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Singing English Explained

Anchor 1
Singing English Methodology 

The Singing English methodology rests on the knowledge that phrasing and structure of certain songs replicate the flow and cadence of spoken English. The methodology is oral based. By learning English songs children are given an acoustic ‘mantra’ which, when accompanied by the social play of the folk song-game, establishes both an acoustic architecture of oral English and an acoustic 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 not only lays the oral language structure for non-English speaking children but also provides a basis for moving from sound to symbol both iconic and written.
Certain English folksongs have been identified in which the acoustic properties of the music reflect the patterns of spoken English. Game processes have been added through which participants learn the songs, and, once learned, engage with them as objects of thought and represent them in symbol.

Why It Works

Singing English is based on the internal structuring of the Sound to Symbol Methodology. Daily participation in this methodology improves the oral language and literacy skills of those participating. It is common knowledge that when skills are used, they improve. The repetition involved in singing the songs, playing the folk song-games, and using the repertory of study techniques now synonymous with this methodology is a whole language experience in itself.


The use of the Singing English methodology arises from the work of The Living Language Institute, a non-profit organization in Vancouver, BC, Canada. It consists of volunteer professionals dedicated to understanding, researching and teaching the living language as exemplified through Singing English. Singing English uses the Sound to Symbol Methodology, developed over the past 30 years and is an important method for developing oral language skills.

Dr Fleurette Sweeney, Founder of the Living Language Institute Foundation, upon her retirement, received her PhD in 2002. Her dissertation From Sound to Symbol: The Whole Sound as Curriculum, the Whole Child as Pedagogue, Observation as Methodology, has formed the foundation for the Singing English program.

For more information about the Living Language Institute Foundation visit:

Learning Outcomes
The following are necessary for literacy and language success:


  • Create a link between literacy and thinking;

  • Connect oral language, reading, and writing;

  • Provide oral language activities to support learning;

  • Create classroom diversity and differentiated instruction;


Phonological Awareness/Literacy Skills
Phonological Awareness is an important factor in a student’s success with reading and spelling. The phonological awareness skills of segmenting and blending are the most highly correlated with the beginning of reading acquisition. Students have to be able to segment, blend, and manipulate syllables, onset and rhyme and sounds if they are going to be successful in using letter-sound knowledge effectively for reading and writing. Singing English gives students the opportunity to:

  • Explore the idea that language is made up of words, and words consist of syllables, rhymes, and sound

  • Gain a strong foundation in pre-alphabet literacy

  • Think and retain in memory whole units of the sound of oral English

  • Compare, contrast, and sort through mental images of the sound of a unit of language

  • Improve visual focus and visual motor tracking

  • Identify, describe and confirm patterns using spoken terms

  • Demonstrate an understanding that writing conveys meaning


Social Skills

A child with a strong sense of self can navigate social settings more easily. Singing English creates a safe learning environment in which children practice:

  • Interacting with others; treating others with fairness and respect

  • Speaking in turn

  • Verbal and non-verbal responses appropriate to their stages of development and to their cultures

  • Agreeing and disagreeing appropriately

  • Exploring each other’s names, voices and ideas

  • Problem-solving and respecting the silence needed by others when thinking through problems

  • Using appropriate gestures and eye contact when in conversation

  • Following another’s leadership

  • Respect for the contributions of others


Language Skills
English folk song-games are used to learn the acoustic patterns, phrases, and rhythms of spoken English. The games provide opportunities for enjoyable social interactions in which the meaning of the words arises, through the context of the actions. The same song can be used to develop many layers of language learning:

  • Following simple oral instructions

  • Understanding that language changes in different contexts

  • Expressing verbally what they notice using simple sentence structure: name, verb, adjective, noun

Mathematics Skills

  • Use directional terms such as over, under, beside, near, far, left, and right to describe the relative position of objects and shapes

  • Construct a pictograph using one-to-one correspondence (Song dotting)

  • Recognize patterns in the environment

  • Read number words up to 10

  • Identify, reproduce, extend, create, and compare patterns using actions and spoken terms

  • Identify and describe specific two-dimensional shapes such as circles, squares, triangles, or rectangles

  • Pose oral questions in relation to the data gathered

  • Predict the chance of an event happening using the terms never, sometimes, and always

Listening/Communication Skills

  • Listen actively and respond appropriately both verbally and non-verbally

  • Auditory memory: develop and retain an auditory image

  • Auditory perceptual skills: determine the direction of a sound

  • Auditory-motor coordination: match movements to the sound of cue words

  • Eye-verbal coordination

  • Awareness of classmates’ names

  • Pronunciation of classmates’ names

  • Observation skills: search out visual clues from leader

  • Develop an ability to think ahead

  • Demonstrate a willingness to express their feelings and ideas

Motor Skills
Singing English explores the movement and actions of folk song-games.

  • Sensory-motor coordination

  • Performing movement sequences using elements of body and space awareness and relationships, along and with others

  • Recognize and respond to the music itself for cues as to when and what movements to perform

  • Sensory-motor coordination between the tongue and ear (must be developed in order to reproduce the sounds they hear)

  • Create shapes and transfer weight using a variety of body parts

  • Perform locomotor skills individually and with a partner (walk, jog, run, skip, hop, slide, crawl)

  • Perform non-loco motor skills individually and with a partner (pull, bend, twist, push)

  • Use directional terms and ideas such as over, under, beside, near, far, left, right to describe the relative position of objects and shapes

  • Move in a variety of levels, pathways, and directions (when children understand space around them they are more confident understanding space on a written page)

  • Move safely and sensitively through all environments

  • Use movement to respond to a variety of stimuli

  • Move safely in both personal and general space

Music Skills
Although literacy and language development is the primary focus of Singing English, many music skills are explored.

  • Move expressively to a variety of sounds and music

  • Create movements that represent patterns, characters, and other aspects of their world

  • Perform rhythmic patterns from classroom repertoire

  • Maintain a repeated rhythmic pattern in a simple texture

  • Demonstrate an awareness of rhythmic phrases in classroom music

  • Identify form in terms of repetition and unity of rhythmic patterns

  • Use symbols to represent simple rhythmic patterns

  • Identify changes in pitch and melodic direction

  • Use singing skills to reproduce melodies

  • Distinguish one melody from another

  • Demonstrate a willingness to participate in oral singing experiences

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