We received a wonderful email from a student teacher named Jennah Mazour about her use of the song "Contact" with her students and, with her permission, now share it with you:
My name is Jennah Mazour and I am a student teacher from the University of Northern Iowa. I teach Elementary ESL (English as a Second Language) and Middle School Spanish in the District of Columbia Public School System. I am an active Phish fan, but beyond that, I am a passionate supporter of The Mockingbird Foundation's cause, and of the integration of Arts and Music into mainstream curricula. Although my field of language teaching is not mainstream, I believe that music is a language all its own. When a common tongue is not shared between people, music can be that meaningful, communicative medium in which to convey, teach and elicit authentic language. I just wanted to share how I put my philosophy into classroom practice.
I had eight non-native-speaking four-year-olds to whom I would teach English five hours a week. We concentrated on learning goals from Houghton-Mifflin's Pre-K standards and themes, which were: letter and sound recognition, shapes, and "what makes up a community?". I decided to share with them the song "Contact" because of its focus on cars, roads and homes (all components of a community, no matter what country you come from) and its emphasis on the word "tires." I did this lesson on the same day that we were learning the 'T' sound and words that start with 'T'.
After the children heard the song a couple of times, they engaged in follow-up activities further supporting the question, "what makes up a community?" They really took to "Contact," and enjoyed singing along and tracing the circular shape of a tire every time that Mike said that word -- that is, if I could get them to stop dancing around! In terms of its topical features, the repetitive and enunciated lyrics of "Contact" are ideal for English language learners. Also, because of its light-hearted tone, it is practically a children's song by nature. Beyond it being 'fun' for them, I really think it served as a great tool supporting the concept of community, and it exposed them to a 'T' word in a simple sentence that they could comprehend ... although I did have to clarify what "abode" meant!
I believe this activity supported the common belief that The Mockingbird Foundation and I share, which is that ANY music can be used in ANY classroom effectively to motivate students in a unqiue and creative way. I did not do this to indoctrinate young phans, of course, but simply to use a beautiful, clean, and intelligent song as an engaging teaching resource. Language instruction, whether it is teaching a foreign language or teaching English as a second language, can and should be a major player in the progressive movement to integrate music into the classroom. No student should have to give up speaking with someone of another language (or culture) who, in effect, says, "Forgive me if I don't sing in your key."
Thank you for your time and all that you do with this admirable foundation in the name of children!
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