Final Reflections



original lyrics & melody by 5th graders at Chopin School;
edited and transcribed by Teaching Artist Lisa Golda

Here are all the characters in Esperanza Rising! It is going to be so surprising!
There will be no disguising, but there will be some summarizing!

Esperanza is so caring, Esperanza plums was peeling, Esperanza is full of feeling.
The babies were crying, Esperanza was sweeping. But in the end: everyone was sleeping!

Abuelita was strong, Abuelita was wise. She saw fear in Esperanza’s eyes.
She told Tio Luis lifesaving lies; she gave her granddaughter Esperanza a surprise. . .

Esperanza’s mother was brave and kind; so brave, she left everything behind.
Tio Luis hired guys to commit a murdering crime; Ramona went to California a job to find. .

Tio Luis was mean and frowned. He was trying to push them around. He stole the family’s crown and he’s a clown; he burned their mansion down to the ground. . .

What worked?

Teaching Artist Reflection: The literacy goal of understanding character traits was a great way to experience the book for kids this age, as well as a concrete theme with regarding to organizing their thoughts for song lyrics and acting out the characters. They required almost no acting coaching as to presenting the book characters in their final song because their experience of reading the book WAS an extended character study. Their acting choices are fruitful, logical, and communicative, and their song lyrics illustrative. Two students also explained in a video interview, using examples from the book, why they felt the song should sound happy vs. sad. They each had different yet logical opinions about this. So it seems to be that they really understand the connection between musical expression and emotional situation, at least. They were also so invested in the theme and characters by the time it came time to stage their song that they knew what roles they wanted to act out and why. The book gave them a concrete basis for their artistry.

MCLT Reflection: This project was amazing in it's scope and depth. The kids were asked to not only write lyrics and a melody to a song based upon their reading of a lengthy chapter book, but also to help block and stage the song with props. Fourth grade?! I thought this would be far too much to ask. I was wrong. The kids were invested in the process and were eager to bring the entire project to a performance quality conclusion. This performance was artistically and educationally sound. The lyrics, props and performance encapsulated setting and character of the novel very well.

Teacher Reflection:There’s academic connection between music, art, acting, & language arts. This phenomenal experience allowed me to explore how students’ comprehension level has increased due to the integration of academic subjects. Students are usually interested in music and art; therefore, they were motivated to read the novel and complete the activities. We were able to apply various focus skills to improve students’ comprehension. We covered so many aspects of Language Arts. Students had the privilege to work with four different teachers. It was an opportunity offered, it was up to the students to pursue it & students did an outstanding job. I think this project illustrates exposing the students to multiple learning tools and watch students blossom.

What did not work?

Teaching Artist Reflection: I think that the sock puppets project was a great attempt but their sewing skills were not quite up to the task. They enjoyed it very much however and a few kids made some very cute puppets. Asking them to describe music they heard "stories without words" was difficult for them. It was a really good challenge, and I wouldn't say it "didn't work", but I think that they need more practice analyzing very simple music, such as a trio or a folk song, for instruments, tonality, range, etc.. before gworks as we presented to them (Copland's Billy the Kid). It was just too much sound for them.

MCLT Reflection: I would love to have the benefit of hindsight... But then wouldn't we all? The amount of skills we needed at the end of this project needs better understanding at the beginning so no time is wasted. Wasted may be the wrong word. Inefficiently used might be better. The students learned at every stage of the process. However, the skills we were using at the end could always use refinement and enhancement. Having a clearer understanding of what the end point requires is something that I will always be working on as a teacher.

Teacher Reflection:I believe the timing was a bit off due to many assessments scheduled after the winter break. We started on this project while we were preparing our students for multiple standardized tests; therefore, we were on & off on our schedule to complete this project’s activities. My suggestions would be to start at an early date. Another challenge in 4th grade was the lack of experience from both “Me & My students”. This was the third year of this project, but the first year for us.

What questions do you still have?

Teaching Artist Reflection: I would like to try teaching kids to analyze classical music from simple to complex. I forget how much musical language I understand now until I see them react to these pieces like it is a bunch of sonic mush; which is how it sounded to me early on, too!

MCLT Reflection: How much composition can fourth grade legitimately accomplish? We created a melody in C using hand bells as the primary instrument. Students wrote pitch names, but not any duration or time signatures. We gave them options and they chose the option that appealed to them the most. Is it possible to have fourth grade students notate melodies? Dotted rhythms? 6/8 time? We didn't have the time to develop those skills, but that doesn't mean it isn't tenable.

Teacher Reflection:I would like to know if this amazing opportunity will be offered in the next few years.

What new ideas do you have?

Teaching Artist Reflection: I would be interested in doing an entire literacy unit for a year around one book. I wonder if that perfect book exists. Some books have great characters and lackluster prose/author's craft; some are beautifully written technically but not very compelling.

MCLT Reflection:I have a much better understanding of using literacy, especially novels, and music as an integrated curriculum thematic unit. Taking a chapter book of that depth and complexity, and being unafraid to use it in the 4th grade is powerful. The potential is limitless.

Teacher Reflection:My suggestion is to have a complete unit of integrations including assessment. We did use the portfolios as assessments; however, in language arts, I would love to see various types of assessments in addition to portfolios and reflections.

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