I’m convinced words are things. Words live. Words live in your paint. They live in your wallpaper. They live in your rugs. And eventually, they live in you. Be careful with your words.
– Maya Angelou
If words are things and they live within each of us, we are charged with an amazing feat as educators: to teach the word.
It’s not about how many words we teach, which vocabulary lists we use or how many our students can spell. It’s not even about how many are included a piece of writing on a standardized test.
It’s about teaching the essence of words as if they were things. So that when they live in us, they feed us well.
As educators, we are expected to feed all of our students with these words – even the ones who understand them the least. Our English Language Learner students are the least equipped to comprehend our words and yet our expectations are the same as those of our native speakers. Our ELL students come to us with various language abilities and backgrounds. It is our job to find a way to communicate with them so that they word can live in them too.
Arts Integration is a powerful medium for these students. Being able to learn something using art, music, drama or dance can open up a world of learning to an ELL student who may have been lost in the oceans of grammar and voice. Instead, they can learn the language through their creativity and communicate exactly what they want to say but are unable to speak at the moment.
Give them the chance to dance a geometry lesson to learn parallel lines. Or to be Max in Where the Wild Things Are. Or even to drum the syllables of their name.
Give them the word through the arts so that the word may live in them.