Singing English

Our Singing English project is based on Sound to Symbol practices, developed over many years, through thousands of hours of teacher-child song play and subsequent reflection. Song games help with language, sensory-motor, and social-emotional development.

Singing English

Our Singing English project is based on the Sound to Symbol Methodology which has been developed over the past 30 years. It has grown from work in education through music and has been expanded to include application in literacy and orality.

It is an important method for developing oral language skills in the context of social play and for practicing important sensory motor integration activities that arise in the context of the game play. The songs are structured for cooperative social interaction and are based on simple movements and gestures that engage attention and provide both sequencing and patterns of social interaction carried by the song’s architecture. Many of the song actions were developed based on the work of the late Dr. Jean Ayers, an occupational therapist who pioneered activities for children in sensory motor integration.

Observation is a critical aspect of the Sound-to-Symbol methodology. “While observing children as they play folk song-games, I have seen children express physical/perceptual and social/emotional responses, I have also seen them express imaginative/cognitive and musical/language responses during play. But these separations and categories are only useful for purposes of describing. In the lived experience of children playing, perceptual, cognitive and social responses are all interconnected; one experience never acts in isolation of the other two. A child is ‘all of a piece’. After more than thirty years of observing children ‘wholly’ absorbed while playing folk song-games, I am convinced that this particular form of social play holds great potential for evoking a ‘whole child’ response from children.” (Sweeney)

Singing English is the name given to the Sound-to Symbol methodology when it is used in working with multi-lingual groups and ESL learners, both adults and children and when it is used with children with developmental delays. Singing English is deceptively simple. It rests on the knowledge that the music of certain songs flow in confluence with spoken English. By learning songs such as “The More we Get Together” and “Circle Left, Duo Duo”, the learners are given an acoustic ‘mantra’ which, when accompanied by the social play of the folk song-game, establishes an architecture of oral English and a social structure for contextualizing the meaning of the words. Repeating the songs and games over time, while at the same time re-directing the auditory focus of the players and diversifying the focus of the games, provides the oral language structure for language learners for moving from sound to symbol, both iconic and written. Singing uses a different brain function and children with language delays often find singing enjoyable.

When families are learning English, the games and songs provide opportunities for parents, grandparents, children and friends to practice and play together while learning the vocabulary and structure of common English speech.

Have a question?  Send us an email and we'll be happy to help.

Elaine Decker