Chuck Jones, Songwriter: Visiting Artist

Singer/songwriter Chuck Jones visited Lamplighter School to teach students how to write songs. As always, the best way to learn is by doing, so we now have three hit songs under our belts! Songwriting pulls from various creative outlets – in addition to musical talent, one can also be skilled with words and language and craft a beautiful song. Our students learned that they can write a song about anything, with some loose guidelines and space to let their imagination roam.

Mr. Jones explained to each class some background of songwriting, like deciding on a theme or idea, and then picking a style for the music (country, rock ‘n’ roll, etc), a tempo (is it upbeat or slow?), and loosely planning the structure of the song. One song had a more traditional style of a verse followed by a chorus, a second verse, and a repeat of the chorus. Another started with the chorus, then had a verse before repeating the chorus again. One song didn’t really have a chorus, but instead repeated one of the catchy verses to finish it out. There are so many different ways to write a song!

Upper Elementary students brainstormed about what they like to do, and it came up that recess is their favorite part of the day. Mr. Jones taught them how to pick a word or phrase to be the “hook” of the song, and how to structure a chorus around that. With a song like “Recess”, students decided they wanted to have the verses follow the course of the school day. Mr. Jones said it was sometimes easiest to start with rhyming words and work backwards, so they would find a good word like “grammar” and put it at the end of a line, then think of a rhyming word to end the next line. Listen to their song here!

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Lower Elementary students wanted to write about something they were excited about, which was tonight’s “Kid’s Night Out”! The theme of the night is building, so they started writing about things they like to build, works they like to do in MakerSpace, and other fun activities they love at school. Some of their word choices had great rhyming words (perfect rhymes), but some were a bit harder, until Mr. Jones explained “soft rhymes”, which are words that are similar but don’t exactly rhyme. When the song was finished, all the students sang along! Listen to them sing along!

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Kindergarten students also got to write a song! After lunch, they were wound up and couldn’t focus on just one idea, so they went with the general theme of “Silly”! You can imagine how loud the room got while students came up with silly words and sounds and couldn’t hold their laughter in! They loved Mr. Jones’ guitar playing, and kept asking him to switch from county to rock ‘n’ roll, so their song is definitely a silly mash-up of styles that will have you laughing and singing along! Listen to it here!

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We’d like to send a huge THANK YOU to Chuck Jones for giving his time to our school and inspiring our students! They absolutely came alive during these sessions, and it is inspiring for them to see working artists making a living from the creative lives they love.

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MakerSpace WonderLab Shelves

Why We Make

The Montessori environment is all about learning by doing and bringing learning to life, so it’s the perfect platform to apply the “Maker Movement”. Students are learning by doing in the classroom, and creatively learning by making in MakerSpace.

MakerSpace provides open-ended inquiry opportunities for students. They are able to combine art, science, technology, and engineering to demonstrate their knowledge creatively, while enhancing their hands-on classroom curriculum.

For example, when Upper Elementary students were studying the continents and plate tectonics, they used their MakerSpace Open Lab time to expand the classroom lesson. Students created outlines of the continents with blocks, then used blocks of different sizes and colors to map out the convergent and divergent plates.

With my background in Library Science, it was natural to develop the position into that of a MakerSpace Librarian. That means Lamplighter’s MakerSpace is based more on STREAM – Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art, and Math – than just STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

In Early Childhood classes, we use books as jumping off points for the lesson. Sometimes the book fits the subject we’re working on, like reading Scarecrow by Cynthia Roland when we were designing our school’s Scarecrow Contest submission, or reading Henri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter when we learned about Matisse. But sometimes the books are the basis of our exploration in MakerSpace that week, like reading Perfect Square by Michael Hall, and then letting our imaginations run wild with our own squares of paper.

In Lower and Upper Elementary classes, we often use books for background information and research, but also we have read books aloud to inspire our lessons. We read Fold Me a Poem by Kristine O’Connell George while we studied origami in MakerSpace and they studied poetry in the classroom. The book is full of poems about the art of origami, so after reading the poems out loud, practicing our expressive speaking voices, students wrote their own poems, shared them with the class, and then wrote them on origami paper before folding them up into an origami creation.

We have seen a jump in student enthusiasm and love of learning. The MakerSpace has been a catalyst for change, and we see that students are thinking more creatively in the classroom. Lessons learned in the classroom are being reinforced and explored in different ways in MakerSpace, and vice versa.

Abstract thinking students are able to learn on their level and have increased the scope to demonstrate their knowledge. Montessori allows us to reach students on any level, so MakerSpace goes hand-in-hand with this to ensure that all students are engaged in their lessons.