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Language Learning

Why Arts Education Is Vital in Supporting Multilingual Learners

Integrating music, dance, visual art, and other forms of expression is a powerful way to engage multilingual learners in the classroom. Arts integration provides creative avenues for students to demonstrate knowledge and to feel recognized in a school environment. 

The arts are a natural way to celebrate and learn about different cultures through dances, traditional songs or costumes, instruments, and visual art. They also give students the opportunity to express ideas, feelings, and experiences in creative ways.

Incorporating arts education is a benefit to all students, not just multilingual learners. An environment in which students are given multiple means for expression leads to deeper, richer learning experiences for everyone.

Arts integration allows students to demonstrate understanding in creative ways.

For students who may feel hesitant to produce language orally, expressing their knowledge or understanding of a concept in different ways is an important element of growing their confidence and skills. 

Since receptive language develops faster than expressive language, students often understand more than they can verbalize. Give multilingual learners the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding using other means, such as drawing, creating videos or collages, or taking photos. 

This approach has multiple advantages: as a teacher, you have a better understanding of your student’s skills and knowledge, and your student is able to approach learning based on their strengths. Celebrating and encouraging students to express their knowledge creatively leads to greater engagement with the material.

Arts integration celebrates diverse backgrounds and cultures.

The arts are a perfect way to learn about and celebrate the different cultures represented in your classroom. Position multilingual learners as the experts and ask them to share a favorite song, a fairy tale or story, or another element of their culture. Extend learning by asking students to act out the story or research the instruments used in the song. 

Students can also learn to express themselves and their culture through painting, drawing, sculpture, and photography. Ask them to re-create their favorite memory or showcase their cultural traditions and customs. By asking multilingual learners to share an aspect of their culture, you can recognize and celebrate them for who they are.

Arts integration takes learning outside school walls.

There are so many opportunities to involve your community in arts integration and for students to experience art outside of school. Local museums, performances, and even murals on the sides of buildings are great ways for students to experience different modes of creative expression.

Ask local artists or musicians to perform or speak to your class about their motivations, their process, or how their own background and culture informs their work. If you can find experiences and local artists that represent the cultures in your classroom, this will lead to greater engagement and connection for every student.

The celebration of culture through arts can take place in any classroom setting. Whether you use the Global Leaders framework, teach in a dual language immersion program, or are an Ambassador Teacher, the arts will enhance your teaching practice. Students may express themselves, learn about other cultures, and practice the target language all while building meaningful relationships with people around them. Teachers, school administrators, and parents can integrate the arts into language learning to help multilingual learners succeed.

How do you support and celebrate multilingual learners in your classroom? We’d love to hear about your teaching strategies and activities your students enjoy! Tag us on social media and use the hashtag #UnitingOurWorld.

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