Summers-Knoll Elementary School
In November 2011, poet Christine Hume (picture above) visited Summers-Knoll Elementary School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Hume read poetry to three separate classrooms of 1st - 4th graders and invited the kids to make their own recordings of the musical Shel Silverstein poems they heard. With help from their music teacher, Cara Talaska, the poets at Summers-Knoll memorized, choreographed, and recited Silverstein's poems "Slithergadee," "Magic," and "Tree House."
Describing their process Talaska said, "I read four or five poems to each class and students voted on which they liked best. To help memorize the poem, students developed movements to depict each line of the poem. We also practiced reciting the poem while keeping a steady beat with our bodies. Students then played with dynamic, tempo and instrumental contrasts to aurally illustrate the meaning of their poems.
'Slithergadee' was recorded on December 21, 2011. This was during our school’s study of the human body, so students worked in groups of 2-3 to recite the poem using only their bodies. Students listened to and critiqued each other’s performances, then came up with a way to put all their ideas together in one performance, including a coda depicting the poem’s author being eaten, then eulogized, by the Slithergadee.
For 'Magic,' the class decided they liked the feel of playing the drums with their recitation, and tried adding crescendos and decrescendos to make the poem more exciting. For 'Tree House,' the class decided to use whispering, shouting, high-pitched, and 'adults telling you what to do' voices for contrast."
Pictured above are the three classes from Summers-Knoll Elementary who participated in the musical poetry project (from left to right, top to bottom):
Chris Swinko's 3rd/4th grade class (pictured with Cara Talaska, the music teacher), recited Shel Silverstein's "Slithergadee"
Elaine Neeland's 1st/2nd grade class, recited Shel Silverstein's "Magic"
Susan Carpenter's 1st/2nd grade class, recited Shel Silverstein's "Tree House"