Making Curriculum Pop

Julia's ABC Song Finds Its First Images

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As a special education teacher, I need to modify instructions to fit different students' needs. Creating a new version of the ABC song was also started because of one of the students I worked for a couple of months.

Joe enrolled in kindergarten in the middle of January. He was developmentally delayed along with other unidentified mental disabilities and looked like he was 3 years old. One of his IEP goals was to sing the alphabet song, and as I quickly flashed the letter before him, Joe sang the song the best he could. Even his speech was like a 3 year old, it was hard to understand him. As I listened to Joe's singing, just like other children learning to sing the ABC song, he assumed 'L, M, N, O, P' as one sound and said "elemenopee." He had an attention span for 3 seconds, and seemed like the two of us rarely completed a task. I learned that Joe did not enjoy fast songs, but preferred calmer songs such as "I Love You," the Barney theme song. I wanted to create another ABC song that perhaps resembles a lullaby that could sooth Joe, and also to help him learn the letters in the alphabet through singing. Unfortunately, when I completed the song, Joe transferred to a different school so I never got to let him listen to it.

After Joe left, I was assigned to work in a different kindergarten classroom. While working with Sara, who is developmentally delayed and not yet verbal, I decided to let her listen to my ABC song. Surprisingly, she seemed to be enjoying it as she tapped her hand on the table and smiled at me. Excited about the feedback I received from Sara, I asked some other kindergarten students to listen and to comment on my song. "It's like a lullaby... I am feeling sleepy.... This is different from the other ABC song... It's like I could almost ballet dance..." Children's comments matched what I had hoped to do with Joe; a lullaby-like ABC song. Since students approved of the song, I was ready to make a digital story with them.

Aside from making sure the ABC Song music video makes sense, I was interested in the process of the project. When I told students that I needed to make a music video for the song and asked for suggestions, many of them said, "You need letters!" I simply asked where I could find letters in the school or outside. Some children made letters using their bodies and fingers. Some looked for things that had the letter shape. Some children made me letters with different objects and some pointed at letters in the classroom.

As William Kist and Pam Goble allowed us during the workshop, my students were moving around the room and the outside field to figure out best forms. I even let some of them take pictures with my camera. They were so excited to do that! My students are privileged and wealthy children who probably own digital cameras at home. When they were photographers, creators of certain images, I was excited to see how 5 year old children changed into directors. They asked each other to stand in certain ways and stood to take pictures at a certain distance. This amused me very much and I asked one girl why she cares so much about how she takes the picture, her response was simple, “Because I want to take the right picture of the letter that I want.” With images or photographs, since they are forms of art, children had chances to express themselves and they also knew there is no wrong way and with the screen on the camera, they can instantly review their work. Unlike writing (a type of expression), no teacher was needed to help spell a word or write in ‘grown up’ ways on the back of the paper. We gathered all our photographs, students chose what should be in the music video. It was the children who told me that, "Miss Kim, when you're singing A, the letter A should appear and when you sing B, B appears." Through Catherine Gourley’s presentation about teaching films, I was reassured that film is a language. It was as if my students already knew this communicative power that moving images have, that it is a language. Even though my students knew there were no ‘wrong’ photographs, to make our music video educative and informative, to be able to show others what the alphabet could look like, kids wanted to carefully choose our images made sense so viewers could understand. I wonder what these young students are capable of creating when they are older.

When I finished editing (my first iMovie ever), those students who were involved in the project got to sit in front of a SMARTBoard and got to celebrate our collaborative work. It took me many hours to edit the 50 seconds music video. While trying to learn the program, my fear of using technology lessened a bit to be honest. I wish I could have made it fancier and cooler for my students. Because I do not have my own class, I am thankful for the short time slots that classroom head teachers were able to provide so kids and I could try the project. Through the project, my 5 year old students studied images closely, deciding which photograph best represent the letter. As I watched them discuss and help each other to choose, I was surprised to witness that the moving images project naturally moved students to communicate and collaborate with one another even though I, as the teacher did not specifically directed students to do so. As a believer in team work, TTP project helped me to create an environment where my students could work together, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company. I am sure that this was a great learning experience for my students as it was for me. The word about my project spread to other kindergarten kids in other classes and few of them came up to me with ideas. They are quite interesting ways that I would like to try in the future. Stay tuned, I might post them up on YouTube!

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Comment by GK on July 27, 2010 at 11:57pm
Beautiful song, and great success story! Can't wait to share your version with my Pre K & K students! Thank you for sharing.
Comment by dawn.white on July 14, 2010 at 7:20pm
What a beautiful song I too felt it was like a lullaby. I m going to share it with my class in the fall. Great job!
Comment by Ryan Goble on March 3, 2010 at 9:19pm
Hey Julia - this Branding Alphabet just came up in an e-mail today and I thought you might dig it...

Hope you're doing well.

Comment by Pam Goble on June 30, 2009 at 4:41pm


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