Bringing Pupils Together

May here, with a summer missive. How was the end of term?

I've been thinking about all the ways we can bring pupils in a class together and transcend potential barriers of language and culture. Over the past few months on this blog, Ali and I have shared ideas for effective EAL teaching and sharing. The idea is to create a space in which everybody's heritage, language background, and individuality is valued, whilst promoting excellent English for all and a cohesive classroom. Running with these ideas, there is one simple thing on my mind now. 

It's often been said that 'music is a universal language'. This often sounds rather cheesy, and a bit imperialist (it's often been said with Western classical music in mind, without much thought for South Asian ragas or African polyrhythms). Still, the principle holds. Singing together is a great way to get a class together, and you can take all considerations of written language out of it and do it without words. Beautiful music can be created by singing on the vowel sound 'ah', and you can teach by ear. There are lots of rounds online.

Music is an excellent tool for reaching out. I have really happy and fun memories of discovering some Hebrew and Swahili as a child through Doreen Rao's Choral Music Experience series, but this was admittedly through reading English transliterations. If you had some 'new arrivals' with starting English skills and you wanted an activity that could bring everyone together on equal ground, then singing without words could be it. Working with rhythm, asking the class to clap a rhythm back to you, would also be a possibility.

We'll come back to this in future posts.