Classroom teachers at the newly combined Lafayette/Chopin school were excited to base their curriculum upon a novel this year, and also wanted to explore the Common Core learning standards for literacy. Students will explore foreshadowing by studying examples of it in both music and the novel “Esperanza Rising” by Pam Munoz Ryan, which is the story of a wealthy and somewhat spoiled Mexican girl who is forced to grow up too soon in the harsh and hard-working world of migrant farming in the US after her father is murdered and her mother falls ill. The kids will then compose their own lyrics and melody for a song that serves as a “foreshadowing” musical introduction to the novel. On the first day, the kids watched a musical number from “Annie,” “It’s A Hard Knock Life” , told from the point of view of overworked orphans in Miss Hannigan’s hellish home for girls. We started first with defining what a “Big Idea” actually is, then identified it in the musical selection by observing action, setting, and other literary elements, as well as by reading the lyrics and analyzing them for evidence to support our conclusion about the big idea. It was important to me to show the kids a clip of kids performing so that they could envision themselves onstage in the roles they will create, as well as to give them a musically realized example of children in a situation somewhat similar to Esperanza’s experiences as a migrant worker.
Laila is having her first year with CAPE and she is turning in great work at the start of the program. Here is her first analysis of “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana. We asked the kids to identify musical elements such as tempo, dynamics, range, and timbre. We found that they didn’t always tell us WHO in the orchestra was generating these elements, or WHEN. We decided then to approach analyzing music as if plotting events in a story.
Miss Lisa and Miss Caffarella worked together to teach the students about foreshadowing. Miss Lisa identified four elements whereby students can recognize it: ominous settings, mysterious symbols, characters’ actions or self-talk, and mood of text. Ms. Caffarella created a graphic organizer for these elements and used these colors to highlight a story she wrote about a surprise birthday party. The students then wrote their own stories, see here, and attempted to analyze them for the elements we had identified and practiced.
These students are doing rich work, in part because their teacher, Ms. Caffarella, has taken every opportunity to make connections with social studies, art, current events, and other ways in which Esperanza Rising might be relevant to her curriculum. She has created a novel board out in the hall which includes items they have studied such as historical photographs from the dust bowl era in which Esperanza would have been working the fields of California, and discussed President Obama’s comments regarding the current drought in CA with the students. They also do a variety of writing prompts regarding the book outside of our music classes, including work with proverbs, literacy questions, etc..
It is difficult to tell when looking at these portfolios whether we are in music class or the homeroom. And that is one sign of a successful integration.
Art Weible began working with the kids according to our plan, but used class time outside of CAPE to support our mutual goals. Kids were assigned a scene by Ms. Caffarella prior to music class which they would score in small groups using instruments provided by Mr. Weible. The results, viewable in this link, were fantastic! Below are the kids’ comments regarding why they chose the instruments they did to represent aspects of the novel scene, and how they felt about the activity. Next, they’ll be playing the music for those scenes while their classmates act them out. This activity helps the kids to understand, in combination with Mr. Weible’s lessons in “Stories Without Words,” how musical elements can tell a story, as well as acquainting them with orchestral families and programmatic classical masterpieces such as “Billy the Kid,” “O Fortuna” from Carmina Burana, and others, which are loosely related to themes within our focus novel.
Students act out the “heartbeat of the earth” scene from Esperanza Rising.
This is an example of work done outside of our music and drama classes in study of Esperanza Rising.
Here is a video of the composition process. Lyrics being set are: “She’s going to boarding school,” Tio Luis said. “You have to marry ME. Papa is dead.”
Students explain their composition process and how they felt about this activity.
Brandon explains his color coded approach to foreshadowing here:
Here, the students explain how they composed their short musical accompaniments for scenes from the book. VIDEO OK?
What you see here is just a fraction of what this class did, but towards the end of the unit, we completed their foreshadowing song, which was a challenge. We asked the kids to think about the lyrics as if they were writing a movie preview or giving hints to people who might read the book; what are the big conflicts in the story, and how can you create suspense about them in your potential readers (people who will attend our final program) without giving away the whole story? We identified those, brainstormed sentences about them, came up with rhymes, and pretty soon, we had a song. Students analyzed the rhyme scheme and structure of the early portions of the song so that they could follow the pattern.
Next, the students used handbells to create their own melodies for verses of the song in groups after we had modeled the process for the entire class on the chorus. These students had done this before the prior year for an instrumental composition. It worked better this time, both because of the previous exposure, and also, because they were setting words to music rather than creating an abstract composition.
“A rose will always bloom in red, a rose is dormant but it isn’t dead. Esperanza is the light of day, her faith will never go away.”
Luke explains why this integration made him a more “active reader”:
“You’re going to boarding school,” Tio Luis said, “You have to marry me, because Papa is dead.” Who’s going to boarding school? How did Papa die? Read Esperanza Rising if you want to know why.
Juliana reads her journal at the beginning of the lyric writing process:
“Esperanza’s luck has completely changed. Esperanza’s life has been rearranged. She and her family went from riches to rags. Now she’s the one filling bags. Will Esperanza mature? Will Esperanza grow up? Read the book to see if Esperanza will step up.”
Brandon explains why this made him a more active reader: