Click here to read the complete original story “Gift of a Slave” by Talcott 4th graders.
Gift of a Slave
Watch two scenes of a performance rehearsal below:
Teaching Artist Reflection: Emily did a wonderful job prepping the students regarding folktales and US history of slavery so that they had a deep background of factual knowledge and understanding to apply to our creative task of writing and dramatizing our own folktale. I followed a brainstorming process with the students enabling them to create their own timeline of events which we then expanded together scene by scene into a narrative/dialogue story. It seemed to make writing fun for them; many are ESL but still participated fully. We also did a lot of acting out of scenes which we then wrote out so that the kids would kinesthetically and visually understand something before they turned it into a written product. They also seemed to enjoy making the masks.
MCLT Reflection: Although our project with 4th grade began late (due to scheduling conflicts) I feel that our students were able to learn so much about writing a folk tale because of Ms. Mendez's strong leadership. She wanted her students to understand the genre and gave them many assignments to help them be creative in their writing. The students used their imaginations because Ms. Mendez helps the students to "see" the story as she teaches. Ms. Lisa and Ms. Mendez were able to work closely together to develop the story writing and keep the children engaged in the process.
Teacher Reflection: I was a bit hesitant working on the cape project for the first time this year, it was a bit intimidating when you know nothing about integrating with a teaching artist in the classroom. As the process finally began it became quite clear where we were headed with the project. In class we integrated social studies, literacy, and writing with our lesson on story genre African American Folktales and Myth. Connecting Folktale to social studies and the study of a politics to illinois through Abraham Lincoln and the emancipation proclamation. All of which covers our common core context that by the end of the year, students can read and comprehend literature, including stories (various genres), dramas, and poetry. Ms. Lisa and Mrs. Ramos were the excellent resource and vehicle to combine my classroom lesson with the arts. They meet each child needs and questions, through TPR (total physical response) approach to reach my EL (English Language Learners) and my special needs students. To meeting the needs of my other students to pushing their thinking beyond the textbook, into thier own lives and experiences. They tapped into each child's emotional and intellectual approach to narrating their own folktales, and combining their own level of expertise to the dialogue.
What did not work?
Teaching Artist Reflection: 4th graders are a bit young to apply author's craft even if they are starting to explore and study it, so the writing process took time, but I wouldn't say it didn't work. It seemed challenging yet interesting to them judging by their participation and enthusiasm. I am actually pleasantly surprised by how deeply invested they have been in the story writing process and how compassionately they express the plight of the slaves in their writing. Sometimes getting them to use their vocabulary was difficult, but acting out a scene to imply an appropriate adverb was often the key to unlocking their creativity.
MCLT Reflection: I feel that the writing process took a long time. I would have liked to develop the musical elements of African music and spirituals, however, the students were slowly learning the process of writing and wanting to be so detailed. The details are what they really enjoyed in the writing but it tended to limit our exploration of music because the story took too long to write.
Teacher Reflection: I am quite happy with the given experience that the students were given in writing their own folktale, and the opportunity to understand how difficult it is to organize and develop a script for both the actors and the audience. Time was not on my side this year, with all the testing and scheduling issues we had really did hinder on the planning and execution of our musical aspect of the story. But the experience and the craft and the dedication of the teachers and students was still amazing.
What questions do you still have?
Teaching Artist Reflection: I would like to know exactly what Ms. Mendez covered in terms of curriculum prior to my visits, as the students were thoroughly invested in this subject and completely prepared to engage with me in the story writing and acting exercises as well as the drumming.
MCLT Reflection: I wonder how I can further develop this unit. Next time should we just start with the music classroom elements and not introduce the story writing until at least four lessons in music class have been done, this way there would have been more of a connection to the unit with music rather than only writing.
Teacher Reflection: I would like a do over, but sadly i cannot have such a thing. I do wonder if we would have started with folktale, poetry and music first would that have made a difference with the out come? Instead of starting with the study of Abraham Lincoln and his participation in the liberating the slaves through the Emancipation Proclamation.
What new ideas do you have?
Teaching Artist Reflection: When in doubt, act it out! Or draw a picture, or write a story. . .we provided the students with multiple ways to add their ideas to our script, and so they all were able to contribute and participate.
MCLT Reflection: I really LOVE how the students were led by Ms. Lisa in writing their story. Their story will become a book!!! How exciting!. Could we write a book every year?
Teacher Reflection: Scheduling!!!! I don't have control of what must be done in terms of testing, but maybe play around with my classroom schedule to better fit the teaching artist. I also love how Ms. Lisa was so involved and patients with the writing process of the classroom folktale.