Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Global Peace through Language Club Project: French ABCs

Apprendre en chantant! Singing to learn!
Apprendre en chantant! Singing to learn!
This song is now available for sale here!!!!!!

Hi! I am the advisor of a new club that I started a couple years ago called the Peace Through Language Club. The PTL Club is a language-loving, technology-using, peace-promoting club. For almost two years now, I have been working with students to create resources for teachers and students of English, French and Spanish. Students in grades 7-12 and I enjoy working together to share our love of language learning with the world. The work is slow-going, but it's extremely rewarding!
The most rewarding of all is when the work involves other teachers and cross-curricular collaboration. The “French Alphabet” project started over a year ago and includes the collaboration of many teachers and even more students at the Marcellus Central School District. Two years ago, I started talking with the Visual Arts and Performing Arts teachers in all three buildings on campus about their curriculum and my club’s purpose. These discussions led to ideas, which led to cross-curricular projects. I will describe one here.
Brian Ackles is one of the teachers that I have been working with on this project. He teaches Vocal Music at the High School which includes a Music Theory course. Students in Brian’s theory class have always composed original songs as a part of their classwork. Through our collaboration, we realized we could give these students an authentic purpose to their compositions while hopefully finding a way to use the final product as a PTL Club fundraiser. So last year, for the first time, the students in Music Theory were given lyrics and were informed about the purpose of the song. The song is meant to teach the French Alphabet to elementary students with little or no previous exposure to the language. The song would be used within our district, but also globally via the PTL Club website. Instead of composing songs and performing them just in Music Theory class, now the students were composing and ultimately performing for a global audience.
The group of students in Music Theory came up with several options for the French alphabet song. On one of the last days of class before finals, the students in Music Theory performed the songs for me, under the direction of Brian Ackles. All of the songs were beautiful! During finals week, Brian and I had a meeting where we took the three compositions and edited them together. We needed to create a score of music that would be long enough for the expanded version of the French Alphabet song. I added a section of alphabetical verbs to the song, appropriate for a wider audience.
Next we had a jam session with Maureen Henesey who is another teacher in our school. Maureen stars in two local bands as lead vocalist! The three of us recorded this practice version the day before our big recording session. Brian and I sang and Maureen hummed the harmony. The next morning was the first day of summer vacation for students. Luckily, we managed to bring back the students from Music Theory along with several volunteer musicians from the high school band. Brian and I also enlisted the help of Maureen Henesey again as well as Mike Cirmo, Director of Bands, to record our audio files. Although I am always amazed by the ability of students at Marcellus, I was awestruck by their willingness to give up their first day of summer vacation, and their ability to take a simple melody and create a rockin’ song within minutes of practicing! They took a basic melody and spiced it up with some major instrumental expertise!
Thanks to twitter, the work I’m doing with the PTL Club caught the attention of Nathalie Bonneau (a.k.a. @jeannedelalune) who is an educator and a talented animator of children’s animations for language learning. To learn more about Nathalie and her work, visit her website. To our amazement, Nathalie generously offered to create an animation for our song!!!
Here is a very short preview of the animation and here’s a short video of two young cousins, Geo and Travis, as they preview the animation by Jeanne de la Lune! They seem to really like it, don't you think? When the song gets to letter “F,” the animation ends because that’s as far as Nathalie had animated at the time the video was recorded. You can see that the animation leaves the children feeling so good that Geo just wants to hug his cousin Travis...and so he does!
We hope you will consider supporting our club by purchasing our song if we our successful in creating an online fundraiser! Please stay tuned to our website and blog for updates!
The feedback from the teachers and students involved in this project has all been positive, despite the setbacks we have had. The project has fit in perfectly with current curriculum and has provided students with an authentic reason for the creation of their songs. We all hope that this project is just one of many to come.

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