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English Muscle Memory

NO! Not that muscle memory...

THIS! Muscle memory for English class!

Have you ever been asked to use ‘English Chants' in a class before? Do you use them often? Chants with your students can be a fun, engaging activity. However it can also feel pointless if you don't understand the reason for it. Sure, having your students repeat an English phrase again and again to help them memorise it makes sense, but besides improving their pronunciation and intonation, there is even more going on than you might realise.

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

Rhythmic chants are a great way to work these muscles, either with music or without. An easy way to get started is with a simple series, or basic progression. Starting with 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 an apple, I gotta go buy two apples, I gotta go buy three apples…” It sounds dull, but the mindless repetition can be somewhat intoxicating and fun in the same way a limerick or tongue-twister can be. You’ll be surprised at the amount of grammar structures that can be made into chants.

Don’t forget to also encourage students to use their voices and read out loud as much as possible to help train their English-speaking 'muscles'. Whether in the classroom, at home with their homework, or outside reading billboards written in English, it is important to read out loud to help train the muscles of the mouth to get used to speaking English. This is also true for any English teachers out there who are trying to learn Japanese! So be sure to practice what you preach.

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