Last week I was chatting to my colleague, Katy Simpson-Davies, about experiments she’s doing in her class. She told me she was about to try out jazz chants for the first time, and wanted to film them. Since she’s just joined Twitter and been introduced to the world of blogs, I invited her to write a guest post for me about how she did it. Here’s the result. I think you’ll agree it’s a great start!
I first heard about Jazz Chants from a colleague who is particularly enthusiastic about using them with Young Learners. I don’t have any YLs, but I have an elementary class who really need practice just getting their tongue around some English sounds, so I decided to try out my first ever Jazz Chant with them.
We have a copy of the fantastic ‘Jazz Chants’ book by Carolyn Graham. I looked for one that helped the student practice a grammar point we’d been studying that week – ‘whose is this?’ There’s an index at the front of the book saying which chant is relevant to which grammar point. There are also notes before each chant with tips on how to present it.
Before doing the chant, I read through the useful advice at the beginning of the book about the different steps to follow in presenting a chant, and basically did it the way that was suggested. My students are from Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Check out the video below to see snippets of the various stages, from me reading it out for the first time, to their final full production of their own version. Here are the steps I went through:
- I wrote the title of the chant (‘Taking Credit’) on the board first, and we went over the meaning of this.
- I read the whole chant to them while they followed it on the handout. I drummed the beat lightly on the table (for their benefit and mine!)
- We read the whole chant together, all the way through. I read it with them, to help them keep to the rhythm.
- Next, I read one line and they repeated each line.
- I divided them into two groups, and I said one line; the first group repeated it; then I said the response line; the second group repeated it, etc.
- I drilled some of the phrases they had more difficulty with (for example, ‘it’s certainly not mine’.)
- Then the two groups read it without me. I just drummed the beat on the table and listened. The first group read the first line, e.g ‘Whose book is this?’, and the second group responded, e.g ‘It’s mine.’.
- I encouraged them to do it as a competition to see who could be the loudest, as some of my students speak very quietly. This wasn’t hugely successful, as I really was trying to get them to shout it, and you can hear it’s not that loud on the video!
The next day we did it again (and I recorded it this time with Sandy’s camera, which is much better quality!). I wrote the jazz chant on the board before the beginning of the class so they wouldn’t need their papers, as I wanted them to do it with gestures. We used props, i.e a book and some work, to illustrate what they were saying, and they pointed at people to give meaning to saying ‘mine’, ‘yours’, ‘hers’ etc (although we also talked about the fact that it’s not always polite to point!) Next, they went up to the board and changed some of the words. So instead of ‘book’ we had ‘glasses’, which was a good choice because it meant making everything plural, and we had ‘delicious water’ instead of ‘beautiful work’, and ‘professional camera’, instead of ‘awful work’.
I moved them further apart in a bid to make them talk louder, as they were supposed to be talking to each other. Unfortunately this isn’t great for the video, as I couldn’t fit all the students in the shot with them being on two different sides of the classroom! When we did the new version for the second time, I encouraged them to do it with more actions, and I sort of conducted by doing them myself as well. I really felt that doing the actions allowed them to have more fun, and ‘lose themselves’ in it more.
All in all, I thought it was a great way to get their mouths moving, and to make the grammar point really memorable. Some of the students have since been using ‘Whose is this?’ to enquire about folders, papers, pens etc, around the classroom, which seems to me to be a sign of success! I’ve already earmarked some more jazz chants I want to do next week, and I can definitely see why people rave about them.
If you want to know more about jazz chants, check out Jane-Maria Harding da Rosa’s TEYL blog (the colleague who first mentioned jazz chants to me.
Jazz Chants by Caroyln Graham is published by OUP, and the link for it on Amazon is here.