“unengaged, unenthusiastic, uninterested and hyperactive” Got a class like that? Here’s how Alex fixed it.

Alex just wrote in with this great story about how he motivated some of his tougher classes.  He gave me permission to share it with you all:

My name is Alex, and I am a first time English teacher working at an elementary school in an impoverished part of Guatemala City.

I have been using many of your songs regularly in some of my youngest classes with great success.

However, with my 2nd grade class, I had some trouble with the first song we used.

They are generally my hardest class…a bit unengaged, unenthusiastic, uninterested and hyperactive. I was nervous to use songs again in that class because of their “too cool for school attitude”.  But, I saw on your vegetable song page a video to the ASL version of the song.  I took a leap, and tried it with my 2nd graders.
It was magical.

Even the ones who are never engaged in class were totally into it.  I had moved one of the biggest problem kids to front corner of the class, because he was bothering some of the other boys.  He was, of course, sulking at first, and then after a few times through the song, he slowly started doing the motions, until he finally moved his seat back to his desk and started singing along. The whole class wanted the song again and again.
I would love to have more of your songs with ASL signs.  I tried coming up with them myself using online ASL dictionaries, but it is hard to come up with the right words that aren’t too complicated, but helpfully descriptive.  I don’t know if the woman who originally came up with the idea has other songs in ASL or not.  It would be great to have more videos on your site.
Thanks so much everything.  Your site has been of so much help to me in my first year of teaching.
Warm regards from Guatemala,


What do you guys think, should we have more signed songs on the site?

Actually if any of you are proficient in ASL it might even be possible to put a budget together to pay you to make videos for VIP members! Let me know if you are interested!

P.S.  Just confirmed another 2 Day workshop, this time in Okayama – would love to see you there!

Richard Graham

Hello, I'm Richard Graham. When I was a kid I found school to be sooooo boring... So I transformed my way of teaching. I listened to what the kids were really wanting to say and taught it in ways they really wanted to learn. The results were magical. Now I help teachers just like you teach amazing lessons and double your incomes!

5 Responses to ““unengaged, unenthusiastic, uninterested and hyperactive” Got a class like that? Here’s how Alex fixed it.”

  1. Margit

    My experience with this song has been the same.

    AND since I’ve seen the results of it, I’m doing each song of GE with signs. Some I’ve been making up, many I’ve been looking up in the dictionary and sometimes I ask the kids how they would like to sign something.

    One result that I hadn’t thought of is, that parents and teachers who watch me teaching become very interested. Some who hadn’t been into English till then suddenly see what communication means, it is the most convincing tool. Well, Japanese life used to be full of gestures in old days, maybe that’s one reason…

    I don’t know much about ASL, but if you’d be interested I can see if I can maybe take my private classes gesturing some of the songs.
    But my videos are very low level technically, and nothing compared to VAL’s stuff. You should check her channel, there are some more songs she did with gestures.

    My favorite song next to the vegetables is “What do you want to be

  2. Nena

    I’d love to see more ASL videos! Kids love to communicate with signs

  3. Janice

    I don’t teach ESL. My interest is learning methods of teaching English as a first language to kids with language disabilities. This is a personal interest, not a job; I have a son who is severely language-disabled. It is may own experience, and that of lots of others, that the combination of signs and songs can be the most effective way to learn English for many children. It is very difficult to find really appropriate products to help with that. (I’m not a musician, so we rely on commercial products.) The best I’ve found is the Singing Time series, which, by the way, my son loves, but it is a very long way away from meeting our needs. The songs are often too complicated and impossible for him to sign. And the songs are sometimes signed in ASL, which isn’t at all helpful for teaching/learning English. I should explain that. ASL is a language; ASL has its own grammar; ASL does not use English grammar; ASL is not English. So, since the intention of most of us is to teach our students English, it is not helpful to teach them American Sign LANGUAGE; instead, we want to teach them the English language using signs to help the students remember the words. There is absolutely no reason not to borrow the signs from ASL or SEE or even to make up our own signs. Teaching signs for words and having the kids sign while singing the words is, in my experience, very effective. Combining songs with signs is very powerful. But teaching signing is not teaching ASL. For anyone not familiar with the term SEE, it stands for Signing Exact English. SEE is not a language like ASL is; it is simply a way to sign English. I’m not suggesting that teachers teach their ESL kids SEE; nor am I suggesting that they don’t; each situation is different. But, unless the purpose is to teach them to communicate with deaf ASL speakers rather than to them English, you won’t be teaching them ASL either. Teaching SEE is more appropriate than teaching ASL to ESL students, but it isn’t important in all cases to be that rigid and to sign all words as is done in SEE. Instead, you can use your own version of PSE, pidgin sign language; it is not a language either. You can find information about it on the Internet. Essentially, PSE is sort of like signed baby talk. It doesn’t have rigid rules; you just use the signs in the way it will work in a particular situation. Maybe you leave out words like “the” or you don’t sign -ed or -ing on the end of words, just like young kids do. PSE can have a grammar closer to ASL or one closer to English, but, obviously, if your teaching ESL, you would want the grammar to follow English order. However, you might not use as many words. For instance, you could sign, “I see boy” while saying I see the boy.” Or “I go” instead of “I will go” or “I will be going” or “I am going” or whatever. Or “I like” instead of “I like that” or “I like it.” Essentially, just use signs in a way that works for your students. And, if you can’t find an ASL sign for a word, you may find an SEE sign. There is a lot of overlap in ASL and SEE signs, but, since, in SEE, every word is signed, there are SEE signs for words not used in the ASLanguage. SEE also has signed endings for words: -ed, -ing, and so on, so, if you are working on that with older students, an SEE dictionary could be helpful. And, if there is no sign for a word, have the students help make one up. As long as the intention isn’t to teach your students to communication with deaf ASL speakers, then that doesn’t really matter (in my opinion). Anyway, I prefer to use terms like signs and signing instead of misleading terms like ASL because the language we speak is English not ASL, even when we are using ASL signs to speak it.

    Anyway, I would love, love, love to see more signing videos to Genki songs. My son had a blast watching Val and her kids sign!

  4. Val

    Guys… I will do more videos.
    I didnt know you were using one of my crazy ideas with so much succes!

  5. Margit


    thank you very much for this informative comment. I really appreciate it.

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