Edutopia: Kids Like Blues: Using Music and Video to Rock Your Classroom

9 11 2012

This is awesome! I have students comment all the time (seriously, at least once a week) that I look like Jack Black (if he were bald, I guess). It’s usually followed by a mention of School of Rock, and how I should teach a class like that. I love that movie, and would love to teach kids how to rock (despite my well-documented lack of musical ability).

This story makes me think that maybe I should try. I’m curious how it would work with middle school kids, and especially what the teacher next door would think. Actually, I think he’d be down with it.

– dEV

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Kids Like Blues: Using Music and Video to Rock Your Classroom

Edutopia LogoJon Schwartz, Second Grade Teacher from Oceanside, CA

October 24, 2012

When I started playing blues songs for my first grade students, I never imagined I was introducing a fantastic launching point for thematic, standards-based teaching. We soon formed The Kids Like Blues Band, and since last March we’ve used blues songs as a springboard for teaching academic content standards in reading, writing, listening, speech, social studies, technology, and the visual and performing arts. So far we’ve played at a street fair, for staff and students at the Cal State San Marcos College of Education, and even live on local TV news and KPBS TV. We’re a real band, and the students are fully engaged, learning and rocking!

Happy to Sing the Blues

How does this method work? First, I introduce a song and apply the rhythm and cadence of these lyrics to an understanding of the historical background. Songs are carefully selected to have appropriate levels of syllabication, vocabulary, imagery and subject matter that lead into history, myths or folktales. Students learn phonics through pointing and tracking to lyrics on score sheets kept in individual student binders.

Lyrics are practiced daily in large and small groups to get the correct pitch, modulation, tone, syllabication, meter and phrasing. Children even sneak practices during free time. After learning the lyrics, students with creative dance skills choreograph the piece (without my help!) and we rehearse more. Then, it is a “gig” at a talent show, street fair or community event.

Last spring, Professor of Education Dr. Leslie Mauerman thought so much of our work that she had us play for an audience of staff and graduate students at Cal State San Marcos College of Education.

Our blues band work meets the needs of a wide variety of students with different learning styles and preferences, including kinesthetic, auditory and visual learners. Oftentimes, a student is paired with another learner to work on skill deficiencies. Collaboration nurtures natural talent and leadership. Shy students gain confidence, high performing and GATE (Gifted And Talented Education) students achieve new levels of mastery, non-native English speakers improve language, and slower readers learn reading at a higher level of complexity.

(Full Story)




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