Using chanting in classrooms to increase motivation and practise key vocabulary

Recently, I have been trying to encourage some of my classes to chant things all together as a means of prasticing key vocabulary and increasing their engagement in lessons. Whilst it is quite tricky to ensure that all students get involved, I have found that the majority do join in and it can be a fun way to get everyone involved with little to no preparation.

In year 7, I have been teaching properties of 2D shapes which involves a lot of vocabulary that students need to be fluent in. We have been covering words such as; parallel, perpendicular, vertices/vertex, edge, congruent, similar, intersect. In order to get the students fluent with these words, I have been beginning sentence stems and pausing to get them to chant the missing words. Sometimes the sentences encourage them to remember the key word and other times I will use the key word in a sentence and get them to chant the missing characteristic.

Here are some recent examples I have used:

“Two straight lines that, when extended, will never intersect are called… [parallel lines]”

“We can describe two lines that intersect at right-angles as… [perpendicular]”

“Perpendicular lines intersect at a… [right-angle]”

“Vertex is the mathematical name for a… [corner]”

I have found that this strategy works particularly well when teaching negative numbers and indices laws, for example:

 “Adding a negative is the same as…[subtracting]”

“Subtracting a negative is the same as [adding]”

“Multiplying two negatives together makes a…[positive]”

“Anything multiplied by zero is…[zero]”

“Anything to the power of zero is…[1]”

“1 to the power of anything is…[1]”

There are of course some drawbacks to consider; some students will struggle to process the sentence in time to respond with the correct word. To combat this, I tend to repeat the sentence in full after getting them to chant it so that all students hear it at least twice. In addition, sentences have to be carefully constructed to ensure misconceptions are not being embedded. For example, getting students to chant “two negatives make a positive” becomes problematic when students are not confident at where that rule applies. All sentences need to be specific and mindful of any misconceptions that could arise.  

Once established, the students get used to chanting and I have found that they generally seem to enjoy getting involved. It also provides me with some level of whole-class assessment. Sometimes none, or very few, of the students respond which helps me think about my next teaching steps and what I need to prioritise in my upcoming recall starters. Overall, I have found this strategy to be an effective way to recall key facts and definitions when teaching a topic for the first time, but also as a way to check prior knowledge and ensure I am frequently returning back to the key concepts once I have moved on to a new topic.

Zofia is a Maths Teacher and Research Associate at Durrington High School

@zofiatheteacher

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