A study from Vanderbilt University Medical Center is the first to draw the link between music and grammar, testing children on similarity and difference between musical patterns. (We’ve talked about the importance of pattern recognition to language learning before.) The children who more readily identified the association seemed to have stronger grammar, which gives us an easy and fun intervention to practice in our classroom. Can your ELs maintain a beat? Can they repeat a clapped rhythm back to you?
My kindergarten class practiced clapping patterns constantly — when we came to circle, as we lined up for recess, during the last five minutes before dismissal — and it was awesome to watch them improve their rhythm and coordination over the course of the year. I never paid close attention to my ELs with this activity, but now that I’ve seen this study, I sure wish I had!
Even though music education has declined in focus in schools, musical ability and exposure is constantly related to academic achievement, especially in math, and may close the achievement gap that results from socioeconomic status. Maybe as its reputation as a language tool grows, we’ll see greater emphasis develop for this teaching tool that is, at its heart, fun.