APOLOGIES: This past month has been unusual. I was out of town for several days. Five hours after we returned, my mother-in-law had her stroke. Graveside services were Wednesday. Today I leave for NCTE. All this by way of saying I’m sorry to be such a poor host this month. This coming week I’ll be lucky to post many times but I hope you’ll understand. I’ll get back on track in December. Until then, thank you for your continued participation and contributions.
Yesterday you met Gary Dulabaum and today it is my pleasure to present him as my Featured Guest. I love what he has to say and am sure that you will find his ideas insightful, creative, and instructive. Please use the comment section below to leave your responses. Thanks, Gary!
The Power of Communication
by Gary Dulabaum
Teaching students how to clearly and creatively communicate is my main goal as an educator and author. When communication breaks down, problems occur. (Lack of communication can lead to daily problems like fighting, or having difficulties in school, and can blossom into life-long struggles with drugs and alcohol.) Much of the time I spend in schools is spent teaching kids how to say (or more appropriately, sing) the things they feel they need to share. However, since communication is a two-way process, I also spend time teaching kids how to listen to each other. Active listening is an important skill we all need to have: when students know their audience won’t be judging them, but instead will be offering suggestions, constructive feedback, and their own feelings on the matter, they will be more apt to share what’s troubling them.
We can all learn from each other, and creative expression (like songwriting or poetry) presents a way for everyone—teachers and students—to open up and share their thoughts in a productive way. Students on the edge of trouble will almost always drop hints, but people need to be listening in order to hear them. People need to know that others care. They want to feel safe.
All students need the venue and the time to say what’s on their minds. Including songwriting in your curriculum will allow your students to express themselves in a creative, safe way where they know they won’t be judged. They will learn to take ownership for what they say and do, and take responsibility for their actions and words. In short, teaching your students how to write songs will teach them that they belong in the world, and that they can say things that are important to people other than themselves.
Music is a powerful teaching tool. The rhythmic patterns of the lines and verses make words easy to learn, and the beat can encourage students to find their own voices. Once you let your students know that they can create cool songs with cool beats to help them learn what they need to know, there will be a change in your classroom. And when your students have learned the power of creativity, they will always have a tool they can use to help them through the problems in their lives.
Songs—like books—are true celebrations of language. It is my hope that all of you reading this will come to realize the power of music and songwriting, and their true connection to the language arts.
My main tool for connecting with students and celebrating language is through songwriting. Why songwriting? Because classroom songwriting has many benefits: it‘s a fun way to learn, it‘s a great way for students to hone their research and question-forming skills, it promotes reading (in order to be a good writer/songwriter you need to be a reader), it‘s a way to help students connect with their own personal creativity and become actively engaged in their own learning process, it is a great way to bring the class together (such as a group project, like writing a class song), it is a self-esteem builder (sharing ideas takes courage), and it helps develop writing skills ( having fun plus being creative equals more writing).Through the years I have seen, first hand, how children‘s creativity, self-esteem and imaginations come to life through songwriting in the classroom. “Teachers know students (children) learn best when they are actively engaged and excited by the learning process.”
Why Sing A Book?
Why sing a book
You may ask yourself
Aren’t books for reading
And sitting on a shelf?
That’s much too limiting
I would say
A book should be sung
In a most lyrical way.
Let the words roll
Right off your tongue,
Yes, books are for reading
But some books can be sung.
(This article is from my book My Teacher Rides A Harley and my journal notes).