I met with each of the three fifth grades at Holton-Arms School for an interdisciplinary songwriting residency. The concept was for each class to write a collaborative song based on something they had studied in science; to learn how to collaborate in creating a melody for the song; to rehearse and record the song.
My favorite moments? When I headed to lunch and heard a group of girls singing their song as they walked down the hallway; when an actual bee flew in during the middle of our recording of the bee song; and listening to the girls experiment—and encourage one another to experiment—right up until the last minute. Each class created an engaging song from a unique point of view.
- Song structure
- Brainstorming & Pre-writing
- Writing elements: Point of view, alliteration, assonance, voice, rhythm, rhyme, meaning, symbolism
- Music engineering (with sound engineer Cletus Kennelly)
Listen to their songs!
What We Learned
The girls were good collaborators and were also respectful of one another. I saw many instances of constructive piggy-backing. For example, one girl would say a line, and another would say. “I like that, and what if we added this to it?” I stressed the importance of being open to changing or revising a line to make it stronger and shared how my editor and I work together to improve a piece.
We learned so many useful things on the spot. For example:
- Sometimes you want to avoid repetition if it seems as if there could be a more interesting or lively substitution. For example, in the crocodile song, we changed “hiding, waiting, watching, watching for my prey” to “hiding, waiting, watching, searching for my prey.”
- Some words that worked well on paper felt awkward when we sang them, so we consulted our inner thesaurus and brainstormed alternatives. “My instructions for the day” became “My directions for the day.” Directions felt better to sing and had a nice alliterative connection with “day.”
- We discussed consistency of point of view and voice. In one instance, we decided that it would be effective to break the rule. In the bee song, one student wrote a verse from the point of view of the queen. We discussed how it wouldn’t make sense to use this as a verse because the other verses are all in the point of view of workers, but everyone liked the idea of the queen talking. “We could use it as a bridge!” a girl suggested. Since the bridge is a part of the song that has a different melody and could have a new voice, we could imagine it working.
Thanks to Ms. Van Ells, Ms. McFadden, Mr. Bane, Mr. Howard, Ms. Baker and all the staff and students.