The School at Columbia
Proposal submitted by Kate Chechak
In a third grade classroom where reading, writing, math and social studies, as well as the arts, are taught in an integrated fashion, this class embarked upon a study of poetry. The unit began by reading and writing poetry. Students were asked: Why is this important? What does this poem really mean? In addition to reading and writing poems during reader’s and writer’s workshop, students were also learning interpretive dance in the Dance Studio. Each student memorized a particular poem by Langston Hughes and then recited their poem to the class. As they recited their poems, students spontaneously added interpretive dance to their poems. When asked: What did you just learn? They realized that poetry could be enjoyed through reading, writing and dancing. They then asked to record their own poems and use them for interpretive dance in dance class. They were showed how to use Garage Band (a software program that not only records voice but allows the user to choose from hundreds of musical instruments and sounds). Looking at lyrics to music they were singing in music class, for instance, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” students began to see that this song was not about climbing mountains and crossing rivers for someone. Upon further analysis: “What do you think this song is really about?” The students concluded it is about caring for someone so much that you would be there for them no matter what. Students began to see some of their own poetry as music.
Upon being asked what they wanted to do next, students asked to put their poems to music. Listening to the artist, Air, students began to identify tracks in songs as layers. This laid the, groundwork for them to weave music over their poems. Students began to identify rhythm, through repetition and breaks in music. Using the software program Garage Band allowed students to mix in any genre, cultural music and instruments that they envisioned. Each child’s music matched the mood and added to the interpretive value of their poems. They requested the opportunity to work towards an album of published work.
Using Garage Band allowed the children to explore the trimesters’ concept of movement through words, music and dance. They were able to record their voice, add music if they like and then produce a song that could easily be sent to the dance teacher and played that day during dance class.