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Teaching very young learners is a fast-paced affair and involves lots of activity changes. We need techniques to bring everyone together at regular intervals during the lesson. Chants are super effective for this purpose!

Choose chants that are short and easy to remember so that children become quickly involved. Include actions: if children are participating in mind and body, you’ll bring everyone together more effectively. If the chants are short and fun, you can use the same ones throughout the year as classroom management signals your children will agree with and understand.

Most importantly, you need to enjoy the chants yourself – if you’re having fun the children will want to join in! Here are two chants which work really well together; I’ve used them for many years successfully with infants and early primary classes.

The Listen, please chant

Use the Listen, please chant to settle a class down (for example, for story time, or before giving instructions for a new activity). Say the chant slowly and quietly at first, doing the actions. As children follow along, lower your voice and speed up a little, until you are whispering. Say the chant three or four times, until the children are paying attention.

Hands on heads​​​ (put your hands on your head)

Hands on knees​​​ (put your hands on your knees)

Cross your arms​​​ (cross your arms)

And listen please​​​ (put one hand to your ear)

The Let’s move! chant

The Let’s move chant is useful for changing activities, for example after circle time or to get children into new groups. Or simply because moving gets air into their lungs and encourages healthy hearts and brains!

Start by saying It’s time to move! and get the children to stand up. Show that you are also enthusiastic to do a little exercise! Say the chant and do the actions. Start with a louder voice and encourage children to join in. Say the chant and do the actions 2-3 times before slowing down, lowering your voice and getting everyone to freeze on ‘stop’. Move on to your next activity.

Stand up and stretch!​​ (stand up tall and stretch your arms in the air)

Stand up and jump!​​​ (jump in the air)

Hop, jump, hop, jump,​​ (hop and jump alternatively)

Stop!​​​​​ (freeze, with your hand in the ‘stop’ position)

Both of these chants are easy to remember and children enjoy repeating them and doing the actions. I hope you find the‘settler’ and ‘stirrer’ combination fun and effective as classroom management and language teaching tools!

These chants are from Activities for Very Young Learners, a handbook I co-authored with Herbert Puchta for Cambridge University Press.