Since we are a JK-12 school there is a fun extra layer of insanity since we can do things across grades. Last year we joined my 3rd graders with the 7th grade choir and sang selections from Joseph And The Technicolor Dreamcoat. This year we decided to continue this tradition and have the 3rd graders perform “Love Train” with the 6th grade choir.
The medley from Joseph And The Technicolor Dreamcoat matched perfectly with the 7th grader'ss study of show tunes and my 3rd grader’s study of telling stories through music. Also since Joseph has a children’s choir part in the original production, making it musically appropriate to have the 3rd graders sing this song.
This year, we went through a bunch of different ideas and landed on “Love Train” by the O’Jays. My brother introduced this song to me. He got into soul music through my father’s love of Motown. I remember being bewildered about my brother’s fascination with this song and thinking that this song was really corny. But my brother’s enthusiasm for this song won me over and soon I began to appreciate the incredible singing, and instrumental background in this song.
So I was sold immediately.
I introduced this song to my students with this video:
In the 1970s, before the internet people heard music from the radio and saw musicians on television shows. Unfortunately, a lot of these shows didn’t show African-American performers. So Don Cornelius create this show Soul Train and featured African-American music, musicians, fashion and dancing. Soul Train gave African-Americans pride and showed other people who weren’t African-Americans, the beauty and fun that was part of soul music.The 6th grade choir teacher came in and helped teach my 3rd graders, which they loved. I reinforced the work the 6th grade teacher did and as I taught them, most of the 3rd graders could not help dancing as we sang this song. So our high school choir teacher came up with a dance, which our kids loved.
Yesterday we put the 3rd graders together with the 6th grade and it was a blast. My 3rd graders brought really great energy to the song and were very attentive in a different teaching situation.
The 6th graders sang well and had a pretty good class, but they weren’t perfect. There was a moment when the 6th grade choir teacher had to discipline on of his students, they didn’t start the class with a good level of energy and they were a little chatty. My 3rd graders noticed these things and later when we talked about it, they asked questions about how the 6th graders worked. I explained that while they are older, they are students too and we work on the same things. “Sometimes we are a little chatty in 3rd grade music, and sometimes I need to help you stay focused, right?” I explained.
As we continued to talk one of my students asked why we are doing this project with the 6th grade. I turned this question around and asked them why they thought we are doing this project. They came up with answer related to the music and singing with different members of our community and I added, that one important reason we are doing this is because of this conversation we were having.
Next week is going to stressful with not only the performance of "Love Train," but also with all of my middle school groups performing as well. It'll be crazy, but I don't think I'd want it any other way.