Teaching Methodology - Learning through Music

Research shows that learning language through music is highly effective, especially for children. Physiological Support for language acquisition through music includes: 1) Humans are born musical. Newborns and infants are highly sensitive to musical information, showing a neurobiological predisposition to process music. 2) This predisposition to process music plays a critical role in early language learning, particularly in processing speech prosody (speech melody, speech rhythm), which is processed in the right auditory cortex, the same part of the brain that processes music. 3) Because of the overlapping processing of language and music, the better humans are at music, the better they will be at languages, particularly tonal languages. 4) Music practice fine-tunes the human auditory system in a comprehensive fashion, strengthening neurobiological and cognitive underpinnings of both music and speech processing.

Theoretical studies support the principle of learning language through music, and show that it is a highly effective tool for vocabulary acquisition and retention. Music serves as a cue to recall information. Learning language through music increases student engagement through motivation, serves as a memory aid, and serves as a stress alleviator. True natural language learning begins with language and music processed together.

Listening and Spatial Skills

Listening skills and spatial intelligence (the ability to perceive the world accurately and to form mental pictures of things) are critical to everything from following a recipe to solving advanced mathematics problems.  Listening skills are approached through vocabulary, sentence pattern building, and rhythm and pitch exercises. We practice language and rhythm exercises based on our songs, and then introduce associated movements.

Empathy for other cultures

We provide an experience where children learn about new instruments and world music, teaching them to be empathetic and compassionate to people of other cultures.  Our repertoire draws on Chinese folk songs and Western folklore, providing a cultural dialogue and a community for sharing ideas and respecting each other at an early age.  The Panda Corner workshop introduces children to Western instruments and Chinese folk instruments (Moon guitar, pipa, bamboo flute) in dual language songs that recount playful narratives, as well as treasured stories and myths from Chinese history.  We sing playful songs including: “Hey Shadow,” “Fly a Kite,” “Dim Sum,” “Little Children” (小乖乖a famous guessing game song from Yunnan province), “the Bicycle song”, “Little Kung Fu Warrior”, the story of the brave Mulan, and “lullaby.”

Teamwork, Self-expression, Creativity

After we workshop several of the bilingual songs, we build our own song, drawing on the skills that we have learned: rhythm, melody, song structure, and associated movements.  Through making a song, children learn to think creatively by imagining various solutions.  There is no right answer to a melody, but rather infinite possibilities and combinations of pitch and rhythm.  This section of the workshop is adapted based on the musical skills of the children.  Music and language empower children with a means of self-expression.  Through learning songs, children become more in touch with their feelings and able to express themselves at a higher level.  We aim to empower children at an early age, building their self-esteem through communication skills.