Making the Connection: Movement & Second Language Learning

ABC English & Me - Teaching English to Children through Music

ABC English & Me - Teaching English to Children through MusicWant a child to speak more than one language fluently? Start early! Research shows that when children learn another language at a young age the more likely they are to understand it and speak like a native speaker. It’s never too early to begin learning another language. In fact, evidence indicates that babies have the ability to learn all the languages of the world but self-select to their native language as early as 9 months.

Our EFL Program, ABC English & Me, adopts the “Natural Approach” to support English language learning for very young learners. We emphasize language “acquisition” as opposed to language “processing.” In other words, children learn to speak and think in the second or foreign language.

Learning Another Language through Movement

Movement or Total Physical Control (TPR) coordinates meaning to physical movement. Language acquisition indicates that TPR allows children to internalize meaning and greatly influences fluency.

TPR can be closely related to drama and pretend play. Using drama techniques enhance the quality of TPR activities and prepare children for gross motor movement activities. Here are a three ways we use TPR in our EFL program.

3 Ideas for Using TPR with English Language Learners

  1. Freeze games can be done with children as young as 2. In addition to developing inhibitory control, freeze games promote improvisation skills and children’s ability to act spontaneously especially as they get older.

preschoolerFreeze Game Activity for the Classroom: Have the children spread around the room. Tell them that they can run around the room freely once you clap your hands, but when you shout, “Freeze,” they must stop in their current position. To begin, let the children run around for 30 seconds and then shout “Freeze!” Make sure children hold the position for at least 10-15 seconds before you let them run around again. When focusing on language learning, use simple linguistic phrases to describe what you see: “Andrea is standing up like a tree”or “Olivia is a stone.” Repeat several times.

  1. Miming is great to explore and develop physical skills (movement, actions, posture, gesture, facial expression, and body language). Create and perform mime sequences to develop imaginative skills and the TPR exploration of nouns.

Mime Activity for the Classroom: Use a theme like animals or Christmas presents. Ask children to draw a picture of a noun. Then, take turns miming their words while the rest of the children try to guess the answer.

  1. Fingerplays are ideal for younger children to develop body awareness through identification and labelling of the body parts as well as developing fine motor movement through muscular coordination. As children get older, fingerplays sharpen memory and linguistic skills and is the perfect TPR activity to perform with a lack of space for those big gross motor movements.

We like this fun twist on a classic fingerplay:

The games identified above develop physical movement but also the 4-Cs: confidence, communication, co-ordination and concentration, which are necessary for any child acquiring a new language!

Learn more about using movement and TPR with English Language Learners.

How music helps a teacher and children in Monaco live happily ever after

Munchkins Club Monoco 2Once upon a time, an educator who loved music moved from Milan, Italy, to bring the joy of learning English through music to children in a land faraway. Around the same time, an enchanting place called Monte Carlo Munchkins Club opened its doors to welcome children during their most formative years. As in any great fairytale, the two were destined to meet.

On the way to happily ever after

And, so begins the magical journey of Kindermusik educator Alina Botezatu, who explains in her own words how teaching children is changing her life and theirs!
“I love Kindermusik and seeing how the little curious minds assimilate information like sponges. It took some time to win the children’s trust, but now, as soon as they see me, they hug me and are excited about joining the class. This is such a wonderful feeling for a teacher. 
teaching ELL students“I’ve only been living in Monte Carlo and teaching Kindermusik at the Munchkins Club for a few months but I can already see the children’s progress in so many ways, including:

  • They learn new English words faster.
  • They sing many of the songs with me.
  • They dance and move their bodies in a more balanced way.
  • They know the stories we read together.
  • They have better concentration and listening abilities.
  • They are happy to take turns sharing instruments and helping each other and me during the class.

“It is always a lot of fun to sing and dance together. I’d like to thank my mentor, Laura D’Abbondanza Berryman, for all her invaluable support and my cute friends—the puppets—that make the children laugh and have fun during the lessons!”
Inauguration Monte-Carlo Munchkins Club 2013Of course, what fairytale is complete without a princess? Alina’s story includes Princess Charlene of Monaco, who visited the Munchkins Club to show her support for early childhood education.
We love happy endings. And, with Kindermusik, it is a good beginning with a happy ending that never ends!

Learn more about bringing Kindermusik’s ABC English & Me to your Language School, Nursery School, or Children’s Centre.

7 reasons for children under 7 to learn a second language

Je suis. Tu es. Il est. Nous sommes. If you studied a second language in high school or college, you probably know all about conjugating verbs. As teenagers or adults, learning the grammar rules of another language often form the foundation for second-language learning. However, teaching a second language to children looks completely different. After all, children under the age of 7 can’t read or write. However, young children are uniquely suited to learn another language. Here’s why:

7 reasons for children under 7 to learn another language

  1. Learning a second language under the age of 7 is cognitively as easy as learning a first language. Young children learn languages by listening to the sounds, structures, and intonation patterns around them. So young ELL students learn English the same way they learn their first language.
  2. Young English language learners learn to speak like a native speaker, without an accent.7 reasons for children under 7 to learn a second language
  3. Teaching English as a second language positively impacts the cognitive development in children. According to research, children who learn a second language experience better critical-thinking skills, enhanced spatial relations, and increased creativity when compared to their monolingual peers.
  4. Acquiring second-language fluency prepares children to live and work in a global society.
  5. Young English language learners experience a boost in the language and literacy abilities of their first language, including vocabulary development. Added bonus: this advantage continues to broaden as children grow older.
  6. Children who learn a second language exhibit enhanced attention skills when compared to monolingual peers.
  7. Learning a second language at an early age increases children’s confidence and teaches them to love learning. 

ESL curriculum uses English songs for kids (and more!)

Our ESL curriculum builds on our more than 35 years of teaching young children. Through English songs for kids, story time, movement activities, and puppets, young ELL students learn English in a fun and engaging environment using research-proven methods. Plus, enrollment includes access to Kindermusik@Home where parents can support the English language learning at home where a child can continue to naturally acquire language skills.
Kindermusik@Home ESL activityTry this sample Kindermusik@Home activity. The Just Me! music video incorporates a multi-sensory teaching approach to support visual, auditory, and tactile learning.

Learn more about Kindermusik’s English Language Learning curriculum, ABC English & Me. 

Contributed by Lisa Camino Rowell, a freelance writer in the Atlanta area. 


Music and language share common brain pathways


Athletes employ the benefits of music to boost overall performance. Science shows that specific types of music can really get the blood pumping and focus the mind on the task at hand—like 1-minute planks or running those last few miles. However, a new study also shows that music can get the blood pumping for language development, too.
Music and language development on the same path to learning
In two related studies, researchers from the University of Liverpool found that brief musical training can increase the blood flow in the left hemisphere of the brain—the same area of the brain responsible for language learning.
The initial study examined the brain activity patterns in musicians and non-musicians as they participated in musical activities and word generation tasks at the same time. The results showed that the musicians’ brains showed similar paths during the activities, but the non-musicians did not.
In the follow-up study, the researchers measured the brain activity patterns of non-musicians who participated in both a word generation task and music perception task. Then, the participants received 30 minutes of musical training and then completed the tasks again. After the musical training, significant similarities were found in the brain.
Amy Spray, who conducted the research, explained in a press release:  “The areas of our brain that process music and language are thought to be shared. Previous research has suggested that musical training can lead to the increased use of the left hemisphere of the brain. This study looked into the modulatory effects that musical training could have on the use of different sides of the brain when performing music and language tasks. It was fascinating to see that the similarities in blood flow signatures can be brought about after just 30 minutes of simple musical training.”
Music and young ELL students
ABC English & Me - Teaching English to Children through MusicWhile the study above focused on adult participants, the results impact English language learners in the early childhood classroom, too.  ABC English & Me, our English Language Learners curriculum, uses ESL activities for kids, words with picture cards, puppets, and English songs for kids to teach young children English. From the first song at the start of each class to the last shake or tap of an instrument, children quickly become engaged in actively learning English through fun, games, and, of course, music!
Plus, we provide materials for families to use together at home. These monthly interactive materials support the classroom learning, while giving parents the tools they need to continue the English language learning at home through music.

Learn more about bringing ABC English & Me and the power of music to your school!

Let’s call the whole thing early language development!

Are you familiar with the old George and Ira Gershwin song, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”? They wrote it for the 1937 film Shall We Dance, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Sing with us:

You like potato and I like potahto

You like tomato and I like tomahto

Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto.

Let’s call the whole thing off.”

In the song, the two characters sing about their differences, primarily around the way they pronounce certain words. We love that song (and movie clip) even more after reading a new early language development study from the University of Toronto.

Toddlers and early language development

In the early language development study, researchers set out to investigate if and how children in the early stages of learning their first language come to understand words spoken in different regional variants of their native language. (You like potato and I like potahto!”) For example, English spoken in England sounds different from English spoken in Australia or the United States, not to mention the multiple dialects found within regions of countries.
The team found that toddlers are remarkably good at comprehending speakers who talk with regional accents, even if the accent is new to the children. Although initially in the study, children as young as 15 months old could not comprehend unfamiliar accents, they quickly learned to understand after hearing the speaker for a short time.
“Fifteen-month-olds typically say relatively few words, yet they can learn to understand someone with a completely unfamiliar accent,” explained Elizabeth K. Johnson, associate professor with the University of Toronto’s Psychology department in a press release.  “This shows that infants’ language comprehension abilities are surprisingly sophisticated.”

ELL students and early language development

While the University of Toronto study focused on a toddler’s first language, it highlighted the incredible language-learning abilities of very young children. Children under the age of 8 who learn a second language are more likely to speak like a native speaker and also show marked improvements in their first language. Our ESL curriculum, ABC English & Me, uses English songs for kids in an immersion environment filled with music and movement.  In addition to the ESL curriculum in the classroom, ABC English & Me includes materials for families to use together at home to support a parent’s role as a child’s first teacher and further develop English language skills. Try this ESL activity for kids:

Find & Count: Where’s the Frog? 

Kindermusik@HomeYoung children love to search for hidden or missing items. Following the English language directions in the video, and then finding (and saying hello to!) the frogs, fish, and ducks, provides young ELL students much-needed feelings of mastery and success in English.

Learn more about bringing ABC English & Me and the power of music to your school!


Contributed by Lisa Camino Rowell who prefers tomatoes but will eat a tomahto or two on occasion. 

A whole new rhythm to English Language Learning

Brain on musicWe rock out in our early childhood music classes—literally and figuratively. From our classes for babies, toddlers, big kids or families to our early literacy and language program in preschools, Head Start programs, and daycares to our ELL curriculum, we use the benefits of music to engage children of all abilities in learning. And, we have a lot of fun in the process!
In the first several years of life, the cognitive development of children fires up. Connections in the brain are formed as children engage in new experiences—and repeated multi-sensory activities strengthen those connections. It’s one of the reasons research indicates that it is the critical period for teaching a child another language. Before age 8, children who learn another language are more likely to speak like a native speaker. In fact, young children who learn to speak another language, such as English as a second language, actually reshape the brain, and also strengthen their first language abilities (contrary to a previously debunked myth).

Take a peek inside the brain of bi-lingual children:


3 reasons to use music and movement in a bilingual curriculum

Musical activities engage all of the senses and stimulate development in every area of the brain. Regardless of a child’s first language, every child speaks music and research shows it positively impacts English language learning, including these three ways:

  1. Music stimulates language learning, builds phonological awareness, and enhances language skills.
  2. Children who learn through movement show a marked improvement in memory.
  3. It’s fun! (Never underestimate the power of fun—and music—when it comes to engaging children!)

Try this activity for young ELL students 

ELL students will love hearing the rhythmic language ofThis Little Car”—over and over Kindermusik@Home ABC Englishagain. And doing so will help them learn to speak, and later read, in English, because this video is full of opportunities for them to increase their English language phonological awareness. Phonological awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate words, syllables, and sounds in oral language. Research has shown that phonological awareness is one of the strongest predictors of later reading success—in English as well as in many other languages.
ABC English & Me - Teaching English to Children through Music

Learn more about our bilingual curriculum…

that meets the EYFS framework in the UK, CEFR developed by the Council of Europe, and TESOL English Language Proficiency Standards for Pre-K.

Changing our world…through music!

There was a fascinating article recently published in Forbes magazine about how one man is using music, and specifically a music school, to shape a new generation in Vietnam.  The title of the article says it all, “Music Awakens Education in Vietnam.”  Nguyen Hong Minh’s vision is to use music to broaden minds, expand opportunities, impact the current culture, and create future leaders – all with a goal of changing his society for the better.  And he believes that he can accomplish his mission through one very powerful means… giving students an opportunity to study music and the performing arts at Erato Music & Performing Arts.
Thailand 3For over 30 years, Kindermusik International has also been committed to a similar mission – that of changing our world through music, one child at a time.  KI’s newest initiative, ABC English & Me, demonstrates the power of music to help children learn, develop, and blossom.  ABC English & Me is a unique and exciting mix of music and movement activities proven to help teach young English language learners while at play.
But like all Kindermusik classes, ABC English & Me is much more than just a weekly class experience.  The fun, music, and learning extend throughout the week at home through interactive @Home Materials that help parents support, enjoy, and enlarge the learning process in the place where children often learn best – at home.

Here are a few simple ways you can change your own little corner of the world through music and make a powerful difference in your child’s life:

  • Expose your children to a wide variety of music.
  • Keep music playing at home and in the car whenever possible.
  • Talk about what you hear in the music, identifying specific instruments or discussing the qualities of the music (fast, slow, loud, soft, etc.).
  • Have age-appropriate musical instruments available for your child to explore and play.
  • Sing and dance together – Your child doesn’t care how good you are, just that you care enough to sing or dance with him!
  • Read books about music to your child.  Here’s a list compiled by an elementary music teacher.
  • Take your children to music performances and concerts.
  • Watch good music and performing arts performances on TV, DVD, or webcast.
  • Inspire a love for music and take advantage of the benefits of music from a very early age – Kindermusik classes are a great place to start!  (You can even try a class for free!)

Educators in Italy speak the language of music and learning

Italy trainingWith educators in over 70 countries, you can imagine we speak a lot of languages when we get together! Thankfully, we do share one common language: music and learning. A group of  VYL ELL teachers in Italy recently experienced this common language at a one-day training session hosted by Kindermusik.
Danny Berryman and Laura D’Abbondanza, Kindermusik project leaders and Teacher Trainers in Italy, brought together this group of VYL ELL teachers from Lingua Point in Reggio Emilia and The Victoria Company in Recanati and Jesi for a one-day training session using ABC English & Me, Kindermusik’s English Language Learning curriculum. Lingua Point and The Victoria Company are both authorized Cambridge ESOL examination centers, recognized by the Italian Ministry of Education and Members of the Italian Association of Language Schools (AISLI), founded in 1979 to promote excellent teaching standards.
And, even though we know “We Love Kindermusik” Week officially ended last week, we didn’t want to wait until next year to share with you why these VYL ELL teachers in Italy love Kindermusik! Here’s what some of them had to say about the experience.

Why VYL ELL teachers in Italy love Kindermusik…

Italy ESL training“I’ve really enjoyed this ABC English & Me Training day. It was very informative and gave us many opportunities to try out this comprehensive and effective way of teaching. I was pleased to see that it is based on strong research and feel it is something that will surely help me develop, both professionally and personally. I am confident that this method of teaching will successfully bring a whole new way of language learning to this school that can only benefit our students.” ~ Kate Letts – Lingua Point
“During the workshop, we learned an innovative method for teaching English to children aged 2 to 7 years old. This method, Kindermusik, combines music and movement for language acquisition; and is loaded with lots of fun! We also had a great time by emerging ourselves in the method with the techniques learned in class during role-play sessions.”  ~ Julia Stegmann – Lingua Point
“Danny Berryman and Laura D’Abbondanza, Kindermusik project leaders and Teacher Trainers here in Italy, gave Lingua Point the opportunity to get to know and experience an engaging and alternative teaching approach for our most precious clients: kids! The training combined didactics, marketing, and the sharing of ideas. The above, along with a nice lunch and many laughs, were the ingredients of a day that was full of ideas and energy. It is always nice to invest in projects that make you grow! From now on, English learning for our kids from 3 to 6 is going to be set to music.”  ~ Enrichetta Antichi, school co-founder – Lingua Point
“This day gave me a new perspective when it comes to teaching English to young children. This method is dynamic, rich and most importantly, fun! It offers structure and more material than a teacher could desire while at the same time not limiting the teacher’s imagination in the education process.  It is truly interesting and one to try out!” ~ Oana Alexandra Samolia –The Victoria Company 
Italy ESL trainingThis training was very useful. In reality, putting the method into practice is much simpler than it seems with the help of the Kindermusik site and digital teachers guides. I have no doubt that the children will find the lesson activities engaging and fun. On the other hand, the teachers can find all the support necessary on the website and through the music provided.” ~ Sara Verducci – The Victoria Company
“It was a beautiful experience that not only answered questions with words, but in a concrete and practical way also. This training has motivated me even greater and I am certain that both the teachers and children are going to be enthusiastic about this project. Parents will have a real chance to take part in the development of their children as they see the method and fall in in love with it just like myself. ~ Ilaria Mandolini – The Victoria Company

ABC English & Me - Teaching English to Children through MusicLearn more about bringing ABC English & Me to your school!

Bringing the benefits of music to the slums of Thailand

Thailand 1The benefits of music can transform a child’s life. Music can also be a lifeline. In early childhood music classes around the world, music brings light and laughter and joy to children surrounded by poverty and crime and exploitation. Kindermusik educator, Nikol Hellebrandova shares ABC English & Me (an English Language Learning program) with young children in one such place.

Early childhood music in the slums of Thailand

Two times each week Nikol Hellebrandova teaches ABC English & Me to a small group of children between the ages of 4 and 6 at a charity daycare in the slums of Pataya, Thailand. The Hand to Hand nursery school is located in an old business building. The former garage and warehouse area now serve as two classrooms for 60 children. A third room is used to store material, clothes, non-perishable food, and various items distributed to families and others living in the slums.
Thailand 2“Despite the hardships these children encounter each day, they love music class! The lessons are very interactive and the children are really getting into it,” explains Nikol. “They especially love interacting with the orangutan puppet and playing the instruments. In the class, children also enjoy taking turns being the ‘activity leader’ and giving instructions in English for the rest of the class—including me—to follow!”
Since beginning the ABC English & Me classes, children can now answer simple questions, name pictures, and sing the English songs for kids. Although the children can only access the home and classroom materials at school, Nikol also integrates the English vocabulary throughout other parts of the day so children’s English language learning happens naturally and through play.
“Sometimes it is difficult to arrange everything to make a nice learning environment,” confesses Nikol. “I really salute the courage and self-sacrifice of the Hand to Hand staff. They do so much more than run a daycare. They visit and take care of people in the hospitals, in jail, and in the neighborhood by supplying food, clothes, and medicine. In spite of everything, they always find the reasons and the way to enjoy life!”
Thailand 3Hand to Hand works everyday, one child at a time to make a difference to the children living in the slums. Hand to Hand provides a safe place where potentially exploited children can come and play and receive food, clothes, and a sense of worth. Hand to Hand is changing the lives of children.

To learn more about the Hand to Hand Foundation, visit their website.

Emotional connections matter in English language learning


We get happy tears quite often in the classroom. It’s true. Witnessing firsthand how music can foster emotional connections between a loving caregiver and a child gets us going. Every. Single. Time.

Whether leading a Kindermusik class in activities for toddlers, supporting preschoolers’ early literacy development, or teaching English as a second language, emotional connections matter—and make a difference in early child development.

Toddler’s thrive on “real” conversations

New research shows that responsive interactions and emotional connections are imperative to a toddler’s ability to learn language, including English as a second language. In the study published in the journal of Child Development, 36 two-year-olds learned new words in one of three ways:

  1. Face-to-face conversations with a real person
  2. Video chat, such as FaceTime or Skype, with a real person
  3. Watching a pre-recorded video of an adult teaching another child

With more than 35 years’ in early child development, we were not surprised to see that the pre-recorded video was not the most effective language learning activity for toddlers. Toddlers learned best with live social interactions, whether face-to-face or via video chat. Emotional connections matter!

“The study highlights the importance of responsive interactions for language learning,” explained co-author Kathy Hirsh-Pasek in a press release. “Interactions allow adults and toddlers to respond to each other in a back-and-forth fashion—such as live instruction and the video chats. These types of interactions seem to be central for learning words.”

“The research has important implications for language learning,” Hirsh-Pasek continued. “Children are less likely to learn from videos than from live, back-and-forth responsive interactions with caring adults.”

English language learning that supports emotional connections

ABC English & Me - Teaching English to Children through MusicIn the early childhood development classroom, educators can create connections between teacher and students, parent and child, child and child, and the entire group as a whole. ABC English & Me, our English Language Learners curriculum, uses music to create those emotional connections and foster a healthy learning environment. From the

first song at the start of each class, children quickly become engaged in actively learning English.

Plus, we provide materials for families to use together at home. These monthly interactive materials support the classroom learning, while giving parents the tools they need to continue the English language learning at home, through face-to-face interactions together.

Learn more about bringing ABC English & Me and the power of music to your school!