Inspiration Found

During the process of completing this project, I spent 10 hours volunteering in the music classroom at Hans Christian Andersen Elementary School. Originally, my intent had been to complete a project that discussed the use and benefits of socio-dramatic play in the development of communication and language skills in kindergarten and first-grade children. However, while completing my research, I discovered something interesting. Once the early elementary years had passed, the use of dramatic activities dropped off. This posed several questions, why weren’t dramatic activities used? Why wasn’t there any research regarding the topic? My curiosity was piqued, and I chose to redirect my focus to using dramatic activities to teach language and communication skills to adult ESL students.

My time spent in the music classroom was not completely wasted, however. Had it not been for the wonderful diversity of the students, the “story and song” video on children of various cultures, and the explanation of how a few of the students came in at the beginning of the school year speaking no English, I might not have ever thought of the new topic. I also watched and assisted with the various activities that the teacher performed with the children, and had the chance to try my hand at teaching a short lesson, which gave me ideas for activities that could be adapted for adult learners.

One activity in particular was repeated frequently using various musical instruments: the students made a wish-list of items they wanted, places they wanted to go, and dreams they had, and their instructor, Mrs. Hartley, turned it into a rhythm for them to play using various drums and “boomwhackers.” The intent for the activity in the music classroom was to teach rhythm, however, it could be reversed and the rhythm could be used to teach the meter and flow of speech. Similarly, she started many of the kindergarten classes with an activity that required them to speak each other’s names using various inflections (loud, soft, happy, sad, etc). Either of these activities could be “grown-up” and used to teach another language.

The lesson I taught was a very basic lesson on using music and movement to “create an image” of various zoo animals (lions, elephants, fish, and birds). However, I also incorporated several other activities that can be adapted for a variety of age levels, such as an activity that involves tossing and catching and invisible ball while responding to various sounds or words, and a warm up that involved forming various vowel and consonant sounds in rapid succession.

Although my service project didn’t fit my end project exactly, it formed an excellent base for discovering the final topic. My experience has greatly influenced the shape of my research, and I am grateful for the excellent learning experience.