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What is a jazz chant?

A poem that uses jazz rhythm to illustrate the natural stress and intonation patterns of
conversational English. Jazz chants were first created by Carolyn Graham over 30 years ago.
How to use Jazz Chants in the classroom
You can use these jazz chants in a variety of fun ways. You can practice stress and rhythm with
your class, to help your students sound more natural when they speak English. Also, because
each jazz chant focuses on different vocabulary and grammar, you can also use them to review
important words and structures! Here are some ideas on how to use these jazz chants with your
class.
Practice stress and rhythm
Choose a jazz chant you want to use and make one copy of the chant for every pair of students in
your class.
Play the recording for the first time just for fun.
Give each student a copy of the recording script, and play the recording again as they listen and
read at the same time.
Put students into pairs and have them put a small circle above each word that is stressed. Check
their answers, then play the recording again as they listen and check.
Finally, play the recording one more time and have students sing along.
Review vocabulary
Check the vocabulary focus for each jazz chant and choose one you want to review. Make one
copy of the Recording script for every two students in your class.
Write the vocabulary focus on the board and put students into pairs to make a list of as many
associated words as they can.
Play the recording and have students note all the words they hear that are associated with the
vocabulary focus.
Give each student a copy of the Recording script, and play the recording again as they listen and
read at the same time. Tell them to underline all the target words.
Finally, play the recording one more time and have students sing along.
Review grammar
Check the grammar focus for each jazz chant and choose one you want to review. Make one
copy of the Recording script for every two students in your class.
Write the grammar focus on the board and put students into pairs to make a few example
sentences using the grammar.
Play the recording and have students note how many times they hear the target grammar.
Give each student a copy of the Recording script, and play the recording again as they listen and
read at the same time. Tell them to underline each example of the target grammar.
Finally, play the recording one more time and have students sing along.

Tip! For the final sing-a-long stage, why not divide the class into two groups, and have each
group sing a different section!
Tip! To help students identify the stress and rhythm, clap your hands in time to the beat.
Encourage them to do the same.
Tip! Remember, these are supposed to be fun! Keep the pace of the class quick and lively, and
try to always make sure students join in the singing.
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HINTS FOR CREATING YOUR OWN JAZZ CHANTS
Hints for creating your own Jazz Chant (from the video `How to make a jazz chant by Carolyn
Graham from Barbara Sakamoto on Vimeo)
1) Choose a topic of interest to your students.
2) Use real language thats useful and appropriate for the age of your students. (Whats your
name? is real language. What is your name? is not real language, because no one really talks
like this.)
3. For a vocabulary chant, choose 3 vocabulary wordsa 2-syllable word, a 3-syllable word, and
a 1-syllable word and put them together with a bit of repetition:
Baseball, basketball, golf.
Baseball, basketball, golf.
Baseball, basketball, baseball, basketball
Baseball, basketball, golf.
4. To reinforce grammar, add a pattern:
He plays baseball.
She plays basketball.
They play golf.
They play golf.
5. Have fun and dont be afraid to play with language!
The main feature of a jazz chant as opposed to a poem or rhyme is that there is no poetic licence
or artificial change to the stress and intonation patterns of natural speech. Jazz chants also often
take the form of an interchange or dialogue which display the natural give and take of everyday
spoken language.
An example of a very simple jazz chant to practise greetings is as below. The first speaker is
walking down the street and meets one friend in verse 1 and another in verse 2, with four
rhythmic beats or steps between each verse. Try clicking your fingers or tapping your fingers
on your desk and saying the chant rhythmically out loud or in your head with natural stress and
intonation as you read:
Hello.
Hi.
How are you?
Im fine, thanks.
And me too.

Good morning.
Good morning.
How are you?
Im OK. And what about you?
Me? Im fine. Im fine. Im fine.
Jazz chants can also be used effectively to practise vocabulary and grammar. An example of a
cumulative chant to practise farm animal vocabulary with young children before they listen to a
story on the same theme is as below. As children listen to and say the chant it can be
accompanied by actions to represent each animal: sheep make circular movements with arms to
show wool, duck make a beak with your hands, cow make horns with your fingers, horse
make ears with your hands, hen make wings with your arms, cat hold hands as paws:
On the farm by the river, theres a sheep.
On the farm by the river, theres a sheep and a duck.
On the farm by the river, theres a sheep and a duck and a cow.
On the farm by the river, theres a sheep and a duck and a cow and a hen.
On the farm by the river, theres a sheep and a duck and a cow and a hen and a horse.
On the farm by the river, theres a sheep and a duck and a cow and a hen and a horse
And a cat
And that is that!
An example of a grammar chant to practise the 3rd person present simple based on familiar story
characters with slightly older children is as follows:
Davina likes lettuce but she doesnt like peas.
Does Davina like lettuce? Yes, she does.
Does Davina like peas? No, she doesnt.
Davina likes lettuce but she doesnt like peas.

Freddie likes potatoes but he doesnt like rice.
Does Freddie like potatoes? Yes, he does.
Does Freddie like rice? No, he doesnt.
Freddie likes potatoes but he doesnt like rice.
Before using jazz chants in class, we need to establish the context and pre-teach any new
vocabulary. Its also usually a good idea to set one or two pre-questions (e.g. What does Davina
like? What does Freddie like? for the grammar chant above) and do an initial listening activity in
which children show understanding of the chant. As children say and act out the chant, it can be
helpful to use finger or pencil puppets as a prompt for each speaker, or flashcards, for example
when children name the animals cumulatively in the vocabulary chant above. At first, you can
divide the class in half to take turns to ask and answer questions (if the chant follows this pattern)
and then change roles and repeat. As a follow-up, children can practise saying the chant in pairs
or groups in preparation for performing it to the rest of the class. With some chants, it may also
be appropriate to get children to create their own parallel versions.
When using jazz chants with children, I like to take to class my collection of percussion
instruments (see photo above) which children take turns to ask for (e.g. Can I have the
tambourine, please?) and use to keep the rhythm and pace of the chant. This adds extra interest
as well as a feeling of creating a spontaneous musical performance together. If you do use
percussion, it works best to get the rhythm going with the percussion instruments softly first and
then count the children in to four as a cue to start saying the chant.
The main benefits of using jazz chants with children are:
They are motivating, memorable and fun.
They add variety to language practice.
They provide for lots of natural and enjoyable repetition.
They allow for physical movement.
They are non-threatening.
They reinforce vocabulary and grammar.
They improve all aspects of pronunciation.
They develop fluidity and natural speed in speaking chunks of language.
They provide opportunities for rehearsal which helps children later transfer the
language to other contexts.
They build up childrens confidence and help create a sense of achievement and success.
Carolyn Graham has published many books on jazz chants two examples are Jazz Chants for
Children and Creating Chants and Songs (OUP). You can also watch Carolyn Graham talking
about teaching jazz chants on Youtube.
The greetings chant is from English Club, Carol Read & Sagrario Salaberri, Macmillan.
The farm animal chant is from Little Bugs 2, Carol Read & Ana Sobern, Macmillan.
The grammar chant is from Footprints 2, Carol Read, Macmillan.