What did you learn?
Although I was glad to see people of color well-represented in several of the source materials, I was disappointed at how little representation there was of Asians and Asian-Americans. It highlights the media's role in shaping and reflecting our cultural values and standards of beauty, power, and creative expression - especially in the eyes of children. When the media consciously chooses to represent (or not) a particular demographic, it is actively contributing to conversations about race, gender, sexuality, and ability. Children witness and experience these conversations, and internalize their interpretations of the media's messages, often to a detrimental effect.
How could what you learned enrich your class?
The exercise reminds us how our selection of repertoire reflects not just our musical preferences, but our personal values and biases. If we are to model inclusion and culturally-sensitive pedagogy in our practice, then we must ensure that we include a broad range of current and historical world music in our lessons. In this, we highlight and celebrate the diversity of the world and can discuss with our students how it has changed over time.
How would you integrate the group poem activity into a lesson?
I might ask students to listen to several musical excerpts and write, draw, or collage (with provided materials) their responses to each piece. Then they could combine their response depictions as we did into a group representation for a gallery walk. I've done something similar with my elementary-aged students but it was individual work. It would be great to revisit the activity as a group effort.
What opportunities do you see?
The activity was an excellent way for students to grow their skills of collaboration and cooperation. In creating the poem and the visual, students must engage in respectful dialogue with their peers and compromise. As I check in with each group, I can help students develop their language and social skills in support of group work.
What challenges do you see?
Many students find working in groups challenging. Some students may try to force their opinions on others or devalue others' contributions; while some students may not feel comfortable advocating for their ideas or expressing their opinions to their peers. Dominant personalities will tend to take over planning and execution, which can erode other students' self-esteem and confidence.
How would you plan for the challenges?
A key teaching strategy will be to ensure students are being kind and respectful of each other's ideas and creating a piece collaboratively that reflects each student's contribution. I can monitor each group and provide language and tools to help students express their ideas, advocate respectfully for themselves, and compromise for the collective interest. I can give them just enough structure so that they can feel successful without stifling their creative instincts.