TEACHING FRENCH THROUGH MUSIC IN THE
FRENCH IMMERSION KINDERGARTEN CLASSROOM
Immersion is estimated to be Athe
most effective approach available to second language teaching in the school
setting” (Genesee, 1994, p 37). Nonetheless, concerns prevail with
regard to students=
overall oral language proficiency (Bonnar, n.d.; Cummins, 2000;
These intralingual errors are caused by the students= tendency to simplify and overgeneralize the morphological rules of the French language based on what they already know [in English]Y.Since communication as opposed to accuracy was emphasized in the classroom, much of the negative transfer becomes fossilized interlanguage (p. 4).
To address this inaccuracy, some studies (e.g. Boland-Willems, Dupont, Fluette, Lentz, Maurice, & Molgat, 1988; Bonnar, 1988; Cummins, 1988; Lapkin & Carroll, 1988; Mandin & Desrochers, 1991; Marrie & Netten, 1991; Netten, 1991; Netten & Spain, 1989; Tardif, 1994) proposed various recommendations that focus primarily on attending to morphological and syntactical aspects of French, concepts which are developed in the grades one to three curricula (Boland-Willems, et al.). However, Weber and Tardif (1991, as cited in Halsall, 1998) found that French Immersion kindergarten students do not engage in any sort of grammatical analysis, and only memorize words that are significant to them in the kindergarten context. Furthermore, Boland-Willems and colleagues caution that French Immersion kindergarteners do not possess a sufficient linguistic base to begin learning any kind of formal grammar.
Krashen=s (1982) Input Hypothesis calls for Anatural communicative
appropriate for his/her current stage of linguistic competence”
(Schütz, p 11). To develop second language oral skills at the kindergarten
level, teachers should capitalize on various activities or projects focused
on deepening students=
knowledge of language (Cummins, 2000, p. 30). The French Immersion kindergarten
language arts curriculum guide for
The focus of this paper is the use of music in second-language learning at the kindergarten level in the context of the Newfoundland and Labrador French immersion program, presented through a review of research in musical development in the young child and music research in learning and second language acquisition. A sample integrated music/second-language instructional approach will be then presented.
Musical Development in the Young Child
AMusical experiences are inextricably woven into the very fabric of infancy and childhood” (McParland, 2000, p. 1). Studies have shown that Aearly childhood musical experiences in the form of lullabies, musical crib mobiles, and most especially, musical interactions where the baby is an active participant, can aid in the development of the neural networks necessary for later music processing” (Olsho, 1984; Trehub, Bull, and Thorpe, 1984, as cited in Hodges, 2002, p. 3). Furthermore, Athe type of baby talk typically spoken to infants emphasizes pitch, timbre, dynamic inflections, and rhythm patterns in order to convey meaning” (Hodges, p. 6). Psychological and linguistic studies reveal that the interaction between music and language acquisition is activated in an infant as early as four days old (Fonesca Mora, 2000, p.148). AOpportunities, not just to hear music, but to interact in musical games and activities are critical to emotional and psychological development” (Dissanayake, 2000; Gembris & Davidson, 2002, as cited in Hodges, p. 14). Therefore, it is not surprising that Hodges deems the home environment critical to musical development in the earliest years.
Hodges (2002) provides a clear path of musical development throughout a child=s infancy and early childhood. By age five, the child can extract an underlying pulse from surface rhythm, enabling him to keep a steady beat (p. 13). Also, in melodic development, the five-year-old Ais now able to sing an entire song in the same key without modulating, with an increasing awareness of a set of pitches instead of just contour” (Ibid). These natural developmental advances would suggest that music has a much broader effect that goes beyond the aesthetic merit of music (Persellin, 2001), which Amakes music a powerful vehicle for teachers” (McParland, 2000, p. 3).
Music and Second-Language Learning
Since kindergarten children have little or no linguistic base in the French language (Boland-Willems, et al, 1988), and musical abilities in rhythm and melody have already been developed (Hodges, 2002), using music to enhance second-language learning at the kindergarten level would appear to be beneficial.ASecond-language education is one of the disciplines that has explored the incorporation of music into its curriculum” (Lowe, 1998, p. 4). AThe literature abounds with statements regarding the positive effects of music on first and second language acquisition” (Medina, 1993, p. 5). Several studies have shown that music, and particularly songs, helps second language learners to acquire vocabulary, grammatical structures and idiomatic expressions, to improve spelling and pronunciation, to build comprehension skills, to develop the linguistic skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening, and to expand cultural knowledge (Lems, 2001, p. 1; Little, 1983; (Lowe, 1997, p.17; Medina, 2002, p. 1). Combining language and music also Aencourages deeper processing of information, dramatically increases reading comprehension and retention, and invigorates the learning process” (McParland, 2000, p. 3).
Music use in
the second language classroom is consistent with both of Krashen=s (1982) hypotheses of
Comprehensible Input and Affective Filter (
The Affective Filter Hypothesis states that language acquisition requires the student to feel confident, relaxed and diverted (Cook, n.d.; ttaber, n.d.):
It is therefore, in the interest of the second language teacher to provide an environment which evokes positive emotions. Music does precisely that. Whether learners simply listen to instrumental music, vocals in the target language, or sing in unison, it is a pleasurable experience. FurthermoreY singing songs in unison produces a sense of community and increases student confidence in the second language. Thus, music, however it is used in the classroom, evokes positive emotions which can lower the Aaffective filter” and bring about language acquisition. (Medina, 2002, p. 6).
students are more relaxed, they are also more attentive than usual when
learning songs, and are therefore, more receptive to learning (
music and second language learning is also supported by
Music and its subcomponent, rhythm, have been shown to benefit the rote memorization process. AA rhythmic presentation benefits memorization, especially when the verbal information is meaningful” (Glazner, 1976; Shepard & Ascher, 1973; Weener, 1971, as cited in Medina, 1993, p.5). AMusic has also proven beneficial when the objective has been to retain the meaning of the verbal information” (Isem, 1958; Botarri & Evans, 1982, as cited in Medina, p. 5). In a study of nine primary-age dyslexic boys, Overy (2002, as cited in Rauscher, 2003) found that music instruction improved rapid temporal processing skills, phonological skills, and spelling skills. Costa-Giomi (2000, as cited in Rauscher) found that Achildren who begin music instruction very early in life are likely to show the greatest benefits in spatial development” (p. 5):
A meta-analysis of a set of 24 correlational studiesYfound a strong and reliable association between music instruction and reading test scores (Butzlaff, 2000). A more recent study found that ninety 6- to 15-year-old boys with music training had significantly better verbal memory than children without such training (Ho, Cheung, & Chan, 2003, as cited in Rauscher, 2003).
In a study which incorporated jazz music into the curriculum, Astudent confidence soared; student interest increased; and, in some cases, student achievement improved” (Renwick, 2002, p. 3).
Well developed aural skills are crucial to successful second language learning (Dunn, 1977; Failoni, 1993; Gonzalez, 1984; Majhanovich & Robinson, 1979; Rivers, 1981, as cited in Lowe, 1997). Not to be confused with the simple act of listening, aural comprehension involves listening, evaluating, comprehending and interpreting, all of which are basic to second language development (La maternelle, 1992, p.45). Therefore, aural comprehension is one of the most essential components of the kindergarten French immersion experience (Ibid.). Similarly, music is initially acquired through the aural sense (Hodges, 1980, as cited in Lowe, 2000). AMusical thinking is distinguished by audiating” (Gordon, 1987, as cited in Alvarez & Berg, 2002, p.122), which is Ahearing in one=s mind the sound of music that Ywe have heard, as well as music we are predictingY. Audiation is to music what language is to thinking” (Azzara, 2002, p.174). AListening to music involves many skills including perception, comprehension, and analysis of musicY. It isYa fundamental music skill and a requisite for all other music skills” (Persellin, 2001, p. 5). AResearchers and educators suggest that if listening is an essential skill required for both language and music acquisition, incorporation of music learning in the second language classroom should be considered” (Lowe, 1997, p.17).
acquisition takes place before children can read and without explicit
instruction of any kind” (Medina, 1993, p. 2). There is substantial
evidence that incidental vocabulary acquisition occurs by listening to oral
stories (Cohen, 1968; Elley, 1989; Eller, Papps, & Brown, 1988, as cited
in Medina) Abecause
familiar vocabulary and syntax contained in the stories provide meaning to
less familiar vocabulary” (p. 3).
Studies by Wallon (1975), Snow (1977), Feu and Piñero (1996), and
AIt is currently a common practice to use songs in the classroom to support second language acquisition” (Medina, 1993, p. 1). However, Aif music is a viable vehicle for second language acquisition to the same extent as other nonmusical means, then songs can no longer be regarded as recreational devices, having little instructional value” (p. 22). Songs can be used to present language, to develop linguistic aptitudes, and to strengthen reading-readiness skills (Malloch, p.2). ASongs contextually introduce the features of supra-segmentals (how rhythm, stress, and intonation affect the pronunciation of [speech] in context). Through songs, students discover the natural stretching and compacting of the stream ofYspeech” (Lems, 2001, p. 5).
which are stories that have been set to music, provide opportunities for both
language and musical acquisition (Medina, 2000a, p. 1). Given the extensive list
of benefits of integrating music and language, if the content of the oral
story and story song are identical, with the exception of the vehicle of
delivery, then it follows that acquisition of the vocabulary may be enhanced
through the musical version (Medina, 1993). AAlthough
meaningful information is memorized with greater success than less meaningful
information, retention is even greater when more meaningful verbal
information is learned with music” (Medina, p. 7). In a related study,
Medina (2000a) found that Asecond
language learners who listened to the illustrated sung stories acquired an
average of 1.5 words by the end of the treatment, while those who heard the
illustrated spoken rendition of the story acquired an average of 1.0
words” (p. 2). She
points to the positive effects which music may have upon language
acquisition. More specifically, it suggests that illustrated story-songs may
produce greater vocabulary acquisition than illustrated traditional spoken
stories” (p. 3). AFurthermore,
because of the positive effects which music has upon second language
learners, story songs may motivate and captivate the attention of second
language learners in ways that oral stories cannot (
Music in the French Immersion Kindergarten Language Arts Program
First of all, the students should be introduced to the melody. The melody should be simple, perhaps even familiar, and the tempo moderate; otherwise, the children will pay more attention to learning the melody than the lyrics (Medina, 2000a, p. 8). Melodies that use the pentatonic scale (de, re, mi, sol, la) are recommended, as they are easy to sing and pose no difficulty to children (Birkenshaw, 1981, p.5). (This particular melody uses a simple five-note scale of do, re, mi, fa, sol.)
Introducing the melody first makes pedagogical sense for still another reason. When humans are simultaneously exposed to several new stimuli, they experience what is referred to as "secondary task overloading." This cognitive overstimulation can prevent students from learning the skills which they are attempting to acquire. Therefore, in order to avoid this effect, it is advisable to first expose students to the melody of the story-song prior to introducing the story-song itself (Medina, 2000a, p. 10).
Once the melody has been adequately internalized, it would be appropriate to study the rhythm of the song. The students can clap the steady beat as they sing the melody. When asked if they clapped on every note, they should soon discover that they did not. The students can then clap the rhythm of the melody by clapping on every note, thus discovering that they clapped more often. To emphasize the difference between beat and rhythm, half of the class can sing the melody clapping the steady beat, while the other half simultaneously claps the rhythm.
When the children are comfortable with both the melody and the rhythm, the key grammatical structures can be extracted from the story: ‘Qui veut + infinitive + direct object=, and the responses ‘Pas moi!= and ‘Moi=. The children clap the steady beat followed by the rhythmic pattern while the teacher sings the words of the first line.
The same process can be used for the other questions in the story that use the same grammatical structure: ‘Qui veut couper le blé? Qui veut faire du pain? Qui veut manger du pain?= However, upon clapping the rhythm of ‘Qui veut faire du pain?=, the students should discover that there is something different in the rhythm. This is a prime opportunity to discuss syllabification. The third word in most of the lines is a two-syllable word (semer, couper, manger), but Afaire” is a monosyllabic word. Therefore, although the steady beat remains the same, the rhythm pattern changes.
The remainder of the lyrics can now be set to the rest of the melody through the same process:
It is not sufficient to simply sing the routines and patterns which are found in the song's lyrics. Learners must be
able to "transfer" this knowledge to new and different contexts. This exercise allows learners the opportunity to
generate original utterances using song patterns and routines in different contexts (Medina, 2000b, p. 3).
as an extension to this melodic grammatical practice, the teacher can sing
other questions in different context, such as ‘Qui veut
Using a well-known tune to ‘sing= daily routines and commands is also a means of integrating music into second language learning (Fonseca Mora, 2000). For example, a clean-up command could easily be adapted to the tune of ATwinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
This simple song provides a myriad of grammatical lessons with the following structures: C=est le temps de + verb; avoir finir de + verb; imperative form; qui est prêt à + verb. AThe more rhythmic and intonated the utterences we teach are, the more holistic the learning will be” (Fonseca Mora, 2000, p.151).
Changing the lyrics to previously learned songs could also impact on language learning. Edith Butler=s ALuc va à l=école” is a recommended song in the kindergarten curriculum (La maternelle, p.161). Its opening line, ALuc va à l=école avec son chien Fido,” has the exact same rhythm as the command a teacher could possibly use at dismissal time: AFerme ton sac d=école, et cherche ton manteau.”
The repetitiveness of singing this command each day reinforces the structure of the command and the rhythm of the utterence, and its musicality instinctively encourages children to join in and sing as well.
The evidence is conclusive to support the claim that Athe combination of music and a pedagogically-sound technique produce greater second language acquisition than is possible when using music alone” (Medina, 2000b, p. 1). ANot only can children benefit from additional exposure to the second language; songs can provide the classroom teacher with an alternative means of promoting second language acquisition apart from nonmusical means such as oral stories” (Medina, 1993, p. 22). Given the widespread availability of musical resources today, highly developed musicianship skills are not necessarily a prerequisite to this approach. Innovativeness, a desired quality in any effective teacher, is all that is required to teach a second language through music.
Considering the concerns over the quality of oral proficiency in French immersion students, oral development should begin as early as possible. Since research has found several commonalities between musical and linguistic development (Lowe, 1998), and when one considers the educational implications of Gardner=s (1993) theory on multiple intelligences (as cited in Medina, 2002), and Krashen=s (1982) hypotheses of Comprehensible Input and Affective Filter (as cited in Medina, 2000), it follows that music Ais a viable vehicle for second language acquisition” (Medina 1993, p. 18). Furthermore, given the limited linguistic abilities for French immersion kindergarteners to begin learning any kind of formal grammar (Boland-Willems, et al., 1988, p. 41), music should be embraced as an integral part of the French immersion kindergarten language arts program.
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