My students have been working on a Musicology Project (see directions here)--in short, a project where they write about songs that mean something to them and the lyrics that strike a particular chord. The project serves several purposes: it lets me get to know them; it gives me a formative writing assessment; it teaches them to cite properly; I can use it to teach narrative technique; they have to use evidence (story) to back up their points; it allows for a discussion of the importance of storytelling to humanity in general.
Today was the day they started presenting, but the real genesis of today's success appeared yesterday.
Some time ago, I read an article about a teacher having his/her students partner up after writing personal narratives, and then presenting each others' stories to the class. But they had this twist--the students had to read the stories out loud as if the stories were their own, keeping them in first person. So, if Cheryl was my partner, and her story was about leaving Seattle for the last time, I would have to tell the story to the class as if it were me leaving Seattle, even though I have never been there. (I have no idea where I read this. If someone reading this article recognizes the source, please email me and tell me, so I can link back to it.)
That idea was in the back of my mind yesterday when my students commenced their typical caterwauling about not wanting to present in front of their peers. The synapses started to connect, however, when one girl asked Can we just present someone else's? Normally, the reflex answer is No, but this time, remembering the article, I agreed. We have been working on stereotypes/archetypes anyway, and what better way to confront stereotypes than to literally make students tell stories from someone else's point of view, especially if that somebody was sitting in the room with them?
Here were the specs for their presentations, as given to them:
- You should read their story to the class. I’d prefer it to be one of the longer stories. You MUST read it aloud to us in FIRST PERSON.
- Play a 30s clip of the song-- a non-profane part.
- Answer, in writing, the following:
- How does it feel to read the other person’s story in the first person?
- What stereotypical type of teen did you think your partner was before reading their story? (prep, goth, jock, frat boy/sorority girl wannabe, rich kid, nerd, drama queen, etc.)
- How does the story you read about them confirm or contradict the stereotype?
- How did your opinion/perception of your partner/classmates change based on these presentations?
And dude, did they ever get into this. I had to talk them out of doing impersonations of each other during presentations (because that could get a little nasty--they are 15).
Today's presentations included "Why Georgia" (John Mayer), "100 Years" (Five For Fighting), "1000 Miles" (Vanessa Carlton), and "We Are Young" (fun.). "Why Georgia" was first, and the guy presenting it sang along to the clip (which I have on video, but cannot share because he's not 18). He got the high notes and everything. When we got to the others, though, lots of people started singing along. And this wasn't one of those "a couple people singing under their breath in the corner." This was a "ten-to-twelve people singing together, sort of on key, in unison, not under their breath." People laughed at each other in a gentle way; they smiled, they acted silly.
I watched a class come together as a unit today, and it was a beautiful, beautiful thing.
This is the kind of event that can't be measured on a standardized test. Someday, when these kids are grown up, they might remember the rules for citing song lyrics in a paragraph. But they will, every single one of them, remember the day they all sang "We Are Young" together, even the people who hate the song because it has been massively overplayed.
This is the kind of day that #coflip is all about. This is community.
(Note: I will write a follow-up in a few days about the stereotypes part of the activity; not enough have presented yet for them to do this part.)