Language, music, rhythm, and dance

Marsha Chan, Mission College, Santa Clara, CA

Marsha Chan’s Presentations


Add music and movement to your class with an academic connection. Associate language and dance through the concepts of beats and rhythm.


1. Use a picture activity to encourage thinking about music and movement.

Describe the person or people in the pictures. Where are they? What kind of music or musical instrument are they playing? What kind of movement(s) are they making?



2. Follow with a presentation on syllables, stress, and vocabulary development.

Syllables (Click to play the sound file)

In speech, words are spoken with syllables. Clap twice, and you make the sound of two syllables. Many English words have more than one syllable. For example, music has two syllables: mu–sic

A. Listen to the syllables in these words. Circle the number of syllables each word has.

B. Listen again.  Clap or tap the number of syllables you hear.

C. Pronounce each word with the correct number of syllables. Clap as you speak




calm                 1    2    3    4

relaxed             1    2    3    4                                  

connection       1    2    3    4

instrument        1    2    3    4

rhythm            1    2    3    4

excited             1    2    3    4

Syllables and word stress (Click to play the sound file)

When a word has two or more syllables, one syllable is stressed. A stressed syllable is longer and stronger than an unstressed syllable. For example, mu-sic has two syllables.
Mu - sic is stressed on the first syllable.

Syllable-Stress Code

We can write this information with a pair of numbers. We write the number of syllables before the dash and the stressed syllable after the dash. This is the syllable-stress code.

Mu-sic [2 – 1]  This word has two syllables. It is stressed on the first syllable.

A. Listen to these words. Write the syllable-stress code to indicate the number of syllables and the stressed syllable. The first one is done for you. The word emotion has three syllables and is stressed on the second syllable.

B. Pronounce the words after your instructor. Hear and feel the number of syllables and the stressed syllable in each word.

1.     e•mo•tion                [3 - 2]      la-LA-la

2.     en•ter•tain              [__-__]      la-la-LA

3.     ner•vous•ness        [__-__]      LA-la-la

4.     dic•tion•ar•y          [__-__]      LA-la-la-la

5.     straight                   [__-__]      LA

6.     pro•ba•bly             [__-__]      LA-la-la

7.     in•stru•ment           [__-__]      LA-la-la

8.     rhy•thm                 [__-__]      LA-la

3. Have learners follow oral instructions in total physical response.


Following directions physically

Some kinds of learning makes students use their bodies. Moving the body is an important way to master some concepts, such as rhythm. Dance is one kind of physical movement. Can you name other kinds of physical movement?


First, you will demonstrate your listening comprehension by responding physically to directions you hear. You will participate in body learning. The whole class will stand in a circle. You will move and change partners often, according to the directions. In the end, you will use music and rhythm to guide your movements.


Do #1-5 three times.


1. Chain Left

A, turn to your right and face B.

B, turn to your left and face A.

A and B, take each other’s left hand.

Walk past each other, left shoulder to left shoulder. Drop left hands.

Take the next dancer’s right hand.

Walk past each other, right shoulder to right shoulder. Drop right hands.


Stop. Turn and face the other way.


2. Chain Right

Take each other’s right hand.

Walk past each other. Drop right hands.

Take the next dancer’s left hand.

Walk past each other. Drop left hands.


Stop. Drop hands. Turn and face the center.

Join hands with the dancer to your left and
the dancer to your right.

3. Circle Left

Turn to your left and walk in a big circle.


Stop. (Continue to hold hands.)

Face the center.

Stop. Turn and go the other way.


4. Circle Right

Turn to your right and walk in a big circle.


Stop. (Continue to hold hands.)

Face the center.


5. Middle and Back

Walk to the center, raise your hands above
your heads, and yell “Hey!”

Walk back out.

Walk to the center again, raise your hands above your heads, and yell “Hey!”

Walk back out and yell “Yay!”



4. Finally put language, music, rhythm, and movement together in a simple circle dance.

Circle Dance

Source: Chan, Marsha J. College Oral Communication 1. Ed. Patricia Byrd, Joy M. Reid, Cynthia Schuemann. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 2006. book is part of the Oral Communication Strand of the English for Academic Success series. Click the links for more information.

Marsha Chan’s Presentations