Using blues music to address California State Content Standards using a thematic approach…
Next we examine the historical significance of the song. It deals with Westward Expansion, the USA’s shift from rural to urban environments, the evolution of transportation, and how technology has changed our country. We find text and images on the internet using an LCD projector that help us learn about the period in which the song was written, and then we used a photograph of a blues band on tour in the 1950’s as a subject for a directed drawing excercise. Now we’re into the territory of the visual arts!
The students are challenged to convey a sense of depth in their work, which is a CA State Visual Arts Standard. Following this, two students scan their artwork onto the computer and use Photoshop to digitally enhance their work. They then add the image to their student blogs. Their parents and I receive an instant email notification alerting us to their new blog post, and we can post encouraging comments and suggest ideas for improvement.
The beauty of all of this work is that it all falls under the large umbrella of blues music, and we covered much meaningful academic ground by using one song for the theme. Ultimately, we add the song to our repertoire. Within weeks of introducing the song in class, we go from pointing and tracking at the words to performing the song onstage, sometimes in from of large audiences!
After this, we ask for student volunteers to choreograph dance moves to the song. We review videotapes of our practices and modify our singing, stage moves, and presentation by consensus, paying attention to the students’ strengths and preferences..