Friday, April 15, 2016

Year 6: Week 30 – Love Train

Sometimes you don’t realize a dream until it comes true.

Last year, we did a project in which we combined my third grade classes with one of the middle school choirs. It was a great experience for my students to sing with older choir. There were some great conversations about things they learned from working with each other. My third graders’ singing was initially more energetic and the middle school students sang with more accuracy and clarity. It was a fun project and we wanted to repeat it this year.

It’s tricky finding a song that works for both third grade and sixth grade musically and thematically, while supporting each grade’s curriculum. The choir teacher took the lead on finding a song and a couple weeks ago, he found this arrangement of “Put a Little Love In Your Heart,” mashed up with “Love Train.”

“Love Train” is one of my favorite songs of all time. I was introduced to this O’Jays classic by my brother. He took our dads enjoyment of Motown music (which I write about in this early blog post) and extended it into a fascination with 1970s rhythm and blues and soul music.

My brother was so into the O’Jays at a certain point that I couldn’t help but be into “Love Train.” The song is genuinely joyful, optimistic and the members of the O’Jays have incredible voices. There’s soul, there’s a little church in there and there’s joy coming out of word they sing.

I was getting excited, so to introduce this song with this clip of the O’Jays on Soul Train.

I prefaced this with telling them about why Soul Train was important. Nowadays with you can see your favorite artist perform anytime. Things were different in the 1970s. There were shows like American Bandstand that showed musicians but they were mostly Caucasian. Soul Train featured African-American musicians. I told them how this made African-Americans feel proud seeing their culture and music on televisions and how it enriched the lives of people who were Caucasian by exposing them to beautiful music, fashions and dancing.

After that introduction, I played the video. One of my students, an African-American girl, immediately lit up. She started bouncing in excitement in her seat and then popped out of her chair and started dancing. She exclaimed that she loved this song and how her dad liked this song. She simply could not contain herself. Her excitement spread through the class and by the time the video was done most of them were dancing and eager to start learning the song.

I’ve never seen as clear an example of the power of addressing diversity in a classroom.  Sharing this incredible song with these students felt like a dream come true.  Seeing that girl’s excitement confirmed to me how important is it to continue the mission of Soul Train and help students see themselves, each other and the plurality of our own culture reflected in the classroom.

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