Learning Language Through Arts

Posted 20 November 2017 12:00 AM by Michael Prentky

The theme for my Target Arts class's upcoming performance is Celebrating our Differences and we are expressing that through theater and music. Pascale, my teaching partner, helped launch us off on that theme through a book she chose for class called Red: A Crayon's Story by Michael Hall. It is the story of a crayon named Red but can only draw in blue. After feeling ashamed of their inability to draw in red, Red realizes that blue is a beautiful color to be proud of and draw with. As a class, we discussed the story's morals and how they can apply to ourselves. What makes us unique? What is special or different about ourselves?

One common theme that we came up with was that many of us speak different languages. Using that as a jumping off point, we wrote an entire play together as a class creating a fictional scene where a class of kids are in music class at school and there are two kids who speak Spanish, not English, and are having a hard time understanding what's happening in the English speaking classroom. The Spanish speaking kids are welcomed into the class when the teacher helps introduce the entire class to some basic Spanish vocabulary; trying to make the Spanish speaking kids feel more comfortable. The music class then commences into a bucket drumming song.

I had fun creating some lesson plans for the bucket drums as I'd never done it before. I took the opportunity to try and connect our play's theme of speaking different languages with music. I bridged the gap between spoken language and music by describing music as a language with vocabulary and that sometimes when there is a certain drum rhythm, or phrase, the class may need to respond in a certain way. I invented some drum call and responses and had them learn to respond in certain ways to specific phrases. The kids had a lot of fun learning some new rhythms that were within their capacity, and they learned to listen critically by discerning which phrases I would play and how to respond accordingly. I'm even more excited to introduce a section of the drum piece where they get to improvise, inventing their own language on the drums.

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