Slice of Life, the weekly series, Chapter 6

(This is part of a weekly feature called Slice of Life Project)

Poetry ended on a humorously macabre note in class yesterday as we wrote out some epitaphs for fictional characters, my classroom mascot (an old stuffed polar bear who has lost a lot of beans this year), and anyone they wanted, including themselves. Many of my young writers chose to eulogize their long-lost, but not forgotten, pets in their short gravestone poems.

Now, I shift into songwriting, and it always makes me a bit nervous. But I know it is a lot of fun and something completely different for my students.

Here is what we do:

  • We examine some lyrics and songs that they are (hopefully) familiar with. Today, we’ll be listening to the Goo Goo Dolls (Better Days) and Green Day (Good Riddance) and thinking of how the poetic devices we have used in poetry is used in songwriting and lyrics. I will be bringing in my acoustic guitar and trying to coax them to sing the Green Day song with me.
  • Tomorrow, I will bring in my electric guitar, drum machine and set up a little PA system with microphones in my classroom. I then have a worksheet that has them reflect on songwriting, and then I play them a song that I wrote called Just Believe. My song has a missing verse, and their job is to write a verse, and then … come up to the front of the room on the following day, and sing it the song with me.
  • Last year, I tried to record some of the kids singing, but it was too loud and distorted even for me to listen to. We’ll see about this year.

I love the intersection of the arts and writing, and I see some of my students suddenly think of songs in a different way after these lessons. And I try to remind them that anyone can write a song and everyone SHOULD write a song (at least once in life). The combination of words, music and rhythm are a powerful medium of expression.

And speaking of music, tonight is our school’s Talent Show (the teacher who organizes it whispered to me yesterday, ‘we’re going to start calling it Variety Show to be a bit more accurate in what it is ‘ and then laughed). Each year, the staff puts on an act, and this year, we are performing Stray Cat Strut (by Stray Cats) as a live band. I am playing the saxophone and singing some of the lead parts, and we are going to ham the whole thing up as much as possible. It should be fun.

Music will be a big part of today, that’s for sure.

Peace (in rock and roll),

  1. I am reading and returning to my classroom filled with movement. The end of the hallway, allowing for movement and creative “noise. How can we get more teachers to let go and get silly? There I am singing a Bonnie Raitt song, and play my guitar. Wish I could have written something, wish I had the equipment but just the opportunity to sit in that circle and share a song they cared about. I’m remembering. What a way to start the day and to think I have a guitar lesson in an hour.
    Thanks Kevin for taking me back and sharing your day to come,

  2. What a great way to teach your students about poetry and the use of poetry in music lyrics. The utilization of so many of the senses in your teaching method is one of the ways that the children will always have the memory of this awesome way of teaching. I love reading about your teaching techniques and the stories about your students.

  3. Sounds like fun!

    My class mascot, Mr. Jingles, lost a lot of his stuffing this year too. My class was devastated when I had to take him home!

  4. I’d love to hear you at the “Variety Show”! Hope it went well.
    Thank you for your comments on my blog. . . your post about Love That Dog sent me in search of the poem in the first place and then we had so much fun with it, so thank you for your inspiration.

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