My students come from a large underprivileged city and underfunded school system where poverty, violence, and a lack of basic necessities are obstacles that can easily detour them away from their education, leaving them disengaged, frequently tardy, or chronically absent. I am in awe of the fact that their surroundings and varied hardships do not dim their enthusiasm for education once they are here.
One hundred percent of my students receive free lunch and an unbelievable, 53% of my students started the 2018-19 school year failing due to attendance!
I am hoping this will be one of a few projects to make the beginning of this year different. My students may struggle to verbalize or write about on paper what they think or feel, but they are willing to try. Often they express feelings through music: singing, playing, dancing to it, or creating it. Einstein said, “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” I believe Einstein was not just describing himself, but each one of my students.
While their love of music is strong, over 95% of my high school students reach me without any music reading knowledge at all! It is often difficult to push music reading literacy on them at this age and that is the reason for this project.
The students in my classroom represent Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and Burkina Faso, but as diverse as they are, our percussion instruments are not.
I believe adding musical instruments that represent my students culturally to our music reading exercises will increase student engagement dramatically. This will make learning to read less painful and culturally more relevant. The requested instruments including a cajon, cajon drumset, woodblocks, claves, rainsticks, a slapstick and guiro will be used during our 5-10 minute reading exercises.
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