Sunday August 28, 2011
Using jazz chants to teach English
THE International Conference on English Language Teaching (ICELT) which will be held next month will see several international language experts attending and presenting papers.
Their presence at the event is timely following the recent call by the Education Minister that teachers need to be more creative in the teaching of English, to enable learners to enjoy and have fun with the language.
One expert who will be present and perform at the conference is Carolyn Graham, who has taught in Harvard University and the New York Teachers College in the United States.
Her method of teaching English involves jazz chants —a unique way of getting students to improve their speaking and listening skills.
Below, Graham gives an account of how the idea for her extraordinary teaching style was mooted and developed over the years.
“When I first arrived in New York in the late 60’s, I began teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) at New York University. I didn’t really think of teaching as a profession for me.
“I just thought it would pay the rent so I could do what I really wanted to do, which was to sing and play the piano.
“It was in a New York bar that I first had the idea for jazz chants.
“I was playing and singing my old ragtime music when a friend of mine came up to me and said, ‘Gee it’s good to see you. You look wonderful.’ In those words I heard exactly the rhythm of the music I was playing.
“From that moment on, I began to listen to the language with a new awareness and to bring my students the beat of jazz by simply tapping on my desk.
“It began to work very well and I could see that my students were beginning to get the sound of spoken American English. I had decided to call it ‘jazz chants’ and I went up to my boss Prof Rudy Bernard with an idea.
“I said that I had found something new to do with the rhythms of American jazz, and asked him if I could have a large auditorium where students could be invited in the late afternoon to have their ‘English to jazz’ sessions.
“He agreed and even went to the extent of inviting five Television stations to record the session. We were on the six o’clock news that night and jazz chants was born!”
The conference is from Sept 18 to 20 at the Swiss Garden Golf Resort and Spa, Damai Laut, Perak. For details visit
www.icelt.com.my or call 03-8946 8172.