Music to MY Ears and More

This week, my grade 6’s finished presenting their Personal Playlist Projects. I was also tagged by Valentina Gonzalez whose recent post titled Music to My Ears: 3 Powerful Methods for Using Music in Classrooms with Emergent Bilinguals mentioned the project among two other ways to use music as a route to supporting English Language Learners. I have written about the P3 when it was my podcast interviewing educators about their 3 song playlist, and I have reflected on it through a variety of posts and, as Valentina mentioned, as the topic of my TEDx Talk. This is a wonderful project that I share with anyone who is open to it because of what it does for kids. I have learned through an ELL focus this year that it has benefits beyond being culturally responsive and inviting different languages and experiences into my classroom. I have learned, as Valentina wrote, that this project that fills the classroom with music can help to create the conditions for language learning, speak beyond words to connect kids to themselves and each other, and facilitate deep comprehension.

Whenever I finish a Building Outside the Blocks (BOB) project like this, I take the pulse of my students. Since Google Classroom added the questions features, I have made the reflection space shared, which has enhanced the insights and the community feel of the project all the way through the reflection process. Here is some unedited feedback from English Language Learners with my commentary:


I choose this song because there is one lyric, wait for flower to grow. This related to when I had just move in Canada and I was very shy like a seed, but after that I had a lot of friends, I felt a new self, like the flowers became more and more beautiful.- Alfred


Through his work, I can see that he has made a thoughtful connection to the song, he has shown a sense of figurative language, and he has utilized music-related vocabulary. It was wonderful to see his smile when he played this song in Chinese to his class.


My favorite part of creating my P3 is to show my classmates the parts of music in me, which also lets them see another side of me and my identity. For example the things I like, my personality and my childhood. The best part of listening to my classmate's P3s is to understand their opinion and preferences about music and learning more about them! The hard part about this was to just choose ONE song for every type! I've always had a hard time making decisions, and now giving me so many options of songs that can express who I am to my classmates! Thats why I did the Bonus Songs, in reality, I have WAY more songs that just that! - Yilin


I think my favourite part of creating my P3 was finding meaningful music that connects to me, then challenging myself to express my feelings into words. I think the best part of listening to other's P3's was discovering new music, and sometimes listening to music that you could also relate to. Chelsey


Those two students are learning from home as my classroom (25 in class, 7 at home) and all of my schoolboard is in hybrid learning this year. This shows that this project can be meaningful to English Language Learners at all steps and stages, in class or in remote scenarios.


When I am making my P3, my favorite part is when I play music. When listening to each other’s P3, my favorite part is listening to music- Hanson


This was a triumphant experience for this learner because it was his first presentation to the whole class. I accommodate my students and scaffold their building of presentation skills by allow them to present just to me, work up to presenting to me with a few friends at recess, and then help to get them ready to feel good enough to present to a class audience.. Our supportive class community and this project are the reasons why he nervously agreed to present it to the whole class. I wrote to his parents immediately to share in the elation of this accomplishment, and they told me he had practiced for a long time at home. He felt good about what he had written about the songs and about his slides, but he was most worried about answering questions from the class because of his productive language skills in English. I promised him that I would stand next to him if he needed it, but there was an outpouring of support and patience and the entire class erupted in cheer when he was done.




Here is an excerpt from Valentina’s post on 3 Powerful Methods for Using Music in Classrooms with Emergent Bilinguals


Share meaningful songs. Because we know that “music is so important to human beings” and that “every culture and generation has music that is appealing and that awakens the spirit,” we can use music as a conduit for relationship building, too (Escalante 2018 p 37). Noa Daniel, an innovative classroom teacher, blogger, and author in Canada does just that with something she calls “The Personal Soundtrack” or “The Personal Playlist.” Students sign up to present three songs (one that is nostalgic, one related to their identity, and one that inspires them). Some students even share songs in languages other than English. This authentic experience allows a safe place for students to discover and reveal who they are while building community and empathy. Noa said in her TEDTalk that “our shared humanity connects us through our narrative.” When students share the songs and music that are most meaningful to them, we begin to hear their stories, and we begin to know one another at more intimate levels.

You can read the rest of her post here.


I got to know Valentina when she was a guest on the #P3 as The Personal Playlist Podcast. I used to blog about each person and their song choices. Here is the post on her P3. While I walked away from that podcast after almost 4 years of wonderful experiences and relationship-building with my guests through their sharing of songs and the stories that go with them, I will never walk away from sharing this powerful BOB project that does so much for kids and gives kids wings by making their school work relevant, inviting their experiences and stories into our shared learning experiences, using their lives and interests to teach them, and using engaging project like this that encourage language learners to developing the skill to write and speaking about.

The Personal Playlist Project is something I encourage for students in Grade 6 and up, through it has been done by younger students. It brings the joy and power of music into the classroom through the project and through the sharing aspect with no more than 3 students playing their songs up to the chorus or the part of the song to which they are referring in their connections to their nostalgic, identity, and pick-me-up songs. I love the P3 and they do, too. Like all of my Building Outside the Blocks projects, they demonstrate that the classroom is built around who is in the room and that everyone has something to contribute. They all have something valuable to contribute, and these projects create space for them to feel seen and valued. This, in turn, impacts how they learn because who they are and what interests them really matters n our classroom.