It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!
This week we are featuring John Fuller, Brittany Brown, and Brittany Leavitt, who teach our two-year-old Firefly Class. This class spent several weeks learning about jazz music and musicians as part of a larger unit during Black History Month. The students were captivated by the different types of instruments that can be heard in jazz music, and the voices of Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald often floated down the hall from their classroom during their explorations. I accompanied the Fireflies on a visit to the National Portrait Gallery to learn about Louis Armstrong and view one of his portraits. Below you will find a reflection from Brittany B., Brittany L., and John, as well as some images from their lesson.
What were your topics of exploration? Why did you choose them? Where did they come from?
This lesson took place during the month of February, so we decided to take advantage of Black History Month. We had observed the fact that our children love music, and so we chose to focus on jazz music for a few weeks.
Why and how did you choose the visit?
We had been learning about several different jazz musicians and wanted our kids to see a photo of one of the musicians we had been learning about in a museum. We decided to visit the National Portrait Gallery because we could see a portrait of Louis Armstrong there.
What were your learning objectives? (What did you want your children to take away from the lesson?)
Our main goal in this lesson was to help the Fireflies identify different musicians and instruments. We reinforced this concept by playing lots of matching games, and helped the Fireflies connect to the musicians by sharing interesting tidbits about their lives that the Fireflies were familiar with (such as the face that Duke Ellington has a school named after him in our city, Washington D.C.).
We also brought in a record player so the kids would be able to listen to the music of each jazz artist as we learned about them. The kids were all amazed by the record player! On our museum visit, we brought a trumpet along with us so the kids would be able to feel and hold an authentic jazz instrument. We wanted the children to learn that Louis Armstrong played the trumpet, and that the trumpet has many different parts like the bell, finger buttons and mouthpiece.
What was most successful about your lesson? How did the lesson reach your objectives to expand the topic? What was successful in terms of your preparation and logistics?
I believe this was a successful lesson. It’s great to talk with our kids’ parents and hear that they were talking about Billie Holiday at home, or that they remembered that Miles Davis plays the trumpet.
What could you have done differently to better achieve your objectives and expand the topic? What was challenging regarding logistics? What recommendations would you have for another teacher trying out this lesson?
There were no major challenges during this lesson. It seemed like we gave the children enough examples to reinforce the concepts during our circle, without overwhelming them with too much information at once. Music is such a universal topic that we could have gone in many different directions with it. We had previously explored our five senses during the fall semester, and we could have revisited that topic and talked about how we use our ears to hear and our fingers to play.
For any teachers trying out this lesson, I would recommend they think outside the box. Connecting music and art is a fun way to reinforce the concept. Some examples would be to have a dance party in your classroom, putting on music and letting the children take off their shoes and paint with their feet on the floor. Teachers could also incorporate art by putting a dab of paint on a drum and letting their students experiment.
Here are a few photos from the Fireflies’ lesson on Louis Armstrong:
The Firefly teachers began their lesson in the classroom, where Brittany B. led the students in a matching activity to review the jazz musicians they had learned about so far in their unit.
This activity gave children the opportunity to look at pictures of familiar jazz artists, and match each artist to the instrument they played. Earlier in their unit, the Fireflies had learned about the musicians Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and Miles Davis. This matching game including a storytelling component, where the Fireflies learned some details about each musician’s life. The kiddos were excited to connect the musicians’ experiences to things they had experienced themselves (such as living in Washington D.C.).
Following this activity, Brittany B. introduced the Fireflies to another jazz musician, Ella Fitzgerald. The students learned that some musicians, like Ella Fitzgerald, use their voice as an instrument.
The kiddos put on their “listening ears” while Brittany B. played an Ella Fitzgerald record. Many kiddos picked out the different instruments they heard in the song, including the singer’s voice and a trumpet. Brittany B. explained that they were going to see a portrait of another jazz singer that day.
Later in the morning, the Fireflies continued their lesson at the National Portrait Gallery. Brittany L. introduced the class to the jazz musician Louis Armstrong, and the class spent some time looking at his portrait.
Due to the musical nature of their unit, the class by this point was very accustomed to putting on their “listening ears,” and did so again in the museum to hear Louis Armstrong sing What a Wonderful World. A few students told Brittany L. that they could hear a piano, a trumpet, and a singing voice.
The Firefly teachers had brought a real trumpet in its case along to the museum. Before Brittany L. opened the case, the class spent some time guessing what was inside. One student guessed “A violin!”
As Brittany L. showed the trumpet to the students, she labeled each part and talked about its function. She demonstrated how the trumpet is played by blowing air through it, and compared it to the trumpet in Louis Armstrong’s portrait.
The students then had the opportunity to touch the trumpet, push the buttons, and examine the holes at either end.
This unit exposed the two-year-olds to many different types of jazz musicians, and provided the students with plenty of new vocabulary and knowledge about how different instruments are played. Check out our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for more ideas from their unit on jazz! See you in two weeks with our next Teacher Feature!