by Helene J. Uchida
Songs are a wonderful vehicle to help facilitate positive feelings about being in an English speaking environment. They naturally create a pleasant atmosphere by virtue of the universal appeal of music with a melody.
I strongly recommend that your preschool and elementary classes have a theme song to associate with YOU and your English class. Playing this song in your classroom is a signal to your students that it is time for their lesson to begin. When youngsters at our school, waiting out in the lobby, hear our theme song, they come running to the classroom with a smile on their face, eager to greet their teacher and excited for class to begin. We also use the same theme song again to signal to them that class is over and it is time for them to leave. Thus, entering and leaving the classroom is always a positive, pleasant experience cushioned by an upbeat tempo and a corresponding happy atmosphere.
Selecting the theme song should be a fun experience for you in that it should reflect your personality or philosophy. If you are Australian, you might select “Waltzing Matilda.” If you are American, you might like “Country Road” or “You Are My Sunshine.” If you are British, you might select, “London Bridge.” Japanese teachers might like Walt Disney’s songs, for example, “It’s a Small World” or “Hi-Ho” (the march of the Seven Dwarves in Snow White) or a nursery song like “This Old Man” or the children’s song “If You’re Happy.” The list is endless, but the point is that this song will come to symbolize you and your English class. And when the child grows up and hears that song, he/she will think of you and his/her memories of English class with you.
If you have an answering machine for your school, you can also use this song as background music to your message. In addition, if and when you have a “happyokai,” this theme song can be used as background music to help relax the students and get them “in the mood” for English.
At Little America our theme song is “Getting to Know You” from the musical The King and I. It is employed in all the suggestions listed above. We also use it for our outside kindergarten classes where the students line up in a semi-circle waiting for us. We put the tape cassette in the tape recorder and walk around the semi-circle, shaking hands with each child and saying, “Hello” as our theme songs plays. We also do the same thing at the end of class: the student line up in a semi-circle to say goodbye and shake hands with their teacher while the music plays in the background.
This theme song concept is an example of how a little thought and a little preparation can be a strong catalyst to help you nourish in your students a positive and happy attitude about you and the English classes you create for them.