Category Archives: Working With ELLs

Using Music With ELLs

Music strategies for ELLs across academic areas, this is a short blog post that addresses a few ways that teachers can use music to help with their academic curriculum.  There are specific strategies for reading/spelling, writing, math, social studies, and sciences.  They are fairly focused on one thing, but they can be adapted to any sort of lesson that a teacher may give.  All the teacher has to do is follow the logic of how these strategies were formed and they can make it their own for any lesson that they want to teach.

Uwe Kind uses humor and music to multiple languages, including English.  Things like this and jazz chants are things that any sort of teacher can use with their ELLs.  It is very interactive and is a great way to teach a new language, because it is something that is easily remembered.  Just watching one of the videos will help retain information, because it is so interesting, that when it is encouraging interaction, you are willing to do it.  This is similar to jazz chants in a way, they are both interactive music activities that assist in teaching a language.   These strategies are used all over the world, because they are so effective.

This blog post offers some reasons why using music in a foreign language classroom can be beneficial.  This thinking can be applied to an ESL classroom, because music can be integrated into every subject to enhance learning.  Even if it is just to set the mood of the classroom, just making the effort to include something that students will enjoy and remember will help them have a better learning experience.  It is sort of like Uwe Kind’s strategy, because it is something that they will remember and be able to access easily.  They can use music to connect across content areas and even enhance their own lives, like getting more in touch with their own little worlds and cultures and also the world that they are getting used to and be able to bond with others over a common interest.  Here is another site that offers tips on using music to teach a language.

It is really easy to just search “music strategies for ELLs” “using music to teach a language” and instantly have a plethora of resources to choose from.  Some things are more helpful than others, such as reading a blog post with simple strategies already outlined versus reading a research article and having to sift through everything.  One of the best ways to integrate music into ESL is to search for videos of strategies being used and modifying them as you see fit, like jazz chants.

Music Opportunities for ELLs and Underprivileged Students

Rosie’s House is a music academy that is run and located in Phoenix, AZ.  It is completely free for the students, that are in grades K-12.  There is no tuition, because it is run on donations and grants, and it is run out of a church that does not charge for the use of the facility.  The academy also provides the students with instruments (on loan while they are attending), free of charge, and these are acquired through donations.  The only requirement from the students and their families is that the parents have to donate their time and provide community service.  In order to get into the academy, the student’s family must be in a certain income range (low) and there is an interview and audition process, merely for the people to determine if they think that they can work with students, and to test that the students do have some sort of music competency/musicality.  There is a limit to the amount of classes that students can take, because this opens more opportunities for more students to join.

The main focus of the academy is to give students with no musical opportunities the opportunity to study music.  This normally means that the students live in areas where there is no music program in their school, for a variety of reasons, or they simply cannot afford to participate in any available music programs.  Keeping everything free is the biggest thing, because it is in place to help underprivileged students the opportunity to have this experience.  The families have to be low-income, and according to someone I interviewed that has observed Rosie’s House, most of the children that attend are not ‘white,’ they are mixed-race or Hispanic, or some other minority.  A lot of the students are bilingual, which goes along with a high Hispanic enrollment.  One can infer that some of these students are ELLs, even though they are all probably fluent in English.  Sometimes ELLs are limited in the activities that they can participate in, and Rosie’s House is a great one for students in the Phoenix area.  Teachers should be aware of opportunities like this in their communities, to help all students, not just ELLs, get the music education in their lives that they need.



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.

ELLs and Music

There is a research article on how some music teachers can handle incorporating SEI into the music classroom.  The article lists two perspectives on problems and solutions to having ELLs in a music classroom, from two teachers in Arizona.  This is a helpful article because it is written by Arizona teachers, and I might be able to access them more, and because it offers specific examples and each one offers something different to take out of them.  The first one, perspective A, offers insight on evaluating the effectiveness of your teaching strategies and practices and how they apply to both ELLs and native English speakers.  The second, perspective B also talks about how certain practices and adaptations to strategies and lesson plans assist in helping all students learn better and even faster, allowing them to help one another.  Perspective B also points out that having ELLs in the class forces teachers to be more aware of their speech and their plans as a whole, and offers specific activities that work well with all students and with making the most of the cultural diversity that you might find in a classroom.  There are different things that can be taken from this article, including teaching strategies, activities, alternative assessments, and what you can teach that ELLs and other teachers might be able to take from your class and transfer to other areas.   It is available as a PDF as well.

NAfME offers a few quick strategies in working with ELLs in a music classroom.  This is not anything long, but it is a quick reference for ideas and strategies for help with ELLs in a music classroom.  A lot of these strategies are just good things to be aware of, no matter what classroom you might be in.

There is a blog that offers some links to websites that can help in using music in ESL (SEI).  When thinking about music and ELLs, it is important to think not only of ways to get them to understand what is going on in music class, but how you might be able to use music to help them learn English.  A lot of the links available on this blog are resources on how to use music to do this.

There is a Canadian website with some helpful activities, the entire website is not really useful for teaching in the United States, but ideas and specific activities can be drawn from it.

This article offers ways of connecting multiple intelligences and the cultures of ELLs, along with a list of articles written by the same author to help with other issues concerning ELLs.  Music education focuses on cultural diversity through music, and by being more aware of the cultures that are in your classroom through your ELLs, you can structure your program to help your students become more culturally aware and to keep some kind of hold on their own cultures.

This blog has tips for getting children to enhance their language learning.  It is fairly short, only offering a short overview of the topic and a few quick short tips, but it is something that can be shared with other teachers if they reach out to you for help, or just to share with ESL teachers when collaborating with them and can be a way to show how your music program can work with theirs to increase the students’ language learning experience.