Sunday, 11 October 2015

Lyrics, Life Skills and Kids Who Crumble - How to Teach Writing with a Song

I am thrilled to have Lessia Bonn from I am Bullyproof Music guest blogging today. 

Ten-year-old Carolina  plops down on my couch and presents her social dilemma. "I could have just crumbled!" she emotes. I can't help but notice this little munchkin appears to be crumbling inside my fluffy couch.
Amused by Carolina's colorful use of language, I smile and realize 'crumble' is a great word. A really great word! *light bulb* My goodness - it could be a song hook!"
I share my thoughts with Carolina. She concurs. She claps her hands joyfully. She giggles. On a scale of one to ten, her reaction is an eleven.
I end up writing a song around the word 'crumble' which, wouldn't you know it, becomes a hit at the local high school. Crumble chorus:

A teen boy walks up to me and requests I write a Crumble song for boys. "We get shy too!" he confesses. "We need a Crumble song also!" A full grown man discovers my song on the internet and writes me, "It takes me back to high school! I love it!"
Be still my heart, I took a full grown man back to high school.
Words are powerful. They initiate feelings, take us back in time, and can make or break our day. I make a habit of pointing this out to all my kiddos. I honestly believe we might save the world with better vocabulary choices.

Scruffy Pirate Rhymes
Teen Rachel and I are not discussing pirates. We're discussing appropriate singing vowels and not-so-appropriate singing vowels. Somehow, the word 'ship' shows up.  A moment passes. One of us points out that 'Depp' and 'ship' rhyme when we sing them. They share the same vowel. We are highly amused.
Teacher and student fall to the ground in stitches. After we recover, we decide there must absolutely be a song written that contains the words Depp and ship. Yet another song is born:

Our new song inspires a homespun music video. We film at the harbor in Santa Barbara. We also film on the steps of the local mission. We use my little photo camera. My girls deadpan intentionally. Why? Because they are serious about what they are singing. Scruffy boyfriends often create social dilemmas. Everyone teenage girl knows that.

We are NOT how we dress
I love how this new little ditty of ours contains a subtle life lesson. It may not one of my deepest songs, but the message is solid; we are not how we dress. We are not how we look. Never assume and never judge!  Our hearts are who we are.

Organic Writing Rocks
I often pen songs on the spot - right in front of the kids who are destined to record them. Whatever shows up in real life becomes our dilemma to be solved with a fresh set of lyrics. I choose key concepts carefully. I then wrap sweet melodies around a student's unique spirit. Our songs are nothing if not organic - penned in the
key of life!

Retta's Own Crew: an Up-date
A gifted teacher named  Retta London (Rainbow City Learning) stumbles upon my material on a teacher website and takes to it. For an entire year, the kids in her fourth grade classroom take to it too. Her students become magically calm, cool, and productive. They begin to behave like little happy Yodas. Why do they begin to behave like little happy Yodas? According to Retta, this happens because my songs had become "the sound track of their lives."
And even better?  For the second year in a row now, Retta and another fabulous forward-thinking teacher run a popular after school program based on Bullyproof songs. Does teaching get any more powerful than that? Yes it does.
Retta and I have joined forces now to create an year-long behavior management program that combines literature, writing prompts, lyric art, and social skills songs provided by yours truly. Quite noteworthy, don't you think?
And please don't be fooled by this light blog post. Our material goes much deeper than the playful songs like Crumble and Johnny Depp shared here. Our lead teaching tunes cover courage, empathy, sticking on task, appreciation, and world peace. And  classroom peace! Bullies don't stand a chance.
Video Lessons
Here is a full page of kids teaching life lessons. Some of these kids are from my side of the woods, some are from Retta's side.

A little jump-start
The other day, I thought up a word writing prompt unit to inspire colorful word choices. The way I see it, if I can write an entire song around a single word, young writers can certainly come up with something fabulous using three words! Just ask them, please, not to use Depp, ship, or crumble. Those are taken.
To conclude
I hope this little post hands you some fresh ideas as a teacher. Reluctant writers very often just need a new door into their imaginations. Sometimes it really just takes an unusual word to get kids going. Sometimes it just takes a thoughtful and relevant-to-one's-life song.
Song lyrics make excellent writing prompts. They can also help kids ponder more deeply around social situations. Use a song with your kiddos once in a while and you may just end up with a classroom full of little happy Yodas!
Thanks so much, beautiful Kylie, for inviting me to share my thoughts on your wonderful blog.

Lessia Bonn's I am Bullyproof Music studio recordings feature the voices her gifted students. The sweet voice on her popular song Fearless is that of Jessie Bridges - daughter of actor  Jeff. Lessia's "Crew" has many colorful members. A highly trained musician, Lessia finds it easy to create ageless music that speaks to kids of all ages. A counselor at heart, her mission has always been to help young people find their voices, both inside and out. IaBPm teaching material (all grades) covers ELA, critical thinking, and mood management. She lives in the pretty wine town of Sonoma. It's close to the Golden Gate!


Thank you Lessia - love your work!

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Congratulations to the CBCA picture book award winners for 2015!

I am loving this new picture book which has won the 2015 picture book award through the Children's Book Council of Australia awards.
Written by Irena Kobald and illustrated by Freya Blackwood, this title has so much relevance to many different curriculum areas.

It is a wonderful title for any studies around refugees, immigration, cultural diversity, change, story quilts and/or multiculturalism. 
It is also terrific for inspiring students to develop a love of words and new vocabulary.

You can view a read aloud of this picture book on YouTube.  

Free teaching notes are available here, here and here.

It's also a terrific picture book for themes on friendship and belonging.  You can read more about this title and view some of the stunning illustrations on Freya Blackwood's webpage here.

This title has so much potential in so many areas of the curriculum, or just for the important messages it carries within its plot and text.
Congratulations to both Irena Kobald and Freya Blackwood for creating such a beautiful and thoughtful picture book and for winning the CBCA 2015 Australian picture book award :)

I created a resource to support this picture book, which includes higher order thinking reading comprehension activities.  Find out more by clicking on the image above.  It includes my favourite 4H reading strategy, with 45 comprehension questions for the students to sort according to whether they would find the answer to the question in their head, heart, whether the answer is hidden (so they need to think and search) or whether the answer is right here (on the page).  The children can then work individually or in small groups to find the answers to the questions.  Bookmarks and posters are included for each of the 4H reading strategies.

I have also included bibliographies of titles that could work as companion texts alongside "My Two Blankets", including books about story quilts from different cultures, books that stimulate a love of words, and picture books that feature characters from across the world, with interesting names.  You can read more about the resource here.  

While you are there, you may like to read about my new "Read Around Australia" resource and reading challenge, here.

Please note that you will need to have a copy of the picture book "My Two Blankets" to use this reading comprehension resource, but it is well worth purchasing because it can be used for many different purposes (including just reading it for enjoyment) across many different year levels and curriculum areas.  

Happy reading everyone :)