Monday, January 31, 2011

Follow the Drinking Gourd

January is "Black History Month" - the month wherein we celebrate the movers and shakers of our African-American communities.

In first grade, I always share a story with our students entitled, "Follow the Drinking Gourd" during the month of January.  This story is about a slave named James and his family's flight to freedom.  It also acquaints us with a character by the name of Peg Leg Joe - a former sailor who did his best to help the slaves get across the Ohio River into the northern states and eventually up into Canada.

The following is excerpted from the preface of the book authored and illustrated by Jeanette Winter. 

"By the 1840's, a loosely organized group of free blacks, slaves and white sympathizers formed a secret network of people and places that hid escaped slaves on their dangerous journey to freedom - a network that came to be known as the Underground Railroad.  Harriet Tubman, a runaway slave herself, was one of the most famous conductors who led hundreds of her people to freedom.  Among other conductors, there was a one-legged sailor named Peg Leg Joe.  He hired himself out to plantation owners as a handyman.  Then he made friends with the slaves and taught them what seemed a harmless folk song - 'Follow the Drinking Gourd.'  Hidden in the lyrics of the song were directions on how to find the Underground Railroad."

Peg Leg Joe would personally ferry them across the Ohio River in his rowboat.  He would carve his left footprint and a circle for his peg leg on dead trees along the riverbank so that the slaves would know they were on the right track.

"Follow the drinking gourd, follow the drinking gourd,
for the old man is a-waitin' for to carry you to freedom
if you follow the drinking gourd."  (refrain)

"When the sun comes back and the first quail calls,
follow the drinking gourd,
for the old man is a-waitin' for to carry you to freedom
if you follow the drinking gourd."  (verse 1)

"The riverbank makes a very good road,
dead trees will show you the way,
left foot, peg foot, traveling on,
follow the drinking gourd." (verse 2)

"The river ends between two hills,
follow the drinking gourd,
there's another river on the other side,
follow the drinking gourd." (verse 3)

"When the great big river meets the little river,
follow the drinking gourd,
For the old man is a-waitin' for to carry you to freedom,
if you follow the drinking gourd." (verse 4)

The "drinking gourd" was the Big Dipper which pointed to the North Star. The first verse suggests that they make their escape in the Spring (when the sun returns and the call of the quail can be heard in the trees).  They were to follow the riverbank to the river that "ends between two hills" (the Tombigbee River).  The second river was the Tennessee River and the "great big river" was the Ohio River.  If the slaves could make it this far, there were others who would guide them from one hiding place to the next until they could cross the border into Canada.

Pointing to the North Star as we sing "Follow the Drinking Gourd"

The students created their own motions to the song and we performed it for their teacher at the conclusion of the lesson.

Until next time...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wolfson Run 5 to Save Lives

Wolfson Run 5 to Save Lives
January 29, 2011
Jacksonville, Florida

Yes...that's me in the middle, decked out in purple and white (my high school colors).  The crazy lady with her arms in the air is my little sister.  You may know her as "The Grocery Fairy."  

She talked me into running a 5-mile race to benefit Wolfson Children's Hospital yesterday.  It was a gorgeous day and much of the run was along the St. Johns River.  I did two bridges during the course of the run and rolled across the finish line in less time than I ever imagined possible.  Officer Morningstar assured me that if I passed out on the Acosta Bridge, he would pick me up off the pavement.  Fortunately, I made it up one side and down the other without issue.

I've run several 5-kilometer races (3.1 miles) but yesterday was my very first five-mile run.  Before we got started, I stood at the starting line to cheer for Mrs. Alvarado and her daughter. They were running the 1-mile fun run together.  They were kind enough to return the favor when we blew out of the starting block 30-minutes later.  Thanks, Haley!! Your words of encouragement saw me through to the end.

If you ever want to have a fun-filled time pounding the pavement, do it with my sister.  She engages people in conversation up and down the course while she's waiting on me to catch up with her.  She enlists people along the sidelines to cheer for me.  She even created me an identical playlist on her daughter's iPod and syncronized our music before beginning the race.  She sings, she cheers, she high-fives policemen along the way - it's a blast.  Even the policemen got in on the fun - one of them hit his siren and played "whoop whoop" on my behalf as I trotted by.  It was such a hoot!

Matter of fact, if the weather's nice next weekend, you may find the two of us running in the 5-mile Winter Beach Run.  I'd really like to know what it's like to run 5 miles on a semi-flat surface.

Until next time...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

DEMT Inservice - January, 2011

When most public school teachers are scrambling to get grades done during a planning day that has been specifically set aside for this purpose, Resource Teachers (Art, Music and PE) are off-campus participating in what is commonly called an "inservice."  An inservice is a day of training in your specific content area.  Because training at the school level does not always cover our content areas, we must seek out other opportunities for professional development that specifically address the content areas that we teach.

Dale Choate, the DCPS Music Supervisor for Vocal and Elementary Music teachers, is responsible for organizing and recruiting music educators and presenters from various arts organizations to come and share their expertise with us.  As President of Duval Elementary Music Teachers, I am called upon to facilitate the day for our teachers from across the district.  Our quarterly inservice was held on Friday, January 21st.  We met at Hendricks Avenue Elementary School in San Marco. 

Our day began with a presentation by two National Board Certified Elementary Music Teachers who spoke to us about "GamePlan."  It has been approximately 10 years since Duval County has adopted a new music curriculum for its teachers and our current materials are outdated.  This presentation was like a breath of fresh air for all of us.

GamePlan is authored by Jeff Kriske and Randy DeLelles.  Their materials are user-friendly and are sequenced on a month-to-month basis throughout the school year.  GamePlan covers National Music Standards in grades 1-5. The kindergarten curriculum is currently being written and field-tested. The writers of this curriculum will be presenting at the State Orff-Schulwerk conference on February 5th in Melbourne, Florida.  I am now hoping to secure a funding source for next year to purchase a starter kit for my classroom.

Another session was taught by several music educators who are trained in the Kodaly method

Zoltan Kodaly was a 20th century Hungarian composer that worked with pre-school aged children.  He felt that the human voice was the most beautiful of all instruments and was easily accesible for young children.  Along with vocal training came ear-training.  The use of Hungarian folk songs to teach young children was paramount to his teaching methodology.  We sang, clapped, played and moved to the music during this session.

We also heard from Mr. Lindsey Dank of "Didgeridoo DownUnder."  He brought his didgeridoos with him and played a sampling of pieces from his program.  Our teachers were also able to give it a try on a didgeridoo made out of PVC pipe.  His program integrates music and social studies curriculum and is appropriate for elementary grades K-5.

Lindsey Dank of Didgeridoo DownUnder

Teachers trying out the PVC didgeridoos

And finally, one of our own elementary music teachers brought in "Books of the Month" that had been used at his school over the last several years.  He had written songs to go along with each of the books and created electronic accompaniment on Garage Band to accompany the songs.  He then gave us an opportunity to choose a book and create our own song to go along with it.  We celebrated the conclusion of our day together with various renderings of the books in a performance group setting.

Richard Spruill sharing his BOTM Music

Preparing for BOTM performance

Tim DeBorde and Steve Gonzales presenting their BOTM

Thanks, Dale for planning a fabulous day for us!! It was truly one of the best ever!!

Until next time...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

First Grade Sleepover 2011

Today we celebrated Chets Creek's 13th Birthday and our very own First Grade Sleepover.  It's not really a sleepover; we just show up to work in our pajamas and parade around in darkened hallways with flashlights and pillows.  I lead the way with my guitar while singing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."  At the conclusion of the parade, we make our way to the cafeteria for an astronaut's breakfast and pajama party.  Then it's off to the planetarium, the asteroid hunt, the picture frame studio or the Space Worm Camp.

In the music room, we slithered and crawled around on the floor like space worms, orbited the sun while singing "Rap of the Solar System" and watched a special video entitled "Blue Beauty" (photos taken of Earth from the space center).  The day ended with a Constellation Ball and popcorn party in the Media Center.

What a great way to spend the day celebrating life on Planet Earth!

Mr. Tamburrino as Dr. Spock

Space Worm Camp

Space Worms slithering across the floor

Planets readying themselves for orbit around the sun

"Solar System, all the planets and the comets, all the man-made objects too;
It's our Solar System, every object held by gravity making up our cosmic stew"
"Rap of the Solar System" by John Riggio
Plank Road Publishing

Until next time...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Florida Music Educators' Conference/Clinic 2011

Last week, I made my annual trek down to Tampa for the FMEA conference/clinic.  For the past five years, I have traveled alone, eaten alone, piggy-backed on other teachers' room reservations and paid hundreds of dollars "out-of-pocket" for registration fees, travel expenses, hotel rooms, parking and food.  It is a costly endeavor, but a much-needed mid-year shot in the arm. 

This year, however, I did things a little differently.  I took a rookie teacher with me and we shared the experience with a veteran choral director.  It was perfect! I also had a student in the All-State Elementary Chorus which brought a brand new perspective to my professional development while there.

If you're wondering why our conference is also labeled a clinic, let me explain. Those who conduct All-State choirs, bands and orchestras are called "clinicians." They are master teachers and highly skilled musicians. They work with the top students from across the State while we teachers pursue professional development opportunities for our own personal growth.  At the end of the week, the ensembles perform in a concert setting and the performance is professionally recorded.  Parents attending the concerts can then purchase a recording of their child's performance as a keepsake.

Parents can also purchase a plaque with their child's name on it

Katie and Mrs. Tamburrino before her performance

Katie and her family

Final Performance at the Tampa Convention Center

Katie was one of 211 students from across the State of Florida to participate in the Elementary Chorus this year. Katie will be the first to tell you that she greatly enjoyed the experience and wants to do it again next year! Bravo Little Miss!!

Until next time...