Teach English in BanbishAn Nongchang - Huangshi Shi

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Music is a common human foundation. Music can be found in almost every culture, religion and on all continents with human inhabitants. It is truly a universal phenomenon. Humans are the only creature on Earth that have manipulated Earth’s resources to create instruments. While it is true that other animals, including whales and birds often sing, and dolphins have a complex language of clicks, humans have taken the art of music to the next level by creating instruments and writing it down in many formats and recording it so it can be listened to repeatedly. This universal love for music makes music a great learning tool for all students across the globe. Music in the classroom can be used for many purposes including engagement, building rapport, and recognizing and learning culture. Many countries have songs or rhymes that help teach the learner how to complete a task or understand material. Think about how you learned the alphabet. Did you first learn to sing it? Did you learn to read in rhythms and cadences? Speech is inherently musical in nature, not just melodically, but rhythmically. Each language has its own flow that is natural to the native speaker. As a music therapist I have used music as an educational tool. I have used music to help with phonics, drilling on certain sounds, pronunciation, and used music to help students form words. The human brain is made up of many neurons and those neurons compartmentalize into different regions of the brain. Music is a whole brain function using both hemispheres, whereas speech takes place in the temporal lobe. Music might be a gateway into a foreign language. I have taken courses in my music education that specifically worked on the phonetic alphabet. There are many vocalists who sing in foreign languages although they do not speak them fluently, other than when singing. Singing often produces better diction and pronunciation as we learn to sing louder than we speak. As mentioned previously music is a whole brain function that includes passively listening and actively engaging in music making. Singing pulls in all the areas of the brain, making our minds more alert and active. This is often why we learn our alphabet in song, before we are quizzed the alphabet in plain speech. Music is also helpful in memory and recognition. Are you ever curious how the mind of someone with Alzheimer’s Disease can hang on to the words of “You Are My Sunshine” but not remember their spouse or children? This again has to do with the neuroplasticity of the brain and how information is stored. As music is a whole brain function it is stored differently than grammar facts or science, or historical dates. Music is also a procedural memory and not episodic memory meaning- music is a procedure. Procedures include things such as: how I take a shower, or make spaghetti or play the piano. Episodic memory is specific moments such as: your wedding, your birthday, the birth of your child. Language is also procedure based, but we can still often lose our ability to speak over time, but can still retain our ability to sing even after suffering a stroke. Music can be manipulated into age appropriate genres, styles and of course, content. I have written original songs in my grief support groups that validate that specific group’s emotions. I have written specific songs to teach coworkers how to place a music therapy referral. You can also teach songs to teach specific sounds, or use popular music and “drill” with that specific sound each time it occurs in the song. Growing up I learned history, grammar and math from School House Rock, and it is a common denominator between me and my peers often bringing back fond memories of watching the cartoons in class. Music is also international, and what I mean by that is, a number one hit song from the United States will also be played on a radio in Korea or in Europe. A teacher could write a parody to a popular song that could both entertaining and educational to the students. Music is a strong educational tool. When used correctly it can help build a knowledge base, build rapport, and create a fun learning environment and increase memory and retention. I encourage all teachers to use music in their classrooms, not only for the social aspect but for the cultural and cognitive ones. Music is often dismissed as a “fun activity” but it has shown that music can be a great educational tool for all ages. Music can bring together generations over favorite bands such as the Beatles or Elvis Presley. Music is an activity that all groups can participate in equally no matter their ability level (in language or music), and everyone can relate to and enjoy.