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ESL Students in Chorus

Prior to last week, I had 2 students in my 9th grade chorus class. (Long Story) I've now been blessed with 5 more. All 5 are Spanish speakers, and have no previous choral experience.
I'm seeking strategies to teach basic vocal technique to them, particularly the concept of head voice, and tuning. Has anyone had success with ESL learners in a choral setting? Any advice would be very helpful.
Replies (5): Threaded | Chronological
on March 11, 2014 5:12pm
Been there.  Wordless demonstrations, lots of powerpoint, lots and lots of checking for understanding (really physical assessments), and all terms in Italian (where my Spanish speakers had an advantage).  The rest of the rehearsals (no English texts!) remained in Italian.  You’d be surprised how little you need to say when you are forced into another language!  We all had a blast and they sounded great by the semester’s end. 
Applauded by an audience of 3
on March 12, 2014 5:39am
Michael said, "You'd be surprised how little you need to say when you are forced into another language!"
Michael's comment hit me at "You'd be surprised how little we need to say."
It reminded me how rehearsals will be more engaging and productive when we, as choral directors, say less, model more.  Engaging students (or in my case adults) more and lecturing less.
This may be a great exercise in developing tools or reminding ourselves of the tools that we can integrate into our regular rehearsals that allow us to be more effective while speaking less.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on March 12, 2014 2:59am
Absolutely with Michael on this - amazing how far you can go with the monkey-see monkey-do approach. (Also makes you realise how much of what you say normally is not required...or is that just me?)
It may also be worth designating an English-first-language student to sit next to each in rehearsal and make sure they're keeping up with things like instructions about page numbers. It makes such a difference to the learning experience if they don't lose rehearsal time being baffled over basics like where you're singing from. A useful guideline is to allow double the thinking time for ESL students to process verbal content in English than you normally would - which points back to why it's good to do as much non-verbally as possible.
It's a challenge, but it has to be one of the best subjects to face this challenge!
on March 12, 2014 5:12am
I've always had great success working with the ESL teacher to help explain concepts and check on any written work. I've also found students who spoke the same language in my class and sat them next to the ESL students to help them along. Does anyone from your class speak Spanish at home who can help them? It's a great leadership opportunity!
on March 12, 2014 11:02am
Thank you everyone. I'm trying to be visual, but some concepts, especially pertaining to pitchmatching, are difficult to model. I'm used to explaining them. I'm also providing a Spanish translation of the English texts, so that they understand what they're singing about. I'm trying to approach it the opposite way as English Speakers learning lyrics in a foreign language. First step, say the words. Explain a bit about pronunciation rules, then sing and translate.
Jennifer, 2 of them have been in the country longer than the other 3, so I'm having them translate when necessary. But after collaborating with their ESL teacher, we agreed that we should be encouraging them to communicate in English, rather than constantly translating.
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