Two weeks ago we started the dreaded WKCE (Our standardized testing) and I could tell that kids were stressed over whether or not they would do well on these horrid tests. It is not that I am totally against tests, I am not, but these ones do nothing for my instruction. They are so secretive, that we must sign confidentiality agreements, and lock them up after each session, just in case someone uninvited wanted to sneak a peek at them. What’s worse is that we do not get the results until March, so how are they supposed to inform my instruction? I am at the very least staying hopeful since we have been promised that this type of test will be phased out within the next years, to be replaced by something else.
Either way, here were my poor students getting more frazzled as the testing week grew closer so I suggested we sing a song to lighten the mood a bit. I wish this were my idea but it is really inspired by this post from Greta Sandler and this one by Joan Young. I love singing, in fact, I sing all of the time. I sing instructions to my students, I ask for their attention through singing, and at home I am unstoppable show-tune belter. I majored in music in my native Denmark, and always thought I was going to be a performer. (I guess that sort of came true as we do nothing short of perform every day in front of our students). But I digress. I asked my students which song they would like to sing? Crickets…. Then I asked them which song did they know? Row, Row, Row your boat was one option and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star was another. Not to be discouraged, we sang a hearty rendition of Row, Row, Row Your Boat, or rather I sang my little heart out while the students mumbled under their breath.
That day, I told my husband my horror of how few songs they knew. You see, in Denmark, you sing all of the time in schools. We sing at every assembly, we sing with our teachers; music is everywhere so by the time you graduate you have quite the repertoire of well-known and beloved songs that the rest of the Danish population also knows and will gladly sing with you at a festive gathering. Oh, my stoic American husband absolutely died when he realized how much my family sings. So what’s a teacher to do?
I have long been a believer in exposing students to poetry that is not deemed “kid poetry” so I took the same approach to songs. So Tuesday’s are now Music/Poetry days in my room. We take a classic song – our first one was “Imagine” by John Lennon, the students predict what the theme is based on the title and then we listen to it. Students are asked to write down anything they think of while they listen. Afterwards we read the lyrics and it is now up to the students to figure out what the song is really about. So ta da; we are now teaching inference and they don’t even know it. The best part is; the kids then want to sing the song, and then sing it some more. In fact, “Imagine” has become our go-to song whenever we need a break. The parents have noticed their kids coming home singing some of the classics. Students are even requesting to sing/learn certain songs now and I find myself constantly searching for songs that they may like or have a great message. “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2” was a favorite hit and the kids could not believe that I let them listen to the song, why not I say, it made them think after all.
So if you happen to be around my room, don’t be surprised if you hear kids belting out a tune. For this coming week, it will be one of my favorites again, “New York, New York” because after all “if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.” So why not let them sing, let them find their inner voice, who knows who you will inspire?