This week Kathryn and Theresa interviewed Angela Ammerman, an adjunct professor of music at George Mason University in Northern Virginia. Angela is a lifelong music educator, teaching her dolls to sing as a young child, teaching private lessons in her neighborhood as a middle school student, and working as a counselor at a strings camp in high school. This helped her realize early on the importance of music when building community and shaped her development as a music educator.  

Episode 24: Empowering English Language Learners with Angela Ammerman

Working With English Language Learners

One of Angela’s passions involves working with English Language Learners (ELLs), which began when she was teaching at Annandale High School in Fairfax County, Virginia. Annandale High School is very diverse, so it wasn’t long before a student who did not speak English and had no prior experience joined the orchestra. Angela was up for the challenge! Within a few years’ time, she had grown the strings program to include a full beginning orchestra, made up of mostly ELLs. This experience showed Angela how powerful music was for students new to the country and how much these students could thrive in a school music program. 

Several years later, Angela spent time at a children’s home in Thailand, where she started a beginning strings program. Using the strategies she developed at Annandale High School, Angela completed a research project and found that student’s self-concept increased after only 10-days of study! 

My goal is to say every child’s name properly….So much of the time, our students are just not seen. Especially after the pandemic, they don’t feel that they belong. Just acknowledging their presence is tremendous. 

Strategies for Empowering ELLs

Since then, Angela has worked to share what she’s learned with other music educators. Here are some of Angela’s favorite strategies for empowering ELLs:  

  • Learn the student’s name, and learn how to say it correctly. Use an audio recorder to record and practice saying their names properly. 
  • Use call and response and nonverbal communication whenever possible. 
  • Give students responsibility in the classroom. 
  • Encourage students to choose and bring in music to lead stretches. 
  • Establish student roles within the ensemble. 
  • Have more fluent, experienced ELL students write an accompaniment for a newcomer ELL student. 

Angela noticed so many benefits to her students as a result of participating in orchestra as ELLs. Students had more confidence, increased English language skills, and felt they were part of a community. 

Be sure to check out the full interview to hear more about Angela’s work empowering English Language Learners and the incredible benefits she has found teaching them. Angela’s passion and enthusiasm are contagious, and she offers incredible strategies for any music educator. Empowering English Language Learners in Music

Also check out Angela’s book, The Music Teacher’s Guide to Engaging English Language Learners. 

Connect with Angela and learn more: 

Listen to the full interview on your favorite podcast platform, or here on Anchor!

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