Music: A Tool for Learning and a Catalyst for Joy

| March 28, 2011

José-Luis Orozco (in red) with a few of the workshop's attendees, including this article's author Gillian on the far left and BBE professor Patricia Martinez

A week before spring break, amidst the stress of midterm projects and the approach of the public school marking period, a remarkable thing happened: A roomful of TC students, teachers and faculty experienced a collective regression back to their preschool selves.  There was singing, silly dancing, and enough multilingual animal sounds to fill both Old MacDonald’s farm and Tío Juan’s granja.

The magician responsible for this transformation was José-Luis Orozco, award-winning children’s recording artist, author and bilingual educator.  In his workshop, Music as a Learning Tool in Multicultural Classrooms, he demonstrated how music can be used to develop oral language and coordination, and to teach basic skills.  A multilingual event, he also proved that music can be an engaging vehicle for language learning.  Though Spanish and English, Orozco’s own languages, were dominant in the workshop, he also drew upon the language resources of participants, integrating French, German, Korean, Mandarin, and Japanese into the program.

Using traditional folk songs from Latin and North American cultures, Orozco modeled how culture and content can be combined in a way that is fun and motivating.  We learned the days of the week in Spanish and in English with “Macarena”, developed our fine motor coordination with “Juanito”, the Spanish equivalent of the “Hokey Pokey”, and built the self-esteem of Bilingual/Bicultural Education’s Program Chair, María Torres Guzmán, when we sang her “Las mañanitas” to celebrate her birthday.

“Because it’s fun, music is a non-threatening tool for learning,” he said.  I quickly saw the truth in this when I found myself at the front of the room with four other TC students, stomping around with my arm swinging in front of my face and trying to contain giggles as Orozco showed us how we can use the song “Los elefantes” (“The Elephants”) to teach counting.

Despite our age (or perhaps because of it), most of us greatly enjoyed this brief return to childhood.  I myself can I say that it had been a while since I laughed as hard or as long as I did spinning around, arm-in-arm with fellow BBE student Adriana.  And, of course, I learned something about using music as a learning tool in the most hands-on class I have ever been a part of.

For more information about José-Luis Orozco, check out his website:

Some attendees from BBE, from left to right: Marilyn Alibutod, Alexis Austin, Ianna Hall-Colon, and Adriana Fernandez Criado