Monday, March 3, 2014

Chapter One - Out Of The Box for Innovation (Part 6)

There needed to be something to rely on and there was no money to buy formal published musicals or plays  and the students were not ready to learn at such a sophisticated level. I determined to simply record  background tracks so that I could be free to observe the students and be able to work with them on their  interpretations and practice sessions while playing the recorded music. That is how the project began. Of  course there was nothing simple about making the recorded music as it necessitated hours of orchestrating  quality sounds on a synthesizer/keyboard and then transferring the created soundscapes to a computer and  finally making a successful music track that could support the whole concept. Oh yes, and then there were the private lessons with the sound engineer so that I could learn how to do such a project. There was nothing simple about this at all! 

I chose songs from traditional children’s music that included evocative movement, sung calls with purposeful responses, and lyrics that directed the activities to provide the engagement. The original background tracks  utilized fully orchestrated sounds to enhance the character of the song as well as to set the parameters for  interaction. The songs all included some kind of game or action that established the rules for the students in   taking turns, playing roles, assuming leadership positions, and following directions. This was a successful  answer to managing the situation and everyone felt secure about the expectations and objectives of the  activities while having fun. Having fun really was an essential ingredient as this was an after-school and summer camp program and not school!

There still were no videos as that was an idea yet to be imagined. We were still focused on creating some  kind of performance based on a musical support track. The students enjoyed creating their own versions of  moving to (choreographing) and presenting the story line to the basic tune and developing a short play to  share with other students and parents. These interactive endeavors promoted practice in social skills as well  as providing physical activity which is a much needed element for after-school programs.

Click to Read Part 5 of Chapter One
Click to Read Part 7 of Chapter One


  1. Jan,
    It's Michael from WriteWriteWrite. Not being an educator, I can't critique the blog intelligently except to say that I don't see any problem using the Brer Rabbit reference and I don't see anything wrong with the "old white honkey lady" reference but in the accompanying photographs, there are no pictures of any other race but white children, at least up to chapter 6. That makes it sound like a reference "story" and makes it's verisimilitude suspect.
    It's funny but your approach seems very intuitive. If it isn't currently being used, it should be adopted by everyone. Even a lay person such as myself can see how effective it would be. mb

  2. Dear Michael,
    What an astute review and comment! Regarding the pictures - you are mostly right as the only photos that I had were from the filming of video songs #2-4 and the children included in these photos are white. This was not planned - just happened in the photo process. Actually, some of the children from the program are pictured in the photo on the upper right side just above the title on this blog site - the picture with me in the purple clothing and raising my hands. Unfortunately, the entire after-school program was cancelled just as we started the filming process and the only video that has some of the original children in it is the one about the When Cats Get up in the Morning (Jungle version) which was the first one produced. There are children of color in #6 and 7 - but I don't have photos to share - however I can offer some video clips and will do so. Thanks for your attention to detail.
    Also, please note that you are reading chapter one, posting #6 and not chapter 6. It takes a long time to publish a book via the blog method and according to the book on blogging a book I need to make several blogs a day in order to make the book a realistic form for people to recognize and to get it noticed by those who watch blogs. I will be posting chapters two and three this week so that it will begin to make more sense to the readers. Please be patient - I am so appreciative that you took the time to read and comment. Also, the demise of the after school program is mentioned in a later chapter - so the reader does have this issue explained to them. Yes, the approach is intuitive and so effective - as you note - but the huge problem is 'how' to create the presentation so that the students get engaged. This is why the video songs are so important because they offer the audio-visual support for the activities while the students in the video demonstrate the activity, game or play to be acted out. This frees the teacher from this presentation - and most teachers are not trained in entertainment techniques or musical theater much less music production - so that they can use their valuable time to observe the students as they perceive the content and transfer the descriptive activities to their own expression. The teacher can then better understand what challenges the children have and then serve more as a coach or mentor in solving those responses to the skill development necessary. Again, thanks so much for your sincere questions. Jan Magray.


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