Utilizing The Arts In The Classroom

If you’re looking for ways to motivate your students to learn and succeed in your language learning classroom, music could be the answer that you’re looking for. The human brain is programmed to learn with rhythm and repetition. So, it makes scientific and academic sense that we begin to take learning with music more seriously.

I came to this conclusion after examining my own learning process and the things that I still remember today after learning them at a young age. At age 39, I can still recite the 50 United States in alphabetical order that I learned in the 5th grade. We used the “Fifty Nifty United States” song, which is still used in many classrooms today. Going even further back, most of us learned the foundation of the English language, the alphabet, using the timeless “ABC Song”.

In fact, many elementary classrooms do put an emphasis on using music to teach and learn, but seldom does this effective learning method follow us into middle school and high school. These musical methods should be reinforced and continued throughout our life-long learning process.

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Growing up, I was the kid who couldn’t seem to focus when the teacher was speaking. My brain would move all over the place, and I would begin to be disruptive (yes I was THAT kid). But, I always paid attention when we did the “fun stuff” like singing songs, playing games, and acting out skits in the classroom. What I didn’t realize, at the time, was that I was learning much faster than I would have by simply reading the material or listening to a lecture. It’s OK to make learning fun, and your classroom will see the benefits and results when you take this approach.

Music is so powerful that it can make us learn even when we don’t want to. How many times has that song you were listening to in the car got stuck in your head right before you walk into school? You don’t even have to like the song; our human brains are attracted, and somewhat addicted, to the rhythm and repetition. Knowing this, music enables us to simplify the learning process.

Continue reading to learn more about Guero Loco’s insights…

For me, music has constantly been a huge part of my life. After learning Spanish in the Marines, and with the people in my city, I was inspired to begin rapping in my second language. Through the process of writing and reciting my lyrics, along with listening to songs in Spanish, my vocabulary and comprehension of my second language skyrocketed. Eventually, I began to make music 100% in Spanish.

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After spending the majority of my hip-hop and reggaeton career trying to not be an “ABC” Spanish rapper, I switched gears after becoming a classroom dual language educator and focused on using my music to educate and motivate my students. Ironically, one of the songs that I am now best known for is my Spanish ABC hip-hop song. When embarking on this educational journey, I thought back to what I had struggled with the most while attempting to learn the language.

Through this process, I was also able to create an educational music formula using reggaeton to easily conjugate and memorize any present tense Spanish verb. Other bilingual edutainment artists like Jose Luis Orozco, Stanley & Yolanda Lucero, Music with Sara, Dr. Gilberto Soto, and Andres 123 also specialize in using music to teach our youth the Spanish language.

Music not only serves to educate but also to motivate and to advocate. At a time when the self-esteem levels of many of our students are at all-time lows, and the music industry has become more and more negative in almost every genre, it’s imperative that we begin to focus on and support positive music which leads us to feel better about ourselves. 

This approach isn’t new; but for many, this valuable motivational and educational tool has been forgotten and pushed to the side. Music truly is a universal language which connects us to each other. As I continue to write for duallanguageschools.org, with each article, I will get into greater detail about the extremely powerful benefits of music. It’s an everyday part of our lives for most people. It’s time for us to find the ways in which it can benefit our lives while making us better, and smarter, humans because of it.

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Shelly Spiegel-Coleman
Author: Shelly Spiegel-Coleman

Shelly Spiegel-Coleman is the Executive Director of Californians Together, a coalition of 23 statewide professional, parent and civil rights organizations focused on improving schooling for English learners. She served on Superintendent Tom Torlakson's Transition Team. Shelly was the Senior Project Director for the Multilingual Academic Support unit for the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE). She also worked as an English Language Development Consultant, Coordinator for the Bilingual Teacher Training Program and Title VII Developmental Two-Way Immersion Director for LACOE. She served as a member of the English Learner Advisory Committee to the California State Board of Education. She also served as a member of the Public School Accountability Act Advisory Committee, English Language Development Standards Project and the California Curriculum and Supplemental Materials Commission. She was a teacher, principal, and district specialist. Shelly received her Masters in Education with an emphasis in Bilingual Education from Whittier College, credential from UCLA and undergraduate work at California State University at Northridge.

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