How to Include Multicultural Music in Your Classroom
We all want to be inclusive, to make our classrooms places where all students feel loved, valued, and very welcome – and where students learn to be respectful and accepting of other cultures. Music can go a long way toward making this happen!
Multicultural songs, games, and other activities play a big part in my music enrichment program, and I’ve learned much about the do’s and don’ts of introducing music from other cultures to young children. Here are some tips to help you incorporate this music into your curriculum.
Make a commitment. This isn’t about looking up a cute song for the Chinese New Year or Cinco de Mayo. Our students belong to different cultures, and live in a rich, colorful, diverse world – every day. The music in our classrooms should reflect this reality.
Keep DAP (Developmentally Appropriate Practice) in mind. Consider your students’ needs, abilities – and what they enjoy. Most Pre-K’s and kindergarteners can learn a few words in a foreign language to join in a chorus; others will struggle and feel frustrated. Young children love to move, to dance and jump – but some groups may be overstimulated by fast and rhythmic movement songs.
Use authentic music. Some excellent sources for authentic, age-appropriate songs include Mama Lisa’s World, the CantaJuegoVEVO channel on YouTube, Putumayo Kids, and Baila Baila. Browse YouTube for children’s songs from all over the world. I’ve discovered some treasures that way!
Use rhythm instruments and movement. Sometimes these are more accessible for young children than songs with foreign lyrics. Some pieces my students love to dance to and/or accompany on instruments include “Pata Pata” by Miriam Makeba, “Mbube” by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, “Kalinka” (a traditional Russian piece), and “Eastern Journey” by the Biddhu Orchestra.
Keep it simple. Look for brevity, easy hand or body motions, and lots of repetition.
It’s well worth the effort to make multicultural music a part of your classroom. Children learn about other cultures naturally and joyfully by actively engaging with new musical ideas.