Earlier in the year, I used song lyrics to compare similarities and differences in two versions of the same song, Let it Go! from the Let it Go lesson plan. Similiarly with this Earth Day lesson plan, the kids will again compare and contrast lyrics. This time the meanings of different earth-themed songs from the last four decades will be analyzed. The skill of comparing and contrasting can never be practiced enough. When my students are evaluated on their analytical skills with the new PARCC test next year, I want them familiar and confident. I know they will be with such a great amount of preparation.
I begin with a question, "Why do we recognize and celebrate Earth Day?" Although the answers are typical, ie: People should know to protect the Earth; Reminder to take care of the Earth, etc. the focus is now where I want it to be. We continue with other Thought questions as they look forward to the lesson on Earth Day 2014. Earth Day Smiley Face!
I next ask the kids to raise their hands if they like music. My class comes just under 100% of hands in the air. Different bands and songs are instantaneously chatted up, and it's clear that Earth Day has quickly left the table.
As I steer the conversation back to the topic, and toward themes of music, one of my students blurts out, "I know! We're going to compare Earth Day songs..." Caught- I admit that this is exactly what we're doing.
The songs chosen are from the last four decades: 70s *"The Trees," by Rush; 80s "The Landscape is Changing," by Depeche Mode; 90s "Earth Song," by Michael Jackson; and 2000s "The 3Rs," by Jack Johnson. My first choice for the 70s is "The Last Resort," by The Eagles, but certain lyrics prevented me from doing so. That song would be excellent for Earth Day, but not in elementary school. In fact, as noted in the reflective narrative below, this lesson IS a challenging one, and I needed to provide a fair amount of support to the kids.
All of the lyrics are given to the kids, but the students choose only two on which to concentrate. Within the packet is also a Comparing Lyrics on Earth Day guide page for the kids to analyze and respond to questions with opinion. Giving opinions on the favorite Earth Day song after hearing each plus two planned "breaks" to:
1) listen to the songs Working with "The 3Rs" as background music
2) discuss each song Discussing the lyrics
In order to support the instruction, I put them into pairs or trios ahead of time. With complex tasks, careful grouping is cruicial to the success of the assignment. If all students in a group are struggling with what to do, frustration will set in, limit their ability to be successful, and sour their enthusiasm completely. With a balanced group, some of these pitfalls will be avoided. Having said that, I am alert, more than normal, to move toward a group that looks confused.
*Admittedly, "The Trees" is not really about trees. As a perfect contrast to the other songs, it's interesting to see which kids recognize that its theme is not the environment and trees, but more likely government and people.
After a rather complex lesson, the kids are ready to let down a bit. I agree and this is the perfect closure for doing so. I have the kids pair up with friends to discuss their favorite or least favorite song in the grouping. While in their pairs, they create an Illustration of one of the songs, or a generic Earth Day themed poster. I acquiesced on specifically doing the song idea when a student who came in late had to do something totally different because she missed hearing all of the songs. A few other kids asked to do a generic picture. Sometimes, it's good to change midstream. This lyric lesson was pretty intense, and the kids worked very hard. It was a better idea to give them choice with the illustration.
The clear favorite after lyrics were analyzed and songs were listened to was, "The Landscape is Changing," by Depeche Mode. This was not the favorite going in- that was "Earth Song," by Michael Jackson. This shows what digging a little deeper into a concept will do.
We completed this lesson plan before lunch, but continued our Earth Day theme when they returned. With the help of our Assistant Principal, we participated in the NASA #globalselfie experiment. Our #GlobalSelfie was a highlight of the day and I love the picture with the many globes, gorgeous mountains and smiling kids. The NASA #globalselfie phenomenon hit social media this year as a way to connect everyone on Earth, on Earth Day. Participants took their picture with a sign noting where they were and then posted it on the site. When I saw the opportunity to participate in this cool experiment for Earth Day, I jumped on it.
One month later - May 22, 2014 - they posted the Global Selfie with the tagline, "Thank you, Earthlings." The two sided mosaic of Earth contains all 36,422 uploaded #globalselfie pictures that, thanks to 3.2 gigapixels by GigaPan, can be viewed clearly. In a stroke of luck, I found our Global Selfie!! We're kind of near Ghana, Africa. I'm open to interesting ideas when they come along, and my kids benefit. We all had fun this day. (I hope they offer a poster of the mosaic at some point!) Far view of our class in the mosaic THEN You can see our little picture in mosaic!