My workshops focus on writing songs with students of all ages, and in the process teaching them about the art of songwriting. I also discuss with them the parallels between writing songs and other forms of creative writing they're engaged in at school. Songs are stories and the same four principles of character, location, activity and plot development apply. I deal with the who, what, where, when, how and why of writing every time I put pen to paper.
The method I use is a brainstorming/clustering session where I gather all the thoughts the students have on the topic/title we’ve chosen. As the song develops, we keep a close watch on what we’ve already said and what we might say in the next section. We also deal with the issue of revision which is something I hear teachers constantly remind their students about. The most important thing is that at the end, they take ownership and feel like they wrote the song with a little help from me instead of feeling like I wrote it with a little help from them.
A typical day consists of 3 to 4 sessions with about 30 students each session, lasting approximately one hour. I can work with any grade levels, but for developmental purposes the grade levels shouldn’t span more than 3 years.
The first group comes up with an idea and a title for our song and with my help, writes the chorus which contains the big picture ideas that usually convey in 4 lines or so what the song’s about. The second group writes the 1st verse, and the 3rd and 4th groups complete the song by writing the 2nd verse and a bridge or 3rd verse if needed.
The only guidelines I give the students is that what we create should have some kind of message that will help make their school a better place to be. Most songs focus on kindness, respect, empathy, bullying, peer pressure, self esteem and appreciation of diversity. We also write about various environmental issues as well as songs that celebrate high academic achievement. If there’s a specific campaign or slogan that your school wants me to focus on, I can certainly do that.
The day usually ends with an assembly for the grade levels involved in the song or sometimes for the whole school. I start off the program with my song "Don’t Laugh At Me" and a discussion about kindness, respect and how to keep schools as close to bully-free as possible. I usually sing 4 or 5 other songs co-written with students from other schools and we close the assembly with the new song we created that day.
If I’m coming to your school and you have any questions whatsoever, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.