Strengthening Arts Instruction for Multilingual Learners: The MLL Music Lab

Aug 1, 2023 | Education, Grownups, Posts

Did you know 1 out of every 300 people living in the United States is a NYC public school student? We have the most extensive school system in the country: 1.1 million students. 150,000 of these students are designated as English Language Learners. To ensure these students have access to language acquisition and arts education, New York City Children’s Theater has partnered with the Department of Education’s Arts Office to create the Multilingual Learners (MLL) Music Lab, providing schools with free teacher training and classroom residencies.

Program Goals

The program’s academic goals aim to:

  • Reinforce students’ language and literacy skills through theater, lyric writing, and music composition
  • Expand students’ writing abilities with an emphasis on strengthening literary elements, dialogue, expressive or descriptive language, rhyming scheme in a verse/chorus structure
  • Foster comfort and competence with speaking and listening for our large population of multilingual learners
  • Increase reading comprehension skills, such as sequencing, making predictions, and text-to-self connections

Artistically, students will:

  • Write a musical with a clear beginning, middle, and end
    Understand the elements of a well-written play (i.e., inciting incident, conflict, resolution, action, high stakes, low stakes)
  • Understand characters’ motivations and express dialogue with corresponding emotion through the use of articulations, dynamics, and melodies
  • Speak/sing in front of a group, demonstrated through greater risk-taking, projection, and articulation
  • Learn about song structure and write music using music vocabulary
  • Become aware of themselves as musicians through performance, improvisation, and composition

I just wanted to thank you for setting me up with this program!! Our first day on Tuesday was really incredible, and I’m really just so excited to see what we all create together! It was so wonderful to team teach with other artists – what a gift! Kit and Laura are incredible, and our day was really fantastic.

How It Works

NYCCT teaching artists work with the school music teacher and at least one ENL teacher from each partner school to lead students in songwriting and theater exercises, leading to the students adapting a children’s book into an original musical.

The MLL Music Lab helps partner schools strengthen arts instruction for multilingual learners across NYC with our residency structure and supporting teaching materials.

I was not sure my approach to teaching MLL students was correct or sufficient. Now I feel more confident about the different strategies I use to instill the appreciation and knowledge for music I strive for within my music classroom regardless of the language barriers we might encounter because I have a number of tools to engage my MLL students while also teaching them vocabulary and socio/emotional strategies to thrive within the classroom.

The MLL Music Lab responds to how MLL students are usually pulled out of art class instruction. We are using the arts as language support for these students.

School partners also benefit from the following required program components:

  • Planning meeting for school leader and NYCCT staff to customize residency plans
  • Professional development workshop for participating teachers and support staff
  • Choice of children’s book and Literature at Play curriculum developed by NYCCT teaching artists with extensive experience working with MLLs in NYC public schools
  • Shared planning time for teacher team
  • In-school performance(s) and family engagement opportunities
  • Reflection meeting for participating teachers

I still don’t have ample words to thank you all for this semester, but I’m just extremely grateful for this opportunity this year and for the teamwork and partnership that this provided. Music teachers are often alone in their buildings and don’t have anyone to plan with and this was just the opposite of that, and I am so grateful!

MLL Music Lab Participant

Before the program, I had not implemented several resources and/or scaffolds that would benefit my MLL students. Now I am aware of how these scaffolds benefit my students and classwork because they help create a safe space and help make learning a more equal playing field for all the students in the classroom.

MLL Music Lab Participant

Learn More

Watch the video below for an overview of the program.

Upcoming Performances

There are no upcoming events at this time.

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