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Friday, March 7, 2014

The esprit de corps of singing...

Lessons Learned

Singing Together Can Help Us Grow

Six languages in one first grade classroom.  Swedish. Greek. Japanese. Afganistan. Spanish. English.  Our hope was to teach them all to read.  Our priority was to build a community, to communicate, but the first few days of school made that priority seem quite remote and that hope nearly impossible.  We had no means by which to connect and our only apparent common ground right then was that we shared a classroom, a cold, lonely one at that. After lunch each day, we had a twenty minute window of time during which we played acoustic instrumental music, and the students were encouraged to either look at a picture book, quietly draw a picture, or simply relax and listen to the music. Surprisingly, most students opted to listen to the music. It was calm, soothing, peaceful, and biased toward no one language. Each mind processes music in its own language.  Perhaps music held a key. We wrote a song about counting to ten. We asked each student to count to ten in his or her primary language, which we phonetically wrote down.  We all learned how to count to ten in each of our class languages with great and enthusiastic help from each other. It was a spectacular song, made exponentially better by the robust participation and growing esprit de corps of our classroom community.  By sharing a little piece of each other’s language, we were able to share a little piece of each other’s heart.  Our community grew. Our trust grew. Our learning grew. We became readers.  We became friends. We shared a song.