There is Music in the Air! There is Learning Everywhere!
Be it the “A,B,Cs” in English or the alphabet song in Arabic, music is incorporated into the classroom from an early age. At Tomorrow’s Youth Organization (TYO), music is included in almost every class from the morning until the afternoon. In fact, if you are at TYO at 2:30 pm, you may hear students singing to the Cha-Cha Slide outside! Why is music included in the TYO curriculum? Does it really have a meaningful impact on the level of learning in classrooms around the world? Research continues to show that music plays a key role in helping students reach their educational goals. On the most basic level, music influences the atmosphere of a classroom. For example, a happy song can create a positive learning atmosphere and encourage students to participate in activities with their classmates. Frances H. Rauscher, a researcher on the impact of music on the educational process of high risk children states, “Learning music is an important developmental activity that may help at-risk children compete academically on a more equal basis with their peers.” Creating a learning environment in which all students feel safe and equal is essential for bonding between classmates, which in turn creates a healthy learning space and supports learning.
On a deeper level, music influences a student’s cognitive workings. A report from the John Hopkins School of Education explains music helps to improve students’ memory and imagination, as well as changes brain wave states, which directly affects a person’s focus. Baroque music, such as Bach, is 50 to 80 beats per minute. This intense pace “creates an atmosphere of focus that leads students into deep concentration in the alpha brainwave state.” The more concentrated a student is, the better they retain information.
For all of the positive impacts of music in a standard classroom, the benefits can be multiplied ten-fold in a foreign language class. Learning languages through music allows students to practice listening and speaking skills simultaneously as they listen to songs and sing along with them. Furthermore, when information is put to rhythm and rhyme it makes it easier to recall.
Additionally, “Music is a great way to learn the intonation of a language and train your facial muscles as you sing along,” says language learner and CEO of Spotnight, David Bailey.
At TYO, music is used in all of the STEP! II English Foreign Language courses. “For my class, music becomes an easier way for the students to familiarize themselves with certain concepts,” said Moh Mousa, an EFL Fellow at TYO. Because the students “already feel comfortable and like music,” they are more open to tackling difficult grammar topics and becoming immersed in the language. As an added bonus, using music to learn a foreign language makes the learning process entertaining rather than daunting!
Overall, music is a vital part of our world and human existence that transcends cultural boundaries. As it becomes incorporated more and more into classrooms, especially language-learning courses, the benefits of music will not only be seen — they will be heard.
The English as a Foreign Language (EFL) program is part of STEP! II, a youth employability, empowerment, and community leadership initiative supported by Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation.
Kyra, EFL Felllow, Spring 2016