The I am a Robot song from Genki English was something I had shunned for a long while, like a child who won’t eat his spinach without even having tried it. Then this past month I actually listened to song for the first time (and quite by accident) and knew instantly that I was dealing with the Gangnam Style of EFL songs. It was an instant hit that had the children singing the ultra-simple lyrics long into the day.
In the following video you can see Richard Graham, the creator of Genki English, teach the song at a seminar.
On the song page Richard Graham says that he created the I am a Robot song to practice the short o sound but that it also works as a standalone lesson for teaching the words “on” and “off”. The later is where I think the song really shines and that’s how I taught it.
Owners of Genki English can just print off the two flash cards, quick and easy. At the start of class, I bring out one of them and talk about what the picture is of, but of course the children usually already know the word robot. Then we spend some time walking, running, jumping, raising and lowering our hands like a robot would, with lots of sound effects. Actually it’s fun just to try the Genki Disco Warm-up in robot mode.
After a few minutes of fun, I bring out the other flashcard (the one that says “off”) and ask the children what the difference is between the pictures. Some say one is taller than the other, some say it’s his little robot brother, but eventually somebody figures out that the robot has been turned off (most of these children are at a pre-reading level). Then I introduce the words “on” and “off”, and we practice turning ourselves on and off like a robot might. They have just loads of fun telling me to go on and off repeatedly until I “break down”.
Now it’s time to do the song. The first time around I invite two of the more brave and active students to come up and do the song with me (they should be volunteers), since all they really have to do is follow along. But since they don’t exactly look like robots I’ve brought along these cheap two dollar sets of sunglasses that they can wear.
Suddenly the kids start to feel like actual robots. The glasses are just a bit too small for me so for next time I plan to make glasses like Doc Brown wears in Back to the Future 2.
Now if you’re really lucky you’ll get kids who get really into it. Some of my 6-year-olds put me to shame with their robot moves. We go through the dance routing like in the video above, and by the the time it’s done the rest of the class is begging to join in. So I distribute a few more sunglasses to some lucky ones and we go again.
A side note on props: As I work freelance, I wasn’t prepared to keep twenty or thirty sets of kids’ sunglasses in storage at my home waiting for the one or two times a year that I use them. But if you work for an English preschool, you just might convince the powers that be to pay for them and then keep them in the closet until you need them.
Genki English has continuously provided me with some of the most exciting songs I’ve ever had the pleasure of teaching, and I now count the I am a Robot song among my top five. If you could see the laughs it brought to my young learners, you be dying to teach it too.