How To Use Music To Do Shared Reading

Music can let children experience foreign language in a pleasurable and natural way. Young children are naturally “wired” for sound and rhythm.  At Chinese with Meggie, music is an indispensable part in the classroom. Besides singing songs with the CD player, we sing catchy tunes while doing shared reading. Below are two examples:

1. 八只猴子(Eight Silly Monkeys)

The recreated lyrics:

五只猴子跳跳跳。    (Five little monkeys jumping on the bed.)
一只猴子掉下来,     (One falls down on the ground.)
妈妈给医生打电话,    (Mother calls the doctor.)
不可以在床上跳跳跳。 (The doctor says, no more monkeys jumping on the bed.)…..

We borrowed the tune from Five Little Monkeys written by A.J. Jenkins.  Children have no difficulty picking up the following vocabularies and phrases when learning the song:
猴子(monkey), 跳 (jump), 医生 (doctor),  床 (bed), 打电话(make phone call),
掉下来 (fall down), 不可以 (not allowed to). And they will also learn to count numbers from 1 to 8.

2. 晚安,大猩猩(Good night, Gorilla)

The recreated lyrics:

猩猩偷走了钥匙,钥匙, 钥匙,猩猩偷走了钥匙,管理员不知道。
(Gorilla stole the key, key, key. Gorilla stole the key. The zookeeper doesn’t know)
(Gorilla let go the elephant, elephant, elephant. Gorilla let go the elephant. The zookeeper doesn’t know.)…..

The original song is the famous The Wheels On The Bus. The tune repeats the animal vocabularies a lot which makes it easy for children to memorize.


Click the following links and right click “save link as” to download the songs:

八只猴子 Eight Silly Monkeys

晚安大猩猩 Goodnight Gorilla



Different from our regular immersion program, the aim of our advanced immersion program is to help students expand their Chinese vocabulary in theme-based classes. Through carefully designed curriculum, students learn about geography, biology, etc. in Chinese language. Since the vocabularies are more difficult than what we introduce in regular immersion classes, we find a way to help students reinforce what they learn in each class by making parody songs— familiar melody with lyrics made of the new vocabularies learned in that class.

The melodies we choose are either from the songs they learned in our regular immersion class or ones they are familiar with. One reason is that children are always excited to show you what they’ve already known, so the familiar melody is a good warm up for them to acquire the new knowledge. Furthermore, it is important for kids to review what they learn in the past and build up new knowledge upon the old one, which many educators advocate as “scaffolding”.

The following are examples of how we use the vocabularies learned in class to make parody songs.

To help students remember different body parts of snails, we change our “Body Parts” song in regular immersion class to “Snail’s Body Parts” song. Kids can all sing the original song: “头(head)肩膀(shoulders)膝盖(knees)脚(feet)膝盖(knees)脚(feet), 眼睛(eyes)耳朵(ears)嘴巴(mouth)鼻子(nose).” Then we introduce “Snail’s body parts” song with the same melody but different body parts vocabulary: “壳(shell)眼睛(eyes)大触角(big antenna)大触角(big antenna), 小触角(small antenna)呼吸孔(breathing hole)嘴巴(mouth).”

In the class of introducing seven continents, we revise the song “Happy New Year” into a “Travel Around the World” song. The lyric is “我住北美洲(I live in North America), 我想去欧洲 (I want to go to Europe), 还想去亚洲和南美洲(I want to go to Asia and South America); 我想去非洲(I want to go to Africa), 还想去大洋洲(I want to go to Australia), 还想去南极洲看企鹅(I want to go to Antarctica and see the penguins).”

In this way, memorizing vocabulary is no longer painful. We also hope that after acquiring more and more vocabularies, students can be creative and make their own songs!

Here is the video link of students singing “Travel Around the World” song

– Chinese with Meggie Language School, Austin, Texas

Music and Language (II) – How We Use Music?

We adapt a song for our own use. For example, the song 《十个小印第安人》(“Ten little Indians,”) is a great tool in teaching numbers and objects. We change the word “Indians” to all different objects such as “rabbit,” “oven,” “carrot” etc. Then students are practicing lyrics such as “有一只,有两只,有三只兔子……” (There is one, there is two, there is three rabbits…) They memorize the object as well as the numbers.

We also combine music with different activities. For instance, we may create a song or adapt a song to a picture book. We have a book about a train running all the way down. And we also have a song describing the train running all the way down. When flipping through the book, we simply sing the song. By doing this, the song is visualized without explanation.

We also use a lot of “situation-based” songs in classroom. For example, we have a song for clean-up, and also a song for going outside. When teachers begin to sing these songs, children know instantly that it’s time for clean-up, and it’s time for going out for a walk. With music’s soothing effect, it is easier to attract children’s attention which is also better than merely asking students to “Clean-up the toys.”

Here are songs we sing with our children in class very often. They are also songs sung by almost every child in China:

Two Tigers:

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star:

Little Donkey:

-Chinese with Meggie Language School, Austin, Texas

Music and Language (I) – Why We Use Music?

We love using music in our Chinese immersion classroom. Therefore, we have written the following two blogs which are about why and how we use music in our classroom.

Music and language interweave with each other and play a profound role in human’s development. For one reason, the music system and the language system share a lot in common. For example, they both have rhythm, tonality, pauses, and stress. For another reason, the combination of the two systems can produce positive effects on both systems. For instance, when we combine music and language to become a song, the language becomes more vivid and easier to express emotions.

For children learning their first language, scientists believe that children’s imitation of the rhythm and musical contours of the language even comes before the speaking of the words. When an infant is listening to a song, he/she does not only learn to discriminate between sounds, but also to acquire the language in a musical context. In other words, music can catalyze children’s language development.

It is not only true for children’s first language acquisition. As we are using music in our Chinese immersion classroom, we notice a lot of advantages in our children’s Chinese acquisition through music, too. In the next blog, we will talk about how we use music creatively in class.

-Chinese with Meggie Language School, Austin, Texas