Traditional Music and Arts in the Classroom: A Whole-Brain Learning Approach to Language and Culture Acquisition

By

Mary Saurman and Glenn Stallsmith

(Presented at the 1st MLE Conference, “Reclaiming the Right to Learn in One’s Own Language,” Capitol University, Cagayan de Oro City, Feb 18-20, 2010.)

ABSTRACT:  The process of language acquisition requires cooperation between different regions in both hemispheres of the learner’s brain. This is especially true in children, who demonstrate high levels of interaction between various brain regions during language-learning activities. Experiments have shown that educational approaches that use the whole brain promote the integration of new information. Therefore, teachers can help students acquire and retain new information by using a variety of learning activities that connect both hemispheres of the brain.

Traditional societies throughout Asia use these whole-brain learning approaches in the transfer of cultural knowledge. Folklore, music, drama, and dance are forms of communication that naturally provide a variety of activities for different learning styles. These cultural expressions also necessarily encourage the use of the local language, thereby providing students with opportunities for using the L1 that can aid the acquisition of an L2.

These relevant cultural art forms, such as songs, poems, dances, dramas and visual arts, can be integrated into classroom-based MLE programs. In addition to providing effective whole-brain learning strategies, they are also the means for intergenerational transmission of values, beliefs, and history. Local songs and performances can also function as mnemonic devices for learning, memorization and integration of important cultural or life information. This paper explores strategies for using traditional arts in the classroom through case studies from mother-tongue based multilingual education programs in Asia.

For the complete article, click on Traditional Music and Arts in the Classroom- A whole-brain learning approach to language and culture acquisition.

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