Jazz: A Fifth Grade Multidisciplinary Exploration

An annual visit by professional jazz musicians who share the living tradition of jazz with SCDS’s fifth grade class has inspired a series of lessons among multiple disciplines including humanities, music, art, and library and information literacy.

As part of their class’s year-long study of Jazz and the African-American Experience, each student chooses a musician to research. During library visits, they used both primary and secondary resources to explore the relationships between literary, musical, and visual texts related to jazz.

After considering the relationship between music and language, students examined the technical constructs of poetry, then wrote poems about the musicians they had researched. Their poems revealed beautifully, and often poignantly, the results of their explorations into the connections between language and the music of the Jazz Age.

Students carried this perspective to art class, where they created poetic theaters, or shadow boxes, incorporating collage, found objects, recycled materials, painting, drawing, writing, and clay sculptures to uniquely represent the musicians they were studying.

The depth and breadth of their learning became very evident during a week in spring when the jazz musicians meet with students as representatives of Operation Jazz Band, an educational outreach program of the local Healdsburg Jazz Festival. During four daily music lessons, the musicians discuss the instruments they play and their roles in a jazz band. On the final day, our students strengthen their perspective by attending a concert by musicians in the program.

Does your school do something similar?

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