The Lion Sleeps Tonight

This week is “Animals” week in year one English. Animals has always been a pretty easy subject for me. Maybe I’ve had students who’ve always known the animals from a young age, but teaching English recognition of ducks, roosters, pigs. cows, birds and such proved more challenging than I had anticipated. 

I was a couple of days into the week before I could stop laughing and face-palming when I asked four kids to hit the picture of the duck they’d identified about a hundred times before only for them to slap the pig instead. But with the help of some repetitive and hilarious songs involving meow meow meow and oink oink oink and moo moo moo’ing we had it pretty much under control by the second lesson of the week.

But there was something I longed to do. There is one animal, that any Vietnamese kid will know the name of more than any other with instant recognition. They will tell you it’s name quicker than “cat” or “dog” or “pig”. The animal is “lion”. Every kid knows what a lion is. It wasn’t even a necessary part of the lesson because of course they knew lions (and in many cases tigers) by their English names, it was duck and pig and cow that they had trouble thinking out of the Vietnamese language for the name of.

So I wanted to do something special with one class. 1/1 are meant to be the smartest and brightest kids, although I have my own differing opinions with the staff sometimes because I think 1/4 are my best English students. But for 1/1, I wanted them to sing a special song that wasn’t just oinking and moo’ing. Just a week earlier I had taken my guitar to school for the entire week to help sing songs about colours and shapes. I was a veritable Wiggle, except 110kg, bearded and sweating in a suit and a tie.

And this week, being my last week with my kids before I take a week in Singapore and Australia, I wanted my kids to do something to really make me smile. So along with all my flash cards and my usb stick of animal songs, I printed out 50 copies of the lyrics to the REM version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, complete with little cartoon pictures of sleeping lions in the corner of the pages. 

During the first lesson, the teacher said to me in an aside “This is a bit too difficult for them”, but I begged her to let me continue, and today, just as they were dutifully told earlier in the week, they pulled out their lyric sheets of Lion Sleeps Tonight (I had to give out a few replacements that looked like someone’s dog had eaten it) and we sang again.

I won’t say I had the entire class singing in unison, but there were a few girls in particular who were pretty good at it, and every kid was able to remember the chorus “the lion sleeps tonight” as I made the motion of laying down on a pillow. In between verses of course I boogied up and down the front of the class going “Weee–eeeee–eeee–eeee—ooo-wim-o-weeee” and a couple of the boys from the corner got in clapping their hands and joining in with a slightly odd version of the already strange lyrics.

Sometimes there’s got to be a time to just have a little fun for the teacher as well as the kids and while every day is fun, there’s something really awesome about just getting 40 Vietnamese first grader’s singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” as you dance around the classroom screaming like you’re auditioning for The Lion King.

I had to make them promise to practice the song for their substitute teacher who hopefully will be able to fit it into their review classes and they were just as disappointed as I was that I wasn’t going to be with them next week and I got many hugs and sad goodbyes.

It was a very busy and exhausting month of work and concerts and lesson plans and teachers day celebrations and classes, but it’s ok… because the lion sleeps tonight.

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Lion Sleeps Tonight Song

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