English - MFL - Singing their praises

9th November 2012 at 00:00
Music can make abstract issues of faith real for young children

Religion can be hard for small children to grasp as it involves abstract ideas. So it helps to have an activity that allows you to discuss world religions in a way that children of all faiths and none can relate to.

Start by asking pupils what problems people all over the world have. Put these words on the board and teach them in the target language. For example, the German word for "poverty" or the Welsh word for "fear". Then ask pupils how religion can help people with these problems. As before, put these words on the board and teach them in the target language. Now you may have the French word for "love" and the Spanish word for "soul". Broaden this to include languages spoken by children at home. You could have the Tamil word for "death" and the Urdu word for "war", the Finnish for "help" and the Russian for "hope".

Religious idioms in their original language also help to explore a faith. Insha'Allah, the Arabic expression meaning "if God wills it", is a good starting point for exploring the idea of God's plan. Nasheeds, traditionally unaccompanied Islamic songs, are another great resource. A YouTube video of The 99 Names of God is a rich source of ideas (bit.ly99NamesOfGod).

This activity prepares children for learning hymns and religious folk songs in a modern foreign language. They will now be ready for songs that contain abstract vocabulary such as "despair", "trust" and "hope".

Traditional folk songs tend to be strong and simple, such as La Guadalupana, a Mexican Catholic hymn to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Contemporary religious songs also tend to use simple words so that even young children can understand them.

A lovely example of this is Cada Dia by Jesus Adrian Romero. The song is full of accessible religious ideas: Y en medio de la tempestad nunca estoy sola (In the middle of the tempest I am not alone) and Puedo descansar - tu eres el mismo (I can rest - you are constant). Ask children to bring you the titles of religious songs that matter to them and find them on YouTube so the whole class can listen to them.

All these activities show children that although people may have very different beliefs, they share the same needs. This awareness can counteract the human tendency to dehumanise those whom we do not agree with or understand. Religion, often a cause of war and conflict, could bring us closer together. A child could understand that.

Catherine Paver has taught French in England and English in Italy and South Africa. Read more of her articles at www.catherinepaver.com

What else?

Try CatherinePaver's resource on Cada Dia, a modern Christian song in Spanish. bit.lyCadaDia

A German website helps children to find out about world faiths.


This French Catholic website is aimed at children aged 7-11.


Help pupils to understand the Islamic call to prayer with this YouTube video.


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