Sergio Huaracha was not happy with the test score he received in a bench mark prep test used to prepare students for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR). The 8th grader at A.P. Solis Middle School knew he needed to do something to turn things around.

That is when the 16-year-old migrant student whose first language is Spanish turned to Irma Carballo who teaches his English as a Second Language (ESL) class. Together, they came up with a plan. He would use his passion playing the accordion and his love of music to help him better understand and learn science. For months, Huaracha would listen to tunes at home and incorporate his own version with terms related to science. He was allowed to bring his accordion and practice in his ESL class.

“I came up with songs and used words about science like atomic number, atomic mass and neutrons,” Huaracha said. “The lyrics were helping me focus. I saw the difference when I took my science benchmark earlier this year. I did 20 percent better. Hopefully, my music will help when I take the real test.”

1Huaracha’s teacher was so impressed with the spike in his confidence level and score improvement that she thought his classmates could benefit from his accordion music as well. She had them join him in learning the songs during class. “I’ve noticed a difference in the whole class,” Carballo said. “Most of my students are recent immigrants with this year being their first year in the United States. To help them succeed, we need to use different strategies. I’m very proud of them. Three of them have already passed the STAAR in Math. We hope they do just as well in the science STAAR.”

Principal Mary Lou Rodriguez said the science STAAR test is not easy which is why it is important to find ways to help students prepare for the required exam. “These students have many challenges to begin with because of the language barrier,” Rodriguez said. “They have to know the content in the STAAR test and how to transfer that knowledge from English to Spanish then back to English and answer correctly, so it’s quite an effort on their part.”

accordion 3The extra effort Huaracha and his classmates are putting into learning science has made Rodriguez proud. “We have seen Sergio in action,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a very impressive young man with so much potential. Using the accordion and music is just one of those bright things that we see from him. He’s able to piece music together based on what he hears and put it to science knowledge. Other students are learning from him and getting involved in learning the different material with music. That’s awesome and exciting to see it.”

Rodriguez said this learning process says a lot about their students. “It says that our students are capable regardless of where they come from. They’re all capable of learning. There are just different types of learners and we just need to tap into how they learn so we can help them here at Donna ISD.”

Action 4 News Coverage Video: https://youtu.be/ps__y3HzuMM

Classroom Practice:  https://youtu.be/b69ARkAMoOc