Music and lyrics A bilingual approach to creative education

Children should leave school with a firm grasp of both literacy and numeracy. However, the joy of creative expression needs to be equally encouraged in the future innovators of our world.

Teaching the Next Generation

It is a school's remit to equip students with thorough skills and competencies in core subjects such as reading, writing, mathematics and science. However, there is much more to education than teaching children how to pronounce and spell words, structure texts or crunch the numbers correctly. In a rapidly developing and globalised world, it is crucial that children not only acquire a solid knowledge base, but they should also be able to communicate their knowledge in different languages as well as develop an ability to adapt to new situations and circumstances of a future society. While schools cannot teach answers to questions that have not yet been asked, they can inspire students to draw on their own creative resources, encourage them to think out of the box and come up with innovative approaches for old and new problems. This is where education in music and arts comes into play.

Creative Transfer

Arts and music play an important role in everyday school life at SIS Swiss International School. We believe in a holistic and comprehensive approach to learning and teaching in two languages that caters to the intellectual, emotional, as well as the creative needs of our students. While the first aspect is covered by our competency-based bilingual curricula, it is the playful handling of language and content in arts and music that encourages children to explore their creativity and transfer knowledge to other aspects of life. In addition to stimulating a child's creative capabilities, artistic and musical education is also highly beneficial to the development of other skills, which can then be applied to different fields and subject areas. For example, playing a musical instrument, singing or doing listening activities together sharpens a child's aural discrimination as well as sequential learning skills, which in turn proves advantageous for language learning and development.

Performing in Two Languages

Working creatively together also nourishes a sense of belonging and unity; the students learn to listen to each other, to communicate and, ultimately, to coordinate the individual parts and voices into a harmonious and powerful – albeit bilingual – whole. At SIS Schönenwerd, this was exemplified in the closing event of last academic year where the students staged a bilingual musical version of Lyman Frank Baum's children's book "The Wizard of Oz". Unwilling to decide on just one of the official SIS school languages, the five- to fourteen-year-olds articulately recited texts and songs in both German and English. The multicultural community at SIS Schönenwerd has been exploring the creative potential and benefits of performing in different languages for several years. With art, music and dance teachers working closely together, students are encouraged to go on stage twice a year, and as they are exposed to scripts or pieces of music, new vocabulary and concepts are acquired in an entertaining way.

Creating New Realities

In addition to performing in two languages, the students of SIS Schönenwerd were also involved in all the other production stages of the musical: they shared ideas regarding casting and staging, they helped create props and costumes and were involved in the song selection. Touching upon topics such as multilingualism, mobility and migration, Baum's hundred-year-old story was brought back to the present and offered the audience a glimpse of the adults of tomorrow: creative, confident and skilled in languages and music and, above all, joyfully dedicated to the task at hand.

Author: Dr. Ursula Gehbauer Tichler

Dr. Ursula Gehbauer Tichler is the CEO of SIS Swiss International School in Switzerland. SIS operates 16 bilingual, private day schools in Switzerland, Germany and Brazil with more than 3,400 students attending classes from kindergarten through to college.

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