Latest News

← Back to news listing 18 Nov 2016

Welcoming New Migrants with Music and Movement - a3 and AMES

We recently sat down with a3 tutor Kylie Lee-Archer, to ask her about the Music and Movement program she delivers in partnership between AMES and a3.

Marteza, Shemna, Jurilda, Shahad, Mandeep, Bobo and Esmy at the AMES Music and Movement class 

AMES is the largest provider of English language and settlement services in Victoria. Our Music and Movement program offers recently arrived migrants the opportunity to improve their English language skills through song and dance.

• Who participates in the Music and Movement program?
The students are participating in the English language classes run through the Adult Migrant Education Services. AMES provides settlement support programs to newly arrived refugees and migrants. This term the participants in our program come from places as far flung as Thailand, Afghanistan, Japan, Iran and Bolivia!

• How does the AMES ‘Music and Movement’ program help participants with their English language skills?
The main purpose of the program is for the students to practice their functional English. Both Laura, our dance Instructor, and I aim to deliver an engaging, fun, physically dynamic and playful class that enables the students to step outside of their comfort zone (as if having recently arrived in Australia isn’t enough!) and participate in a content based session (the Performing Arts) run in English! Of course, the singing component of the sessions is particularly helpful for the students’ English practice. I choose songs that have appropriate content and interesting new vocabulary that the students can learn and practice. The songs need to be accessible for students for whom English is an additional language – just getting their mouth around some of the words can be hard! – but they also need to appeal to the 18-25 year old age range. This term we have been singing “Lanterns” by Australian band Birds of Tokyo and “Sing” by Ben Lee who is also Australian.

• Why do you think music is such an effective way of teaching language skills?
When practicing a new language it’s important to hear and make the sounds, and in some cases read and write them! I personally have experienced this kind of practice in a fairly traditional classroom, I’ve experienced it in a conversation class, I’ve experienced it while stumbling over placing my order in a restaurant in a foreign country. Singing songs is an efficient and fun way of practicing (drilling, over and over) the sounds that you want to make. Fun is the most important part! 

• Have you noticed other additional benefits that the program conveys?
I remember after the first time we ran this program, a few years ago, that one of the students’ English teachers remarked that that term’s class was particularly connected and happy as a cohort, more inclined to participate willingly in group work and to have a go at things in class. I believe that participating in the performing arts can serve this function in any group – building trust, confidence, teamwork, risk taking and resilience - but it’s especially important for refugees and migrants who are facing the challenge of integrating themselves into, and participating in, a community and broader society that is foreign to them. So yes, the benefits go far beyond the singing and dancing and the English language practice!

• What do you look forward to most about delivering the Music and Movement program?
It is an extraordinary time in history and, while the news plays out on my TV and facebook feed, I also have the opportunity to spend 90 minutes a week with young people from all different countries, cultures and backgrounds; to get to know them a little and to sing and dance with them. For those 90 minutes each Tuesday morning I am the only Australian-born person in the room and it’s a very happy ninety minutes filled with laughter and jokes and song. This is wonderful in and of itself and also just a little poignant at a time when people all around the world seem more inclined to turn away from each other than form an ad hoc community choir together!