Teaching Artist Phil Dickey taught a songwriting class to first graders at Willard South Elementary School. The students had just learned the vocabulary words "composer" and "performer" as part of the classroom curriculum. Our goal was to show them the process of becoming composers and performers.
I brought a guitar and drum set with me and showed the class how I use melody, lyrics, and rhythm to write a song. We used a familiar melody (“This Little Light of Mine") to help us write lyrics. The class brainstormed and voted for their favorite ideas. After practicing it a couple times, I played the song on guitar and recorded everyone singing along. The kids were excited to hear their recording played at the end of class.
I started the class by explaining different parts of a song:
Each class wrote a verse and a chorus about their favorite kind of tag (Bear Tag, Shark Tag, Freeze Tag, and one I had never heard of---Toilet Tag. Their PE coach just taught it to them, so it passed the test of being classroom appropriate). We used the melody and structure of a song by Harry and the Potters to help us get started. Once again, we brainstormed as a group and recorded our new song together. We even learned a new vocabulary word when we voted : compromise.
We brought some materials and supplies to make the music video: a homemade green screen, silly string, a guitar, and crazy sunglasses. We filmed them shooting silly string, playing tag, and dancing as well as pretending to play a real guitar in front of the green screen.
My band (Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin) performed the songs that the class wrote. The kids got to sing and dance along to each song. I introduced the band and talked about our instruments (drums, bass, guitar, and piano). After the concert, each student was given a CD with their songs and a blank CD case. Everyone got to design their own album cover with markers. Then we all exchanged autographs.
Academic and Social Impacts
- Connecting classroom concepts (vocabulary words) with real experiences
- Applying concepts to work through the creative process
- Meeting people working in the arts; getting a sense of what a career in the arts entails
- Connecting learning with creativity to provide a creative outlet
- Encouraging artistic expression
- Empowering students to see themselves as creators of art and music and feel more connected to the arts
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