Teaching Language Skills through Theater

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Sing for Hope has long worked in public schools, with 200+ SFH Pianos in schools and 50+ assemblies every year, Sing for Hope is further expanding our work in schools as an official DOE school grant partner. We launched a DOE grant-funded program with SFH Partner School Inwood Early College in the fall, called the “Theater Arts for English Learners” program. The goal of this program is to support English language acquisition for high school students through learning theatrical foundations. Sing for Hope teaching artist, Alano Baez, has now completed a full semester working with our Common Core and NYS Blueprint for the Arts standards-based curriculum every Thursday. 

Baez shares Sing for Hope’s ethos of highly adaptive lesson planning. For example, Baez learned quickly that the group of 9th graders in his class had not mostly grown up placing significant value in the arts, or in themselves as artists. Early conversations with his students revealed that their most salient heroes tended to be athletes. In order for the workshop to facilitate its ultimate goals—English language acquisition and expanded self-expression—the students had to accept the workshop methodology in the first place. Baez explains that this gets more and more difficult as students age. 

Sing for Hope Teaching Artist Alano Baez was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico and raised in NYC (East Harlem and the South Bronx). He is a community activist, poet, emcee, artist, actor, and teacher. Here Baez elaborates on his “why,” explaining his inspiration for working with young people as a Sing for Hope Artist Partner:

“Every child is born a poet” – Piri Thomas

The Nuyorican writer/poet, Piri Thomas, believed that every child is inherently a poet, but that society and socialization strips them of their liberated and liberating artistic inclination and convinces them otherwise. For me, the discovery that I was and am a creator and imaginer of things—artist, poet, musician, dramatist, actor, dreamer—has served as an empowering and enfranchising tool and shield against all those who told me that there were things that I was not qualified to do in life. 

Art is both the great equalizer and the grand liberator. With Sing for Hope, I work to bring (back) to light that artistic spirit and confidence in every child (and adult) by helping students shine in their own poetic, artistic, theatrical beauty, and free themselves of all fear and indoctrination so that they can realize their own liberating artistry and begin to live and think freely, as a true artist, as they see fit. 

Sing for Hope’s workshop program at Inwood Early College represents art as equalizer and liberator in multiple forms: both in their familiarity and dexterity using creative tools for self-expression, and in the direct and transferable skills that come from improved English language acquisition. 

Translation: Because of SIng for Hope’s theater workshop, now I am able to participate more in class.

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