Friday, November 25, 2016

Year 7: Week 13 – A New Kind Of Sharing Night

Every year the week after we get back from our 5th grade Lorado Taft trip, we put on a sharing presentation for the parents and the families. Students in the past wrote out a short reflection, read this out loud in front of the audience and the students perform a couple songs.

We encourage our students to try new things and to challenge traditions. In this same spirit we decided to re-conceptualize this sharing presentation. The Monday after we got back from the trip (we came back on a Friday), we gave the students a choice on how they wanted to follow-up on the trip. The idea was that students could revisit an activity they did on the trip and have time to develop it with more depth. The students could decide between art, writing, making a model of the shelter they built and doing some music work.

In music class a couple weeks before the trip, we began working on contrafacta. This is the process of creating new lyrics for an existing song (e.g. the new lyrics Bernie Taupin wrote for “Candle In the Wind” to honor Princess Diana). I made it clear that we were not writing parodies and that their new lyrics should express similar emotions to the original song.

The students got to choose between three different songs that we had been working on. I encouraged students to choose a song that they felt like they knew well or had an emotional context that they could relate to. Students did really well with this project. I had to put in some structures like the fact that it had to be non-fiction and it didn’t have to have a rhyme scheme which for most students helped them be productive.

During the trip, we gave the students time to revisit this contrafactum project. They were asked this time to use this project to reflect on their experience on the trip. Students could write lyrics about anything from the trip, including the bus ride, eating lunch, and going on hikes.

The extension piece for the presentation gave students time to finish the lyrics, make an edited final draft and record themselves or someone else singing their lyrics with me accompanying them on guitar. We did these recordings on Garage Band, exported them, uploaded them on to Google Drive and shared them with the students.

The night of the sharing each student stood behind tables arranged on our auditorium stage. Among the art work, the writing and the models, the music students had an iPad set-up with two pairs of headphones hooked up through a splitter to the iPad. Then people walked around, and picked up the headphones and listened to the students simply playing them through Google Drive, while looking through drafts of their lyrics.

This was a really great way to give students the time and the freedom to reflect on the trip in a way that was meaningful to them. The technology use for the music students was great and another really special dimension to the whole experience. We did start and end this convention style sharing with the whole class singing songs together.

It’s a wonderful thing when students have the space to follow their own passions and their own interest. It was a tough thing to do organizationally, but it was well worth it. The students work made this feel less like a sharing and more like a celebration.

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