Grammar in songs

We’re singing the Russian New Year songs. In level 1, we make a gesture for every word, and occasionally I check that they know the difference between “she” and “to her.” I also ask a lot of translation questions to make sure that the gestures have meaning, as well as asking kids to translate whole lines, since otherwise they could be nonsense. “In the forest was born a fir tree” is pretty clear. But “From the forest brought we the tree home” is not unless you’re a language teacher.

In the next levels, I do pop-up grammar. Who brought? How can you tell? How would you say “he brought”? How would you say “He brings”? Whom did we bring home? What makes it “her”? How would you say “him”? I end up doing one grammar pop-up on each pass through a verse.

Sometimes I get off on a tangent of circling and storytelling, but we interrupt to sing. It’s really nice by the most advanced levels, because the kids are ready to play with the vocabulary and make crazy stories out of the song.

I just realized something. Susie said that in order to teach new grammar, we can bring out a story kids from last year and retell it with all the new grammar. I never have the same stories from year to year because my level ones feed into two mixed-level classes. But they do all learn and repeat the same familiar songs year to year, so we can build stories around them. It’s sort of like the Toni experiment of giving the stories that level 1 told to the upper levels for a re-write. They do well because they’re not trying to do too much new at once.

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