This pilot engagement project explored how dance and movement can contribute to the development of Welsh as a second language for young people and their parents in north Merthyr.
The project partners - Cardiff University, POSSIB: Voices In Art, Menter Iaith Merthyr Tudful and 3Gs Development Trust - worked with six primary schools in North Merthyr on a programme of bilingual dance and movement workshops. Overall, 535 pupils and school staff took part in the project.
Each week, pupils took part in an hour of dance workshops, where they practised the sounds and phrases of the Welsh language by associating them with particular movements. Some of the movement content was already choreographed, and other parts were created by the pupils themselves. Evaluation of the project took place through direct observation and participatory methods. Approximately 100 pupils across three schools were observed as part of the research.
Out of the three schools observed as part of the evaluation, one school took part in participatory evaluation: a small group of pupils was trained in research methods and video-interviewed their fellow class mates and teachers. Over three intensive workshops pupils learned about what research and evaluation is, they developed an interview schedule and practised interviewing each other using iPads, before conducting interviews with their classmates and teachers. This elicited a deeper level of understanding about the impact of the project than the observation could have achieved alone.
- The project enabled pupils to engage with Welsh as a second language through embodied practice, which was successful in retaining pupils’ attention and focus. Pupils reported that they enjoyed the dance workshops and that it helped them to vocalise some of the sounds of the Welsh language.
- Retention of Welsh words improved when they were accompanied by the corresponding dance moves, so pupils were more likely to remember certain phrases when they were actually doing the moves, rather than from memory alone. The delivery of the sessions took place bilingually which expanded the range of vocabulary pupils were exposed to.
- Pupils commented that they would like to be involved in a continuation of the project, and made suggestions on how it could be developed in terms of both new Welsh vocabulary and collaborative dance practice.
- Pupils reported a boost in their confidence and a sense of coming together from their participation in the Big Dance Pledge in Penderyn Square, Merthyr town centre. They described how good it felt to be dancing all together and having people clap and cheer for them afterwards.
- Teaching staff valued the project as an innovative approach to learning Welsh as a second language and to engaging pupils in an alternative way. Teachers also commented on the success of the project in engaging pupils with additional learning needs, and that learning through dance was a much welcomed ‘release’ from the classroom environment.
As part of the University's Partnering for Change exhibition in November 2016, pupils from the project schools were invited to visit Cardiff Bay. In addition to viewing the exhibition - which included a stand showcasing the Dawnsio'r Lingo project - they toured the Senedd and met with their Assembly Member for the first time.
The project has deepened the partnership between the University, POSSIB and 3Gs Development Trust in North Merthyr, and future collaborative activities are planned.
For more information about the project, please contact: