Teacher Feature: Three Year Old Classroom Explores Elvis

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Rebecca Wilcox. Her Pre-k four classroom was learning about Music and decided to spend a week on Elvis Presley. Below you will find a reflection from Rebecca and images from some of her lessons.


What were your topics of exploration?

At the start of the school year, the Wallabies showed a great interest in instruments. As a result, we decided to lead the class in exploring music and instruments. When we finished, my co-teacher and I decided to share our musical passions with the kids so I was able to spend the week with them exploring the life and music of Elvis Presley. We talked about Elvis’ personal and professional life, highlighting his ambitions as a child and how growing up in his circumstances influenced his philanthropic endeavors as an adult. I hoped that this would provide a logical connecting thread to a broader theme of empathy and encourage them to feel empowered to make changes in their world. We listened to lots of his music all week, watched him singing and dancing on the 1968 Comeback Special, and talked about different ways that Elvis tried to help make other people’s lives better.

What were your learning objectives? (What did you want your children to take away from the lesson?)

For this week’s lesson I had one personal objective and two professional objectives. As a huge Elvis fan, I wanted to introduce and encourage an interest in the music of my favorite artist, Elvis Presley. Professionally, I wanted to develop close-looking skills and to provide a unique example of a person who was able to make positive changes in other people’s lives. My co-teacher and I have been utilizing the Visual Thinking Routine, SEE-THINK-WONDER, during which the children practice close-looking with an object or artwork. For this thinking routine, teachers ask each child to share something that they see, something that they think, and something that they wonder.

What was most successful about your lesson?

The most successful part about this whole unit was instilling an interest in Elvis’ music and Elvis as an icon. My passion for him definitely made an impact on the children and they love talking about him with me. I especially love the knock-knock jokes that they created: “Knock-Knock!” (Who’s there?) “ELVIS!!” I am always ecstatic when they request Elvis for their naptime music!

What could you have done differently? What recommendations would you have for another teacher trying out this lesson?

If I were to do this unit again, I would spend more time talking about how Elvis’ childhood struggles with poverty affected his desire to be a helpful and charitable person. While I am so excited that my class understands who Elvis is and why I love him, I feel that his charitable work is exceptional, especially because even after his death The Elvis Presley Charitable Foundation is a critical function of Elvis Presley Enterprises.

I would recommend other teachers learn about Elvis’ childhood as a means of creating a strong connection for the kids. I also recommend playing lots of his music and letting the kids have fun and enjoy his unique style! Also, Graceland (http://bit.ly/1BAIDu7) has fabulous resources for all ages and disciplines!

Here are a few images from their unit on Elvis:

Rebecca wanted to start her unit by introducing Elvis Presley to the kids so they ventured to the National Portrait Gallery to see the painting, Elvis Presley by Ralph Wolfe Cowan (http://bit.ly/1zB6xU1). The children were invited to look at the work and share what they saw. The children had a number of observations that helped lead and guide the discussion. They wondered about the keys in Elvis’ pocket and the building in the back of the scene.

DSCN1070Rebecca used those observations to introduce Elvis’ family and childhood. She used the tablet to show Elvis at different ages.

DSCN1063She then showed them other pictures of Elvis at the same age as in the portrait and also a larger image of Graceland.

DSCN1101The next day the class walked over to the Hirshhorn Museum to continue their exploration.

DSCN1119Rebecca focused her lesson on the Elvis classic “If I can dream” and visited the Cloud by Spencer Finch (http://bit.ly/1uoUAKM).  She wanted to focus on the concept of a dream. Illustrating that a dream can be a hope or desire or something you imagined when you were sleeping. The dark room and soft light from the art work set a wonderful atmosphere for them to talk all about dreaming.

DSCN1113Rebecca started her lesson by showing a video of Elvis singing his “If I can dream”.

DSCN1108Rebecca asked the group: “What is a dream?” After sharing the definition, she pulled out a few rest time items as way to emphasize the concept. She then asked the children what they dream about when they are sleeping. One child exclaimed “I dream about Museums!”

DSCN1114She then explained that the dream that Elvis was describing in his song is his hope for everyone to get along in the future. Rebecca then introduced Martin Luther King who also had big dreams and read Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport. Rebecca ended the lesson by asking the children to share their big dreams for the future. One child said “I want to be a great big huge chef that feeds everyone in the whole word.” 

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In the afternoon the children were invited to make their own hip-shaking Elvis. The class cut out Elvis and painted him with gold sparkles. The teachers helped fasten his hip to his body with a brad.

The class had a wonderful time exploring Music and learning all about Elvis. They have now moved on to a unit on performance! Check back in next week Thursday for an all new teacher feature!