The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Dance, Music, and the Harlem Renaissance

The fourth grade students at Wiley Elementary School took part in an awesome workshop this morning that has never been done before at our school, or possibly any grade school that I am aware of! It came about because two of our amazing fine arts teachers applied for and received a grant to fund a project for the rest of the year that focuses on the Harlem Renaissance. The fifth grade students in our building get to do so many neat things, such as the Krannert Art Museum’s Week at the Museum (known locally as KAM-WAM). Our fine arts teachers wanted to do something for fourth grade this year.

Over the next several weeks and months, the students are going to learn all about the Harlem Renaissance: the people, the music, the poetry, the writing, the dance, the visual arts, all of it. Many of them already know a few things about it, such as where Harlem is (New York City), some of the musicians (like Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald), and at least one of the poets (Langston Hughes). They will have journals to keep track of everything they are learning, as well as their own reflections, which will go home with them at the end of the project.

I am so excited to work with our fine arts teachers! They have a lot of great ideas, and I love that it will allow the students to combine so many different types of learning!

We kicked off the project this morning with a very special two-hour workshop with Kate Kuper from the University of Illinois. She specializes in teaching dance to children and took the kids through a workshop that combined dance and music to create living performance art representations of a couple of Langston Hughes poems. I, unfortunately, was not able to be in the workshop with the kids the entire time, but everything I saw was just phenomenal!

The students were a bit reluctant to get into it at first (many were shocked when they were told they had to take off their shoes and socks and do the workshop barefoot), but they warmed up to Kate and were soon letting themselves be free to move and perform without embarrassment. I was able to take quite a few pictures and get a couple of videos, as well. I will get the videos uploaded later this evening, but I wanted to share the slideshow of the pictures now (click the link and you should be able to see my Google+ album with the photos I’ll add all of them to the post later, as well, but I wanted to get this up before I head out for the evening). I really hope to see the students take this workshop and carry it through the project, as they learn about the Harlem Renaissance and find their own ways to express themselves.


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