The Positive Effects Of Music In An ESL Classroom

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As I walked my students into the auditorium we could hear music playing and some students who were already seated were singing along. As the current song came to an end and a few cords of the next song began, the teachers listened in amazement as the 500 students in the audience burst into song. The sweet sound of children’s voices singing, Let it Go (Lopez), warmed the cold room. This performance was not planned or practiced; it started by just a few simple musical notes. The reaction of the students was almost automatic; they were not coerced or prodded to perform. For that brief moment school was a place where every student belonged and was eager to perform. Could this same musical magic be used in the classroom?
This experience inspired
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Eighty student from four classrooms participated in the study. All of the students shared Spanish as their native tongue and at the beginning of the study none of the students were able to read or speak the English language.
During the two year study, the students had the same teacher, the same classmates and the same curriculum. Each of the four teachers read the same books and used the same classroom themes; the only difference was the use of music in the classroom. Two of the teachers used music in their classrooms during group time and literacy centers while the other two classrooms refrained from the use of music. At the conclusion of the research there was a significant difference in student’s language and literacy scores. Students who had experienced the classrooms with music scored an average of 13.2 on the SOLOM language test compared to a score of 8.4 of those students from the non-musical classrooms. Students from the musical classrooms also scored higher on the Yopp-Singer phonemic segmentation test with students from musical classrooms scoring 19.5 compared to a score of 17.1 from the non-musical classroom. The increase in literacy skills is even more evident when the number of students reading at grade level at the end of the program was compared. One student
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In her book Guidelines for Music Therapy Practice in Mental Health, Lillian Eyre (2013) states:
Everyone has experience in listening to songs, and most people have meaningful associations to songs. Re-creative experiences such as singing songs demand that the client be oriented to reality and that he possess a modicum of self-organization. Singing together provides a way that clients of diverse functioning levels can have a unified experience, thus facilitating group cohesion.

Mental health professionals have seen the benefits of music in their practice. Some of the benefits include; meaningful associations, self-organization, group cohesion and unified experience for those of all levels, could music have the same benefits in the classroom? According to Dr. Jehan Mattar, (2013) it can. His study found that music, “…provides a positive atmosphere, which helps children to experience reduced stress and enhance development.”
Music has been proven to have an effect on the mind and even speed healing but can it make you smarter?

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