Singing to teach language

Bilingual education unit (BEU) teaching instructor Pruter Karben gets NDES kindergarteners signing as part of a new educational initiative of the ‬Bilingual Education Unit, which was established by the Customary Law and Language Commission, Public School System, and the College of the Marshall Islands‪. Photo: Jora Jora.‬

There is a team of new teachers, called the Bilingual Education Unit, which was established by the Customary Law and Language Commission, PSS, and CMI.

There are four pillars of this team:

• going out to schools and training teachers in bilingual education

• designing new learning materials based primarily on the Marshallese language and culture, and the needs they see in the classrooms

• translating, between English and Marshallese, and helping teach offices of the public and private sectors so that they can also translate well and follow the official Marshallese spelling

• studying the two languages to increase the availability of language reference materials.

In order for them to train teachers in bilingual education, they will visit every school throughout the Marshalls, public and private alike. This journey began at North Delap Elementary School (NDES) on Monday, August 24, where they taught in two languages with the Kindergarten teachers and students. They brought many bilingual children’s songs, including lesson plans, and ukuleles in order to teach the teacher how to play and sing in two languages, and also how to use songs as learning materials.

They believe that singing helps young children in the earliest grades, as a bridge between languages, which also acts as: mnemonics for their study, warm-ups to ward off sleepiness, and guides for their natural energy that might otherwise distract the teacher.

They started their visits at NDES because it has more kindergarten students than any other school. This week they are visiting Rita Elementary School, starting September 7, on to the 18th, and afterwards they aim to reach all of the kindergarten classes in elementary schools of Majuro, before Christmas break.

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