Ultimately, I believe that there will be 3 crucial elements to making music-based language learning possible: enthusiasm, clarity, and motivation.
As for enthusiasm, it will be necessary for the teacher to approach class activities, especially those involving the ukulele, with positive energy and confidence. Demonstrating that students can learn in a way that interests them and can easily be tailored to students’ needs is key to fostering enthusiasm in the classroom. Regardless of skill, if students feel that they are learning something in an environment that is energetic and is flexible the project should be a success. Therefore, the teacher must maintain interest by showing a willingness to find resources for students that can be posted on the class blog (found here on Seesaw).
Clarity is also an important factor in making the ukulele a hit in Japanese classrooms. Providing a clear idea of what is expected can increase student confidence and make it easier to practice the skills learned while at school. For example, I created a basic weekly lesson plan for using music alongside other class materials like textbooks. Each day, there is a broad goal that can easily be made more specific to meet certain objectives. Using step-by-step directions, the students can practice both ukulele and Japanese until they are comfortable enough to create songs and perform exercises on their own.
Lastly, motivation is irreplaceable within dual programs. Practicing everyday is the only surefire way to improve a skill, and using one skill to learn another can enhance learning speeds. If a teacher wants their students to succeed, then there must be some sort of motivation, either intrinsic or extrinsic. Setting aside 20% time in the classroom ensures that there will be time for all students to practice. Ukulele is an addictive instrument to begin with, so once students get a feel for it they will not want to put it down! Setting up an after-school program, club, or ukulele loaning program would be one possible way to enable students to practice and build skills outside of class.
The final design of creating a hands-on, entertaining way to learn Japanese and ukulele simultaneously can be found on the Seesaw class blog!
INTERVIEW (with husband, a current Japanese language learner)
1.) Do you think a music-based language program could be successfully incorporated into high school world language classrooms? Why or why not?
2.) What advantages/disadvantages do you think using ukulele in the classroom would have?
3.) Think back to your high school experience. Would you have liked to use music more often in your world language classes?
4.) What would you add/remove to this plan to make it more enjoyable for students and teachers?
5.) What would you add/remove to make it more effective?
6.) Besides school budget, what variables do you think would need to be overcome in order to introduce this plan? Any suggestions?
7.) Do you think this plan is a realistic possibility for beginner music and language students?
8.) Final words of advice for teachers, from the perspective of a language learner? What do you think teachers using this strategy might need to a reminder for?
Overwhelmingly, feedback for this idea at the Genius Hour Design Fair (in our EDIT2000 class at UGA) was positive. Everyone seems to think that it is fun and an effective way to learn a language. However, there were also some concerns:
1.) Will one semester be long enough to learn an instrument?
For this project’s purposes, yes, I think it will be plenty of time. The students’ goal is not to become experts, but to have a solid foundation in both music and language programs. By building confidence and fluency in Japanese language and ukulele techniques, students will be more motivated to learn something that may have seemed challenging at first and improve their skills on their own (either through more classes or self-study).
2.) Does the use of language really enhance language learning?
Yes, according to the sources I referred to in my third Genius Hour post. Also, from personal experience I found using music helped improve my speed, pronunciation, and memory as a language learner. Depending on the song choice, there is also the possibility that students may become more familiar with the values and cultural background of Japan through traditional songs. There are so many opportunities for learning with music!