More than half my students are learning English as their second language. I would never consider my Spanish good enough to be called bilingual, but most of the time I can figure out what my students are talking about regardless of the language they are speaking in. Since they know that I almost understand them it is very common for students to forget that I am not entirely bilingual…. they just speak to me as if I am. My subject is one of the ones that is always taught in English, so as you can imagine I am constantly reminding my language developing students to practice their English…. Truly, music is the ideal place to practice because our song literature provides rich language that is both meaningful and plentiful.
I never know when my students are going to stumble upon a series of words that opens up a huge discussion about vocabulary. Rhyming words, homonyms and synonyms are most commonly the words that cause these occasionally comical discussions.
Whenever we have a word mix up moment, we pause and get out our pretend paper and write down our new word while I write them on the board. Then for the rest of the day when a new class comes in, someone will spot the words on my board and we’ll end up having the same discussion all over again.
So today’s word mix up didn’t actually happen while we were singing, but as I was talking about the song.
In first grade we are singing “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round”. We had sung the song a few times and were about to start unearthing the details of the music when I paused to talk about the meaning. I said something like, “This song talks about the times in our lives when things are not easy. When things get hard in our lives we have to keep being brave…….. (I was going to say something like……..and keep moving toward our goal) when out of the blue, just after I said, “keep being brave….”
one of my young ones said, “I’m eating your BRAIN?”
The comment was so incredulous, sincerely confused and totally mystified that we just laughed and giggled and giggled and laughed.
Not brain! BRAVE!
Suddenly we were off having an unplanned but totally important about the words brain and brave…. especially to a second language learner, not only do they sound almost identical, but one is concrete while the other is abstract….. VERY challenging stuff for first grade. To undo the confusion we spelled our words and then we would switch back and forth between holding onto our brains and then making our “strong” arms…. The best part was that they didn’t even realize that they were working hard because they thought it was so funny.