By Liz Buchanan
My ten week residency at the Condon School in Boston this past spring produced five songs, one written with each first grade classroom. The assignment was to write a song about a person or character; it could be someone real, a character in a book or the media, or even an animal. I asked each student to suggest a song topic and to offer some descriptive material about that topic. Each student filled out a form that asked:
1) Character’s name
2) Character’s favorite color
3) Two words that describe him/her
4) Three action words for him/her
5) Something that character might say, or we might say about him/her
6) Draw a picture of the character
I got lots of different kinds of responses. In one class, the teacher asked students to focus only on characters from their reading. In another, anything was fair game, so the suggestions ranged from Spider Man to Hannah Montana. Another class had lots of sports fans, so many offered up players for Boston’s football, basketball and hockey teams. Another class particularly liked inventors and historical figures.
I read all the forms, and in each classroom, I chose three topics that I thought might make good songs, and which would resonate with many of the class members. (I tried to stay away from characters that might tend to appeal just to girls or boys, such as Cinderella or the Hulk.) The students were asked to close their eyes and vote. After some discussion and sometimes re-voting, the classes came up with these song topics:
1) Little Chick (character from the reading curriculum)
2) Tom & Jerry
3) Animals in our community
4) Alexander Graham Bell
5) Boston sports stars
Next week: How we wrote the songs!
Liz Buchanan is President of The Children’s Music Network.