in the hall
I left them in the hall
Yes in the hall!

    Look under the table
    Look under the desk
    Look in the bathroom
    Look under the chest!
Spottie took them to his basket!
Spottie did!
Spotty took them to his basket!
Spottie, Little doggy, Kid!



SHUT THE DOOR

Shut the door!
Shut the door!

    Why? Why?
I am freezing!
I am freezing!
I am really freezing!
You won't believe it!
Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr !

Shut the door!
I said: Shut the door!

    I like the fresh and freezing
    I like the freezing air!
It was so comfy here
so warm and cosy
until you blustered in.

so peaceful and serene
so quiet and so calm
Shut the door!!!!!
Shut the door!!!!!

    It's like a stewpot
    here inside.
    It's like a deadpan
    where you hide!
    It's like an oven
    near the fireside.
Well goodbye then
Well goodbye then
I'll come back another day
Well goodbye then
Well goodbye then
And see you in the month of May!



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