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Developing Speech Muscle Memory


Have you used "Chants" in a class before? Chants can be a fun, engaging activity with your students. But it can also feel pointless if you don't understand the ideas behind it. Sure, having your students repeat an English phrase again and again to help memorize it makes sense. But besides improving their pronunciation and intonation, there is even more going on than you might realize.

Just like with sports or music, repetition builds patterns in "muscle memory" and creates a second-nature ability. It can be difficult to get students talking sometimes, and chants are training wheels to get started. When movement is repeated enough eventually it can be done without conscious effort. It goes without saying that the more you do something the easier it becomes. But even bad habits, such as poor pronunciation or bad grammar, can be re-trained and repaired through exercise.

Rhythmic chants are a great way to work the speaking muscle, either to music or without. But an easy way to get started is with a simple progression. Something like "One apple, two apples, three apples..." and moving up to something like "One big red apple, two big red apples, three big red apples..." or more advanced structures like "I gotta go buy one apple, I gotta go buy two apples, I gotta go buy three apples,.." The mindless repetition can be intoxicating and fun like limerick or tongue-twister.

Encourage students to use their voices to read out loud as much as possible too. This helps train their speaking muscles as well. In the classroom, at home, or in the car reading billboards, it is important for students to read out loud and train the muscles of the mouth to speak English or to learn Japanese! So be sure you practice what you preach!

Good luck, and we hope this helps improve your lessons. Please share your feedback on Facebook, and like us for updates and job offers!

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