French Immersion School Songwriting Success Story – Magnifique!
Who –This success story involved 360 French Immersion students from École Central Elementary School, Fort St John, B.C. Canada.
When – September 2015 What – Songwriting Project – Change le Monde (Change the World) For this project we were writing and recording an original song with all 360 students in the school. It was a short week, so the project took place over 4 days from Monday – Thursday. In addition to writing lyrics and learning to sing the song, students also created a combination of individual and class visual art installations. We also covered one huge section of wall in the school for students to graffiti, ‘I Messages’
Where We Produced The Elements Of This Project
The entire project was created on location at the school, using classrooms, common areas, the gym and the outdoor playground. Fort St John is located in northern B.C., which means it’s very cold and snowy for much of the winter. But the end of September the weather is gorgeous, and we were able to be outside on the playground; which was fantastic.
Why Invest In A Project Like This
For two years previous I had spent a week at Central teaching slam poetry with a full schedule of classes. We would work out way up to a poetry slam at the end of the week where the entire school would attend. But in 2015 the principal decided she would like to do a project that involved all of the students in the school. The great thing about this project, was Change le Monde, became a school anthem and a fun and effective way for the teachers to reinforce the values of the school throughout the year. I found out when I returned the next year that the school played the song over the intercom whenever they had an assembly in the gym. It was a way for all the students to sing their song as they walked through the halls and helped focus their energy and attention.
How We Involved 360 Students In Just 4 Days
The Schedule – The school had 13 classes and each day is divided up into 6 periods. So the teachers and administration organized classes to double up, and there was one group with 3 classes. This gave me an opportunity to work with each group every day.
The Process – Day #1 we talk about their school, and I ask a lot of questions. What do they love about it? What makes their school unique? Why do they love coming to school? I also walk around looking for posters, mascots, messages in hallways and classrooms…basically visual clues from their environment that contribute to the culture and identity of the school. These stories become the basis for the lyrics. On Monday after school, I sit down and write the basic layout of the song, chords, lyrics and melody.
The Process – Day #2-4 we rehearse and refine the lyrics and melody while creating visual art elements and any acting or playing that I want to film. Older students create larger collective visual art installations like posters and banners. Intermediate grades can work on individual artwork. This can be anything from visually representing the song, or actually drawing and colouring the name of the song or lyrics. To include the primary and really young students, I often focus on playing and activity, which is why it was so great to be able to be out on the playground. The playground is where a lot of the stories come from. It’s the place where values like sharing, being a good friend, being kind, etc. find their day to day expression in the life of an elementary student.
On Day #4 we all gathered in the gym where we recorded the singing our song together. I have three video cameras that I ask volunteers to operate; with some simple suggestions for the types of angles and video clips, I’d like to get. We perform the song three times in a row. This gives me three opportunities to record the audio and allows me a total of 9 camera angles to choose from when I edit the final video.
Editing & Putting It All Together
Over the course of the weekend I edited the footage into the final video and uploaded it to youtube and Facebook so that by Monday morning staff, students and families were able to watch and share the video which was viewed almost 10K times on Facebook and over 1K on YouTube.
Final Thoughts – The real lasting value of a project like this is actually the process, and not the finished product. It’s great to have a finished product that I can share with you here, but for the students, the real value comes from the process of creating together and learning to see the value of their own contribution.