CNMN > Projects > Newcomer Youth Engagement Program: Music and Literacy

Jennifer Lang

  • Voice
  • Acoustic instruments
  • Adults

Each Friday for one hour from September until June

  • Education
  • Diversity

Newcomer Youth Engagement Program: Music and Literacy


The New­com­er Youth Engage­ment project con­nects music and lit­er­a­cy while also con­nect­ing our uni­ver­si­ty and a com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tion that sup­ports edu­ca­tion­al ini­tia­tives for new­com­ers to Canada.

Who we are: Our music team at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Saskatchewan part­nered with the Saska­toon Indus­try Edu­ca­tion Coun­cil and New­com­er Youth Engage­ment Pro­gram which is fund­ed by Immi­gra­tion, Refugees and Cit­i­zen­ship Cana­da.   There are approx­i­mate­ly 18 stu­dents in each of the two class­es, and they range from 17–21 years of age.

Our goals: Togeth­er, our team has devel­oped orig­i­nal cur­ric­u­la and we engage the stu­dents each week in musi­cal activ­i­ties of singing and play­ing instru­ments that con­nect to themes of their lan­guage stud­ies to devel­op lan­guage skills in writ­ten and oral communication.

An impor­tant goal of the col­lab­o­ra­tion is to “Cel­e­brate that everyone’s music is Cana­di­an music and con­tributes to the fab­ric of Canada’s cul­ture” and that this learn­ing expe­ri­ence will facil­i­tate the shar­ing of the stu­dents’ cul­tures and sup­port the youths’ sense of belong­ing and con­nec­tion to their own cul­ture and the new coun­try to which they are integrating.

Songs of Success:

1) The music we use in our iter­a­tive cur­ricu­lum design invites the music from the stu­dents’ coun­tries of ori­gin and we also use some tried and test­ed ear­ly years songs in Eng­lish that teach vocab­u­lary and devel­op their lit­er­a­cy skills.

2) We have incor­po­rat­ed Pop­u­lar Music songs through­out the pro­gram. As the stu­dents’ lan­guage skills devel­oped and we had devel­oped a rela­tion­ship of trust where they felt val­ued through their music, we explored con­cepts of rhythm and beat through con­tem­po­rary songs that they shared from their coun­tries of ori­gin. We also incor­po­rat­ed some more con­tem­po­rary Eng­lish songs into the lan­guage stud­ies and the stu­dents respond­ed very favourably to learn­ing the words, themes, mes­sages and mean­ings of the songs we introduced.

Com­ple­ment­ing Activ­i­ties: Since many of the stu­dents would have heard the songs, we could focus on writ­ten lit­er­a­cy skills through read­ing and writ­ing the words.

We incor­po­rat­ed var­i­ous activ­i­ties with the lyrics includ­ing post-it note activ­i­ties in which stu­dents had to unscram­ble the phras­es in the song or song titles to put them in order, or find the incor­rect words (often rhyming words) on the board and cor­rect them with the prop­er word found in the song.

At the end of the year, we com­piled a playlist of the songs we have learned and sung that show­cased the stu­dents’ art­work from their art class that high­light­ed the theme of each song.

Les­son Struc­ture:  A les­son is one hour and fol­lows a typ­i­cal les­son struc­ture as follows:

  • Wel­come song
  • Call & response rhythms & melodies
  • Learn­ing new songs – (Graph­ics on screen, hand ges­tures – to indi­cate oppo­sites, con­trac­tions, literal/figurative, etc. — and tac­tile & kines­thet­ic activ­i­ties — post-it note games, assem­ble a snow­man on the board, stand up when your birth­day is sung in the “Months of the Year” song, raise hand when we sing an adjec­tive, etc. are all essen­tial as we learn new song lyrics.)
  • Play­ing per­cus­sion instru­ments (lis­ten & play-back exer­cis­es, play­ing along to a song, find­ing the beat of a song, and using instru­ments to help cre­ate word-based rhythms)
  • A review of today’s learning
  • Good­bye song

Project Out­comes:

  • Increased social bonding/cohesion
  • Increased lan­guage com­pre­hen­sion, facil­i­ty, and flu­en­cy which can even be marked by obser­va­tions of stu­dents using lan­guage for humour
  • Ease of com­mu­ni­ca­tion through singing
  • Rich oppor­tu­ni­ties to explore new words, gram­mar con­cepts, col­lo­qui­alisms, con­nec­tions, and ideas pro­vid­ed through exam­i­na­tion of song lyrics
  • The sense of pride & belong­ing stu­dents demon­strate when their favourite music and places from their home coun­tries are part of class activities.
  • Increased agency in their deci­sion-mak­ing and input for artis­tic choices
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