Hello World!

Posted on February 27, 2012

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Hello and welcome!

This is a blog for teachers everywhere.  This is a blog for those who believe in the power of literacy.  This is a blog that will explore creative ways to engage students.   All students.  This is a blog that celebrates the music of the printed word.  This is a blog that celebrates books and authors.  And that’s just for starters!

I chose the name for this blog simply because a reader can “get” so much from a story.

  • From a story, a reader can identify with characters.
  • From a story, a reader can visit brand new worlds and be inspired to create worlds of their own.
  • From a story, a reader can generate questions, some with clear answers and others that require deeper thinking.
  • From a story, a reader can respond in a number of ways and develop vital thinking skills.
  • From a story, a reader can think about what makes a story interesting.  In other words, what are the characteristics of strong writing?
  • From a story, a reader can write a song.

Wait!  Write a song?  Yes, write a song.  For most of my teaching career (I’ve been a reading teacher for 12 years, working with struggling students mostly at the elementary level), I’ve incorporated music in my teaching.   Early on, I noticed that, without exception, every time I brought my guitar into a classroom, the level of interest, engagement, and participation increased dramatically.   That means ALL students.  Back then, I would write songs about various topics on my own and share them with students.   Then, I started writing songs about books we had read and discussed.   This evolved into discussing and analyzing these songs and comparing them to the text that inspired them.  All this was wonderful.  I could see the gleam in the eyes and the gears turning.  Then, magic ensued.  Students started asking if they could write songs about books!  No way, I said, this is all about me!  (Sorry, just injecting a little humor into my narrative.)

Of course I said yes!  So that’s what we did.  I started teaching students how to read more critically, to connect with literature, and to write lyrical responses.   Was it easy?  No.  Were they more closely involved in the process than before?  Absolutely.  I knew then that we had a solid building block.  There was more excitement, daily.  There was a greater work ethic.  There was a strong commitment to seeing the project through.  Then came the end products.  The songs, the songs, the amazing songs.  Then came the performances!

Remember, these were all struggling readers and therefore many of them lacked confidence in their abilities.  More than a few were considered “difficult” students, which is true.  They had difficulty reading, they had difficulty writing, they had difficulty sustaining focus, and they had difficulty interacting with peers and authority figures.   Many of these students were experiencing the dreaded and very real “learned helplessness.”  No wonder they acted out on occasion.  The spark was just not there.

Then came the spark, the fire, the success, the confidence, and the performances!   Students begged me to share their work with other classes, other students, the principals, and more!   I am not suggesting for a second that this was the magic wand that miraculously fixed everything.  But there is no doubt in my mind that this was a catalyst for many of these students in opening their eyes and their minds to new possibilities.  The growth was real, it was visible and it was quantifiable.

Since those early days, I’ve continued to write songs about books, on my own, and I’ve continued to teach students how to write songs in response to reading, and I’ve written and performed songs, based on books, in school-wide productions.  It’s been a blast.

Naturally, I couldn’t be writing songs every day or even every week with these students, given all the other demands and requirements.  Well, I should say that I couldn’t be doing this in a traditional school environment.

That is why, not long ago, I resigned from my teaching position in order to further develop “From a Story” and turn it into a full-time gig as a travelling artist in residence at the dozens of schools in my area.   Next month, for example, I’ll be working with the entire 5th grade at a nearby school, developing poems and songs in response to “Locomotion,” the touching story by Jacqueline Woodson.  Ultimately I want to read, think, write, and sing with students AND leave them with a CD version of their work.

I want to use this blog as a way to promote what I’m doing.  But way beyond that, I want to keep you posted on how things go.  I want to share the ups and downs with you.  I want to tap into your expertise in order to make this venture the best it can be.  For the students.

This is just the beginning.

I welcome your comments. For more information, please email me at danparrpelletier@gmail.com      If you’re in Central North Carolina, I want to visit your classroom!  If you’re on Skype, I want to visit your classroom!

Thanks,

Dan

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Posted in: From a Story