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A week has passed since my last session with my 4th grade classes. I have to say that I wish I was at the school, taking them one step further, instead of sitting here writing about it. Using song lyrics (see Freedom Writers above) that dealt with the themes of Freedom and Democracy (school driven) as a prompt for their dramas has been exciting on this level. I have done this with Thespian level High School students in Master Classes, where they took three hours of work and then presented to a highly charged audience. In the case of this program, it was so much more about the process then the outcome.
I saw a lot of very positive things happening throughout the 9 sessions. While I do admit that the decoding of the narrative lyrics could have been deeper, the fact that they worked very hard at the levels they were at is to be commended. Time was the main factor here, and expectations. I feel I tried to do too much in such a short period of time, and that, again, is a lesson learned. I would have liked the chance to examine their work AFTER presentations, discuss the levels of their work, and then see how they’d revise it all.
Since being in their class only once a week, it really falls on the cooperative teacher to find connections during the week as well. Many partnership programs instill that into the process with the schools and teachers they work with. It makes sense. The continuation of the curriculum unit is important in reinforcing the material being given.
The students worked diligently overall. The ones who tried to slack off heard about it from other group members. They learned to share ideas, some better then others. Questions were asked, suggestions were thought about, tried, and taken IF they worked. Many students built upon the suggestions and created a broader palette for them to work from.
Did the students understand the concepts of the songs? I do feel that the Freedom component is much less abstract then the idea of Democracy. Knowing that slavery is wrong, that human rights should be embraced, that the spirit one has can lead to many types of freedom (yes, we had that discussion from student statements), that oppression is wrong. They got that. Democracy, I don’t feel we addressed it anywhere as strongly as we did Freedom.
Democracy is a big topic, and I think they “get it” but not as deeply as they thought about the idea of Freedom. I know that on my end, I was light on that subject when working with the small groups. I know my song choices were not as strong either. I was looking for lyrics with more narrative storytelling then concept, and the choices were few in what I found for this project.
I felt this was a successful endeavor. We could have done more, and that is a given. Leaving the kids was hard in that I wished we had more time, but I am very happy that I gave them a chance to learn by their DOING, their empowering themselves with their own ideas, their working hard to do the best work they could offer. That is very, very satisfying, on so many levels.