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Chanting: A Springboard into Learning
Sonja Dunn

Excerpted from All Together Now: 200 of Sonja Dunn's Best Chants.

How do you teach while you present a chant? Tell the children ahead of time that you will need their help with some of the words. Or, while you¹re presenting a chant, simply motion to them to fill something in. For example, take this chant about chanting:

Take a chance
on a chant
It's a whole
lot of [fun]

You can shriek
You can pant
Make your voices like [one]

You can say
all the words
in a rhythmical way
You can cheer
loud and [clear]
with a Hip! Hip! [Hooray!]

The words in brackets could be spots where you gesture to the students to chime in. There's no right or wrong in the choice of words you want them to predict. The more times you repeat the chant, the better they¹ll become at filling in words. Just keep in mind though that they may not always give you the word you're looking for! This can be a moment to talk about synonyms andvocabulary!

Children enjoy chiming in not only on words, but even on syllables. In fact, chants are a great way to teach young readers about syllabication. Clapping twice on two-syllable words will help them gain a better sense of word. Children with a full understanding of word readily identify two-syllable words no matter where they are placed in the chant.

Once you¹ve drawn your students into a chant, deepen their involvement in the words. Identify lines that they can speak in unison. A simple, repeated verse, such as this one from Junk Food, is easy to remember:

Junk food
Junk food
I love junk food
I eat junk food
I can't stop

While not classic poetry, children readily relate to the theme and they soon realize the importance of clear and expressive pronunciation. They have to cooperate if they want to avoid a muddle! That involves listening to one another to get the right rhythm and tone, and to pick up cues on time. To let students hear what they sound like, tape-record such a session. Audio or visual recording always motivates children to perform better.

Chants provide a genuine opportunity for young readers to learn more about print. First of all, show the chant on a flip chart, on an overhead, or on the chalkboard. If your students are barely beginning to read, treat the chant as a rebus, substituting some words with pictures they can interpret. Or, instead of pictures, show props, such as old wrappers for Anti-Pollution Rap.

As you read the chant, point out the words so that students can follow along. If you plan to have different groups say different lines, write the text in varying colors so that students can readily find their parts. Reading chants which nearly always centre on what children know and love will allow students to learn and understand more words that are relevant to them.

Excerpted from All Together Now: 200 of Sonja Dunn's Best Chants.
Published with permission. © 1999 Pembroke Publishers.

Sonja Dunn is an educator, storyteller, performer, author, actor, and poet. Known for her story skirt and story hat, she has delighted thousands of teachers and children at workshops throughout North America. The author of numerous books, many of Sonja's poems are included in the major language arts poems.

A popular personality for student and in-service programs, Sonja may be contacted
for appearances through Mary@PembrokePublishers.com


See more of our Cheers, Chants, Raps, and Poetry 


All Together Now Book


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