Studies of Music and ELLs

Using Jazz Chants to teach students everyday, natural, spoken American English: an example of teaching ELLs English using Music-more videos can be found on YouTube.

Using Music to Support the Literacy Development of Young English Language Learners: “Integrating experiences with music in the early childhood classroom supports English language learners’ literacy development…This article describes the benefits of incorporating musical experiences into daily instruction and provides practical activities for classroom implementation…” (page 227).

The abstract of this article is very clear in arguing the position that using musical activities in a classroom is beneficial to the growth, development, and learning of the students.  Something that stands out about this article is the statement “Regardless of the musical form and despite a teacher’s level of musical training, the value of fostering creativity and enhancing literacy instruction through music is vital in today’s diverse early childhood classrooms” (227).  This is especially important for ELLs because it turns their classroom into a place where they can thrive comfortably (getting rid of their affective filters) and all while the teacher is able to meet their needs and give everyone support that they need through using musical activities.  According to this article, music intelligence is one of the first things that children learn, and children are naturally willing to learn musical things, so teachers should piggy-back on that and use it to enhance their students learning and give them the best learning experience that they can.  Music can be integrated into all areas of the curriculum and will help students advance in all areas that it is used.  Teachers can even use music that is in ELLs native languages to help them learn, and this can also be beneficial to English-speaking students, especially if the songs are ones that can be sung both in English and another language.  Teachers that are planning on using music in their instruction have to be aware of different strategies that they can use and in what context different ones are appropriate in.

The Relationship Between English Language Learner Status and Music Ensemble Participation: “The specific research questions addressed were as follows: (1) Does student ELL status significantly predict music participation in the 10th grade, after accounting for school membership? (2) Is student ELL status uniquely predictive of music participation after controlling for student SES and academic achievement?” (page 236)

This study investigated the rate at which ELLs participated in school-sponsored music ensembles such as band, choir, and orchestra.  Socioeconomic status (SES) was thought to be a factor, or at least related to the rate at which ELLs participated in ensembles, and also their academic achievement.  A survey was taken of high school students to get the data for this study, to see if SES or academic achievement was at all related to ensemble participation.  The study found that ELLs participated at a lower rate in ensembles than their native English-speaking peers, taking into account other variables such as gender and the actual school and supports or barriers that may be present in each.  This study extended this simple comparison and included the factors of SES and academic achievement and showed that when these factors are taken into account the participation rates are about the same, that students of the same SES and academic standing are equally likely to participate or not.  Factors that may not affect participation so much are language skills or cultural background, though there is some weight in the variables related to race/ethnicity and rates of representation, also depending on grade level.  The type of school and the resources they have access to for music education.  This study is limited, because of the sample size, questions, and other variables not taken into account, but the findings can have some general applications.

Music Therapy as a Supplemental Teaching Strategy for Kindergarten ESL Students: “The purpose of this study was to describe the use of music therapy techniques as a supplemental teaching strategy for Kindergarten ESL students. More specifically, this study sought to gather descriptive data on the English speaking and story re-telling skills of Kindergarten students in a community based after-school ESL class and a regular public school ESL class” (page 98).

This is an article that describes a study done with kindergarten ESL students during a school day (as part of an ESL class) and as part of an after-school program.  This study was generated because ESL students are expected to learn English in one year of instruction, but assorted to the article it takes them 4 to 5 years to be on par with native English speakers.  To get students and their families literate, there is more that needs to be done, beyond the typical goings-on in ESL classrooms, like supplementing Music Therapy into their teaching strategies.  Music therapy keeps the students interested and engaged at a level that is not really seen in basic classroom instruction.  Music therapy is not a replacement for ESL, it is merely there as a supplemental teaching strategy to help meet teachers’ goals through passive and active musical activities.  In this study, therapists came up with activities that increased English speaking and story telling in kindergarten ESL students, “including chanting, playing rhythm sticks, singing activities, movement to music, listening and lyric analysis.” (page 99).  These activities were able to develop their English skills and also gave them the opportunity to participate in enjoyable music-making activities, and these also help them to not fear practicing their second language skills and making mistakes.  The after-school program had more positive results than the in-school program, most likely because a community setting allowed for a more relaxing environment, although they both benefited from the music therapy.

No Hablo Inglés: Breaking the Language Barrier in Music Instruction: “When a music teacher welcomes a new student who exclaims, ‘no hablo inglés,’ it is immediately apparent that the challenge in educating a Hispanic child is the language barrier that stands between student and teacher” (page 38)

This article was written to focus on the Hispanic population of ELLs, because they make up the largest portion of ELLs and the group is quickly growing, and there is a concern for how Hispanic and non-Hispanic students are doing in school.  One of the concerns for how Hispanics are doing in school is the language barrier and this article serves to “promote awareness ad deepen understanding of Hispanic students in the United States…as well as describe some effective ways teachers can meet these students’ intellectual, musical, and emotional needs through music education” (page 39).  Music education is a good way to motivate and stimulate students in a way that might not happen in a general classroom, because it allows them to express themselves and learn in a way that can also connect to their other subject areas.  This article doesn’t focus on just ELLs, but rather the Hispanic population, while taking into account that there are many different cultures, nationalities, dialects, etc. that exist within this population.  Schools may have bilingual programs, but they all vary in what they contain, their focus, and how students fit into them.  The article describes the some of the different bilingual models that schools have for ELLs, and explains that the model that schools use affects the different grade levels in music education: secondary schools don’t have as much opportunity to participate as elementary schools because of all of the different demands on them, and how not having the opportunity to participate in a music program can have negative impacts on how they do in school (or at least deny them the opportunity to experience the benefits of it).  Music teachers should do all that they can, including receiving more training in working with ELLs to help them make their pedagogy reach all students, to help their students that aren’t proficient in English, to help them get their best chance at a good education.  When done effectively, music education can help ELLs in their language development and both musical and nonmusical learning, and make them more comfortable in taking risks in the classrooms.

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