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How to teach Genki English
Songs -> Games -> Projects

Genki English is about getting kids talking English about stuff they love as quickly as possible. It's not about boring textbooks or stifling grammar, it's about enthusing the kids to get them super confident and dying to speak to kids in other countries all over the world.

Whilst there are loads of different ways to use the Genki English materials, the most effective is use the songs to learn the new English, games to practise it and then real life projects to put it to use in the real world. Time is always short, it's got to be fun, it's got to be effective, and it's got to be genki!

Genki English Songs - to learn the English

"Repeat after me" is boring and kids always forget everything for the next lesson. Traditional songs contain too much difficult vocab or are difficult to sing. Enter the very special Genki English songs...

It's basically old fashioned drilling, but made so fun the kids keep interested right to the end. Each song is written to have just the right amount of English for one lesson, and it's all stuff the kids actually want to say and use - not boring textbook English.

Simply by deciding to do the song gives you a huge advantage as it sets a goal, something the kids can work towards. A goal properly set is one half reached. It means whereas usually you could teach 3 or 4 answers to a question in one lesson, you can now do 7 or 8.

However they don't have to remember them all, just the ones they are most interested in.

To make the language stick in the kids' heads, the gestures are so important ( however foolish they may make you look!). As many children remember by moving their bodies, they may forget the English, but they'll never forget the gestures. Then as they re-do the gesture the English very often comes back to them. Try it yourself and see.

Similarly picture cards help children who learn in a more visual way. Ones that have a gimmick or get a laugh from the kids are usually more memorable! Even very badly hand drawn ones by the teacher can be amazingly popular.

The melody of the song is the main attraction as that keeps the words stuck in your head all day and all week. I'm sure you've had this experience with songs on the radio. Plus the Genkiness of the music keeps the kids happy and excited. Very important to get a motivated set of learners. The Genki English songs are more like mini events than just a song.

Teach the song part by part, with the melody but without the CD just yet. You don't need to "drill" the words first, simply start off by teaching the song, using the picture cards and gestures for each line. Then when the kids have basically got the hang of it, introduce the music on the CDs to get them back lively and genki again.

Ideally the students then listen to the song at home each day, or in elementary school the class teacher plays the song once each day, so that by the next lesson you can simply go through the song once and it really cuts down on the amount of review work you have to do. This is the real beauty of the Genki songs from the teacher's point of view. Time is always short, you want to get the kids to remember as much stuff as quickly as possible!

Look on the "Songs / Themes" menu at the top of the page or have a look at the songs page.

To see how this all works in action, see the Video Workshops Page.

Classroom Games - to practice the English

With the songs the kids will remember and be able to ask and answer lots of questions. But if all they can do is parrot it back to you, then it's not that useful! This is where games come in, because they allow a controlled, but fun and hence motivating, way for the kids to chop and change and use the English they have learnt in the songs. Just a game for a games' sake is no good though, you have to teach them something new first, then use the game to get them totally used to speaking and listening to it.

However, one other method is to use games such as "Sticky fingers" or the "I like everything" game to introduce the song one phrase at a time. Introduce one phrase. Play the game using it. Introduce another. Play the game. This way the whole lesson is a game, and the finale is the song at the end, which you can then use to review everything in the next lesson.

I usually recommend one song and one game per lesson, but if in the beginning it takes you one lesson to do just the song, that's fine. Just keep practicing and you'll figure out ways to get the songs done in 10-15 minutes.

Look on the "Recommended Game" link for each of the Songs/Themes from the menu at the top of the page.

Or have a look at the "Planning a 45 minute lesson" page for more details.

Once you've got used to your class and teaching, it's nice to try and allocate 5 or 10 minutes of each lesson to something else entirely, to keep the lessons nice and fresh. You could have a go at Picture Books or even spend 5 minutes a lesson teaching one of the phonics sounds or "phonemes".

Projects - to really use the English

The songs and games are a great way for the kids to get used to talking and listening, to get excited about English and getting all the basics they need.

Then comes the real deal, actually using this English in a real life situation! This is the reason we teach English, so they can actually use it to talk to people. Thanks to the internet you can do this quicker than ever before, usually after a year or so, but maybe after even only 5 or 6 lessons.

You want the kids to able to talk to kids of their own age about things they enjoy. The tick is to start small, and gradually build up.

A simple idea is for the kids to photograph their school lunch. Then record them describing it in English. Then email this off to a school in another country and wait for the reply! It's simple English ( e.g. We have potatoes and rice and meat. I like meat. I don't like potatoes etc.), it's something they get excited about ( all kids love food!), and they are really using the English to communicate with someone who can't speak their native language! Just like kids talking in the playground, it's all sound and pictures, so there is no reading or writing. All very exciting! Don't worry about the techie aspects of it, ask an IT teacher, they are always willing to help! You can find out more on the School Lunch Exchange page

Other ideas include:

Describe their pets
Again a favourite of the kids. There's more on the pet project page.

Get them to describe their favourite toy or video game
Always popular. There will be lots of words they don't know how to say in English. This is good because you can teach them and as they want to use it straight away, it'll stick in their heads! Remember: keep it simple.

Do a weather exchange
Everyday the kids take it in turns to send a photo of the weather today, and record a short commentary ( e.g. It's snowy today). The exchange schools does the same thing. Make sure you get a good system of choosing which kid does it on which day as they often fight over whose turn it is! Now in class instead of just saying "What's the weather like?", you can say "What's the weather like in Vancouver?" or any other place you exchange with.

Write a picture book.

This is a great project, the kids write a story for a picture book. They send this to a school in another country and the children there draw the pictures based on what your kids have written! You could even try a different country per page. If you teach writing, the kids can write it themselves, if not, they tell you what to write and you put it up on the board, then send it off as an email later.

Write a song or poem
Your kids think of one line, the kids abroad think of the next.

Introduce your school or town to the world.
Digital photos plus an audio file is the easiest way, or you can even send video via the internet. One photo per place and one line of commentary is all that's needed.

Get them to describe their homework in English.
Things like maths are fairly universal the world over. Explaining in English can often help the kids understand the maths better.

Links to other subjects such as geography - volcanoes!
Kids in the UK study about Japan in school. Why not have your Japanese students make reports about Japanese volcanoes or the huge amount of snow up north!

These are just a few ideas, listen to what the kids talk about in the playground and you can come up with hundreds more, I'm sure.

Some points

Class projects work better than individual ones
Doing the project together as a class is a lot easier to manage than trying to keep up with lots of kids interacting with lots of other kids.

Keep the projects as a one off
Due to school holidays, days off etc, a one-off project is always easier to handle than a continuing one. Aim to just do one exchange. If the kids get into things you can always choose different schools for the same project or even maybe come back to the same school for a future project.

Ask the kids!
Make sure the projects are ones the kids want to do, not what the teacher wants to do. The idea is to get the kids excited, so find out what they want to talk about.

Where to find partners?
Sites like are great for finding partner schools. The hit rate is usually around 10% i.e. after chatting with the teacher in the other country, you send off things to 10 schools and usually one will reply. The British Council also help with projects for UK schools.

The techie stuff!
For the techie stuff, ask the IT teacher, they are always eager to help, it's a chance to try out their new toys!
For recording audio, usually the easiest thing is to use a video camera. Or the audio recorder on someone's phone. Audacity is a free program for editing audio files, but usually they are only short ( 10 seconds or so) so there's not much need to edit stuff.

The cool thing about these projects is that it's not just a class game or town project, your kids are really making something that you will be sending to kids in another country! Just think back to when you were at school, how excited would you have been!

Then the really cool bit is when they get the replies back. These are not just some textbook or some TV programme everyone can get their hands on, this is something that kids in another country hundreds of miles away have recorded and photographed just for your kids! They really get a kick out of it. And it really feeds their desire to learn new English, to do more songs and games, because they want to use it to do more projects with more kids in more countries! Be careful though, they quickly become addicted and teachers have found themselves being paid to escort kids half way across the globe to visit their new found friends!

So get cracking with the songs and games and as soon as possible, get your kids talking!

Be genki,


If you'd like to know more, have a look at the "About Genki English?" page!

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