Time is flying! We are already in the last week of the three week session at City of Children’s summer English school. I found my niche as Loud Repetition Master. As a group and individually I get the students to imitate my fast speech and intonation on sentences and structures addressed in class. I was surprised at first to find that the 7-8 year-olds have an easier time with this, I think because they aren’t so concerned with understanding and fall right into imitation. More and more of them approach me with questions, trying out their English, even Misha, who is one of the shyest, though certainly doing very well with English.
Recent units have been ordering food in a restaurant (the local pizza joint), shopping at a grocery, Talent Day, colors, using “-ing” words, a visit to the trampoline center, and today I gave my music unit. NOTE: I must insert here some words from my 12th grade English teacher who wrote saying: “You are a genius! What an imaginative, educational, and totally fun program you’ve designed. And the kids look so happy and engaged. Congratulations!” Well I corrected her immediately to say all this genius belongs only to Julia, Darima, Raisa and their Director, Elena. BRAVA!
I had intended my music unit to be a standard class based on a vocabulary list (piano, guitar, orchestra, rock band, chorus, composition, song, etc), but at about 9:30 last evening Raisa had a brainstorm and texted asking if I might talk instead about American music genres. After some internally grumbling, I came around. In fact, her idea was brilliant.
I talked about spirituals, The Blues, ragtime, jazz and hip-hop, all of which are undeniably the most influential genre contributions to world music from the US. I had never really looked at this before, but they are a constant flow of originality, passion, creativity and virtuosity from the 1700s to the present, and all from African-Americans, and based in suffering and struggle. We watched a video of a spiritual from the film, “12 Years a Slave,” listened to Muddy Waters, watched Eubie Blake play his “Charleston Rag” (1899) when he was 89, and ended with Louis Armstrong’s “Go Down, Moses,” featured in the animation, “The Prince of Egypt.” The hip-hop example was to be a Russian one, but we were short on time, and all the students already knew what I was talking about, anyway. (We recently learned “A Million Voices”, a Russian/English pop song sung by Russian star Polina Gagarina. I pointed out that her styling was a direct derivative of American jazz.)
Tomorrow we head to the planetarium.
Additionally, the kids have been involved in two service projects. On June 12, Russia Day, we planted acacia bushes in a bed at School No. 30 where we have breakfast and lunch.
And today, one of the groups made clay roosters, even naming them (straight out of the Aardman Studios! This school introduced me to Aardman’s “Shaun the Sheep” series, and I highly recommend it!). The roosters were made for me to bring to the kids at the Children’s Center in Petrovsk-Zabaikalsky next week!