The students in Jennifer Golonka’s dance class are beginning to choreograph in small groups. They invent movements and spatial pathways using language to negotiate and problem solve as they work. The dance-making provides an authentic opportunity for the students to communicate, and the supportive collaboration provides a safe space to try something new.
Learning in the arts allows ELL students to use English in an authentic context that holds personal meaning for them because it:
• Lowers the affective filter (Krashen, 2003). Working in the performing arts is intrinsically collaborative and does not privilege language over other ways of knowing. Students engage in the creative process and develop a personal stake in the outcome, which levels the field of participation and helps them take greater risks.
• Provides opportunities for authentic use of English. Language use becomes increasingly nuanced as students participate in self-generated conversations that are not facilitated by an adult and hold personal meaning for students collaborating in the creation of a work of art.
The videos in this section offer examples of strategies that help students make artistic choices and build an artistic voice.
Sarah is a 5th grade advanced English Language Learner at PS 20Q. She is an eager student, but one who is still developing academically. In dance, she finds a creative outlet where she builds a strong artistic voice and grows into a leader among her peers.
Mei-Yin Ng has been teaching Traditional Chinese Dance and Creative Movement at PS 20Q for 8 years. This combination of forms is essential to her identity as a Teaching Artist working with a diverse community of students that includes many English Language Learners.
Jia-Xing is a first year English Language Learner at PS 20 in Queens. He is also a naturally gifted dancer. We see how, through his engagement with Teaching Artist Mei-Yin’s dance unit, his command of the English language greatly improves, and he becomes a leader among his peer group.
A 5th grade student at PS 19Q is a new arrival to the country and a beginner English Language Learner. She is learning to make dances and to speak English at the same time. Teaching Artist Jen Golonka’s Tool Box of Dance elements provides visual language support, while classmates serve as translators and collaborators.