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Yes, Chuck Berry Can Help Kids With Reading and Technology

The "Kids Like Blues" project has kids rocking with Chuck Berry and learning reading and technology skills.


Most first graders probably don't know the lyrics of Chuck Berry's 1965 classic "Promised Land." It's a different story at Garrison Elementary in Oceanside, California. With his "Kids Like Blues" project, teacher Jon Schwartz has brought the music of Berry and other early blues artists into the classroom and uses them to teach students "reading, writing, listening, speech, social studies, technology, and the visual and performing arts."

In a blog post for Edutopia, Schwartz, a blues aficionado guitar player, says he began playing age-appropriate blues music for his students last March. At the time, he “never imagined I was introducing a fantastic launching point for thematic, standards-based teaching.” However Schwartz quickly saw that bringing some music-based creativity into the classroom was a real learning opportunity.

As you can see in the above video, Schwartz's students are learning "phonics through pointing and tracking to lyrics," and gaining an understanding of the "history, myths, or folktales" that served as inspiration for the songs. The students then write about what they’ve learned on their blogs. Not to be forgotten, math and technology are also incorporated into the projects Schwartz develops around each song. His students have learned Photoshop, audio production, and digital video editing.

Schwartz is pretty thrilled to see his students spreading their creative wings and he's seeing academic achievement soar at "unprecedented levels." To build on the Kids Like Blues project's success, he followed his class from first to second grade and they've formed the Kids Like Blues Band which has had live TV gigs and performed at local street fairs.

The project's inspired Schwartz "to be a better teacher" and given him "the confidence to bring my own passions to the classroom." Above all, "in today's world of high-stake testing and concern for students' lack of skills for college and careers," says Schwartz, "I feel my class of blues-singing students is more than prepared."

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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