End of Black History Music Appreciation Unit: Resources Included

Here’s a quick update on how we, the class and I, are completing our BIPOC Music History Unit.

The last time I wrote about the primary kids, I told you how we were learning about Scott Joplin, the King of Ragtime. I was thinking about doing an inquiry type lesson so they could research him and get to know him better. When I posed the question, “If Scott Joplin was here with us right now, what would you ask him?” Most of them really wanted to know how he died. I didn’t have the answer at the time so I researched it later and found out that he got syphilis and lived out the remainder of his days in a mental institution where he eventually died and buried in an unmarked grave with two or three other people. Soooooo. I didn’t know how to tell the kids and thought maybe I could steer them away from it if we stayed on the search engine for kids called, “Kiddle.” I couldn’t find any info on there of how he died so I thought that would be safe. But I could just see someone accidentally going onto Google and being scarred for life. It was too risky and I decided to completely evade the topic by steering towards a ragtime dance and asked them to create one of their own. I’ve attached the assignment below. It’s a checklist with the various elements of dance and expectations for group work. I got many of my ideas for it from the book, “Building Dances: A Guide to Putting Movements Together” By Susan McGreevy Nichols, Helen Scheff and Marty Sprague. You can find it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.ca/Building-Dances-2nd-Susan-McGreevy-Nichols/dp/0736050892

It’s not a perfect handout. I think it’s too comprehensive for primary kids. Some teachers come up with all these pretty borders and graphics and the kids just love it. Mine are pretty plain and too wordy. Maybe one day when the pandemic is over, I’ll edit the handout and make it more kid-friendly. For now, it served it’s function and I’m grateful for that. It wasn’t a perfect unit and the kids are still getting an understanding for movements and how to put them together. However, many of them put their best effort forward and they came up with some unique ideas. They understood my expectionations and many of them used their time wisely. Chaotically but wisely. Even though the dances weren’t their strongest work, many of them enjoyed themselves and that means more to me. For that reason, I do feel like it was a success.

The other resource I used with my kindergarteners and grade 1/2’s was this one from Teachers Pay Teachers https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Black-History-Month-Music-Literacy-Bundle-6488673

I find it hard to find free stuff in arts ed and because I’m still a new teacher but many teachers do. I’m trying to build up my repertoire of resources. This felt like a good investment and saved me a lot of time. It came with some handouts about different artists like Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, etc. The resource is paired up with books but it’s not mandatory. Our library didn’t have them but we could still glean a lot of out of it without the books. The slides are already made up and there are a couple handout ready to go.

Finally, for my middle year kids, I followed this resource https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Black-History-Month-Music-Appreciation-Worksheets-Bundle-5190891

This took music theory to a whole new level for me and at times, I didn’t know was some of the terminology was. But it was very helpful for introducing different artists. I printed out various info on Duke Ellington, Etta James and Dizzy Gillespie from the bundle. The only thing I would caution you on is that the links in the resource will lead you to a Youtube video. The videos are informative and historical but they were not all created by BIPOC people so the tone is different. I watched them on my own first but didn’t realize how the tone would affect some of the BIPOC kids and so we had to talk about the videos and where the creators/producers/whoever went wrong and how. The bundle on Teachers Pay Teachers didn’t have the same passive aggressive tones or power struggle, or at least I didn’t sense any. The BIPOC kids might see it differently but I thought it was really strong and honoured the BIPOC community. Whoever created this, loves jazz and has a lot of respect for the BIPOC community. In the bundle was some info on the the genre of jazz or blues each artist influenced. I had them come up with their own test questions and answers. I’ll create a study worksheet from what they give me and build a test off the Q & A’s they gave me.

So yeah, that’s basically the end of that unit. The middle year kids still need to write the quiz but we’re moving onto our next unit.

To be honest, it’s been a tough go. I feel like I’d lose my head if it weren’t for the fact it’s attached to my body. Like every year is tough because we’re faced with new challenges. Which is a good thing because who wants to be stuck on one problem for years and years and years? When you’re faced with new challenges year after year it means you’re growing. So that’s good thing. I’m grateful to be here, to have a job and spend time with kids. Many of them are enthusiastic and do their best even if it’s out of their comfort zone. Because of the pandemic, the restrictions and various other challenges, it’s extremely limiting. Like, I feel like the majority of what I’m trying to do with the curriculum is find thirty different uses for an imaginary stick and a piece of paper. How many ways can we use this stick and piece of paper (which is just a bunch of soggy sticks, mashed, dried and flattened) and keep ourselves entertained for the next ~ ~ months? If it weren’t for the kids and their enthusiasm for anything and everything, I don’t think we’d get nearly as far as we have. I’m extremely grateful for them, even on bad days. It’s not their fault. I have a lot of growing to do, too, but on the days where I see them trying and doing the best they can in spite of it all, I’m very, very grateful.

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