With “Take Five” playing in the background: “we’re improvising with paper because they improvise in jazz.”
With “Take Five” playing in the background: “we’re improvising with paper because they improvise in jazz.”
Writing similes while listening to jazz.
Code your Legos to see how fast they can spin, and how they look from either side.
A few years back, the Preprimary program at Ancona added a Jazz Parade to alternate with the annual Chinese New Year Parade. This year, in the context of their study of Black History, they decided to explore how Jazz is related to the Black experience. Through collaboration with our Librarian, Ms. Marsha, and our Art Teacher, Angela, they followed the progress of jazz from its origins in African rhythms to its fusion with French Creole, Mississippi Delta (Gospel and Blues), European and Afro-Cuban musical forms in New Orleans, and its spread across the United States to places like New York, Kansas City, and Chicago, and the West Coast, to finding an international audience and global acceptance as it was embraced around the world and continues to evolve in sub-genres, such as Be-Bop, Fusion, Latin-, Cool- and even Acid-Jazz.
Ms. Marsha set the Jazz theme in motion by reading the children a book titled The Sound That Jazz Makes, which served as a developmentally appropriate foundation for their study of jazz. Back in their own classrooms, students read books related to the theme, such as Rap-a-Tap-Tap by Leo and Diane Dillon, Nicholas Cricket by Joyce Maxner, and Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler and R. Gregory Christie. With Angela, the children explored art and artists who visually articulate these themes: Jacob Lawrence (Migration Series), Aaron Douglas, Lois Mailou Jones, Archibald Motley, Romare Bearden (Musical Instrument Collages), Henri Matisse (Jazz Series), Piet Mondrian (Boogie Woogie). Students created kente-inspired wall-hangings and made talking drums and tambourines out of everyday objects, like toilet paper rolls and boxes.
Students in the preprimary were deeply immersed in their exploration of Black History, especially the cuisine, history, geography, Creole language and ragtime music of New Orleans and the Bayou when, with the kind of collective improvisation that is jazz, things really took off. In the spirit of collaboration, with the goal of complementing the curriculum, Angela outlined several themes to explore at each level:
Confluence of Cultures: Jazz derives from several cultural traditions: West African rhythms, European chamber ensembles, Mississippi Blues, Gospel and Cuban Contradanza.
Diversity: Jazz halls were places where both the musicians and the audience reflected the idea of the American melting pot.
Historical Context: Jazz coincides with the urbanization of America and the emergence of the New Negro Renaissance. As a cultural movement, jazz maintains a significant influence on global culture, taking on new shapes in different regions where it is taken up and fused with other traditions and innovations.
Migration/Movement: Jazz moves with the waves of people traveling from the Southern part of the United States to Northern cities during the Great Migration.
Literature: Langston Hughes’ Montage of a Dream Deferred figures prominently among jazz poetry. Louis Armstrong’s song, “What Did I Do To Be So Black and Blue?” is highlighted in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Sonia Sanchez, Haki Madhubuti and Amiri Baraka created prose and poetry related to Jazz culture.
Math and Science: There is much scholarship around the rhythmic patterns, ratios and tempos related specifically to jazz music. Vibrations, frequencies/wavelengths, and how musical instruments work are also important areas of science exploration.
Musical Evolution: Although Jazz evolved into many sub-genres, collective improvisation, syncopation, and the swing beat continue to define Jazz.
Meanwhile, Ms. Marsha shared Internet and print resources with all grade levels to support these explorations. She also shared her father’s wonderful photographs of famous jazz musicians, which you can see displayed in the halls of Ancona. Chuck Stewart shot most of these photos after graduating from Ohio University, but his inspiration was sparked when Marian Anderson visited his school and he captured her image with the Kodak Brownie camera his mother gave him when he was only thirteen years old. Perhaps this collaborative study of jazz will inspire Ancona students in similar ways.
Working together with the 1st through 4th grade teachers, Angela guided students in constructing and decorating their own Kalimbas (thumb pianos), an instrument with deep and wide-spread roots in Africa. Students in 3rd and 4th grades will continue to explore a variety of African instruments and will learn about the physics of sound as well. Meanwhile, our Head of School-elect, Ari, visited the preprimary classrooms, bringing his guitar and harmonica to give a presentation on how music can make people feel different emotions. He talked with the children about major and minor chords as well as the 7th chord that is often heard in Jazz Music. The children enjoyed the presentation, as well as getting a chance to work with Ari.
Kindergarten students have designed and decorated umbrellas for the culminating event of this exciting unit of study, the jazz parade. Angela provided a variety of textiles, decorative paper, and ribbons that inspired these beautiful creations. She also helped students understand the role that math plays in art. First students chose geometric designs to trace and cut, then they measured ribbons and fabric that would best fit their themes. The results are impressive and you can see them tomorrow, Feb. 20, as preprimary students wind their way through the halls of Ancona to the syncopated rhythms of jazz (parade begins at 10:30).
And be sure to join us for our African-American History Assembly next Friday, Feb 27, when you will get a chance to see, hear, and feel all that jazz at Ancona.
Please join us tomorrow morning for the Preprimary Jazz Parade. Within the context of their study of Black History, our preprimary students explored the origins and progression of Jazz. This unit of study culminates with a traditional parade through the Ancona halls. Learn more about their explorations and process here >.
Preprimary Jazz Parade
Friday, February 20, 2015
10:30 a.m. in the Umeh Foyer
Ancona’s 3rd annual Diversity Symposium takes place Saturday, April 18, 2015. This year, we will explore gender fluidity within the context of parenting and teaching. Our workshops will challenge misconceptions, provide interpretations and offer practical context for participants surrounding work with gender conforming and non-conforming students. After a welcome coffee reception, the day will include a keynote, breakout sessions and lunch followed by a theatrical performance by About Face Theatre with a Q&A. Learn more >
Summer at Ancona just got better! We’re gearing up for Journeys; a relevant and exciting eight-week adventure that never gets boring! Divided into four, two-week sessions, each Journey engages students in real-life experiences in a fun and fast paced approach to the material. You may register your child for one or all four of the Journeys. And that’s not all, we’ve also included some good old-fashioned fun activities such as, water parks, arcades, swimming, outdoor play and more.
Making the City
Does your child like to build, tinker, repurpose or create fascinating things? The maker movement is by far one of the most relevant movements. Students will participate in the maker process and walk away with in-depth knowledge of what it means to produce and invent. They will learn first-hand from some of Chicago’s most influential makers.
Greening the City
Students will explore how Chicago is becoming an eco-friendly city. Students will tour companies that are in front of the green movement locally and meet the individuals leading these efforts. Students will engage in water quality testing, solar energy projects and gardening.
Reporting the City
Working with award-winning local reporters, students will learn the mechanics of professional reporting. They will choose the most compelling stories, do the work of background digging, fact checking and follow-up. They will share those stories through video, audio, text, blogs and other online platforms. Some may even get published!
Spanish in the City
Students will gain insights about our emerging world community. This journey challenges them to think outside of their neighborhoods and locale. They will visit historic and cultural institutions and be immersed in Spanish theater, culinary and art projects. They will understand how their decisions and actions are contributing to the world.
Journey’s runs from Monday June 22nd to August 14th and is for students entering 1st through 6th grade in September 2015. Learn more here >
Ancona will be conducting annual speech and language screenings on Wednesday, February 25. Screenings are for the following grade levels only:
For information about screenings or results, please contact the main office at 773.924.2356.
Educators are fond of citing the wise farmer’s maxim, “You don’t grow a pig by weighing it.” While this transfer of wisdom from one field to another may be pithy, and while the statement is, strictly speaking, true (weighing a pig does not increase it’s weight), a deeper examination can reveal a great deal about the role weighing does play in raising pigs on farms, and, by analogy, in assessing children at school. In fact, weighing, in all its modes and measures, is actually an essential component of the kind of education we are committed to at Ancona. We might even say: how we assess is at the heart of how we teach.
Rob Evans, Ed.D., a famous educator, admonishes teachers “never [to] collect data on a child that you do not use to further your teaching of that child.” What he is promoting is “formative” assessment, the type that allows teachers to decide what to teach next based on where the student is (what she understand, knows, or can do). There are other types of assessment, of course, usually called summative and comparative. These are the kind that help teachers determine how far a student has come over a period of time or how she compares to others in her peer group. In farmer terms, this kind of weighing gives one bragging rights or determines which pig gets the blue ribbon. While this kind of weighing may grow the farmer’s pride or income, it certainly does not grow the pig.
At Ancona, we are almost exclusively concerned with assessment that helps us and our students make well-informed decisions about how to proceed in this great project called teaching and learning. One reason we call our curriculum the Landscape of Learning is to remind us that students of the same age can be at different places along their paths of learning and can (and should) actually traverse different routes at different speeds to arrive at the learning goals we identify as milestones along their journeys. Just as we would not give two families who are at different locations in the city the same directions on how to get to school, we don’t give two students the exact same lesson, assignment or guidance in school. Knowing where a child is in his understanding and competency (as well as how he learns best) is essential to designing learning experiences in which he will thrive.
Our attention to children’s “place and progress” begins from the moment they walk through the door of the Preprimary classroom. Maria Montessori exhorts teachers to think of themselves as scientists, observing carefully and noting precisely not just what a child is able to do, but how she approaches the work and how she responds to various types of guidance. The purpose of this attention is not to tell the child that she “got it right,” because praise, much like a blue ribbon, has no real impact on learning. Research has shown repeatedly that grade-like assessments actually dampen the motivation to learn, and Montessori herself recognized early on that constant praise results in training the child to perform for the praise and not to apply himself to the learning. This is why many Montessori materials are designed to be self-correcting; a feedback loop is established between the child and his work, resulting in the satisfaction of independent learning.
Even as children grow beyond the Montessori materials, the work Ancona teachers prepare is designed to keep assessment as immediate and authentic as possible. It is, in fact, an important criteria of project-based learning that the goal or product of the project be realistic and measurable by authentic criteria: Did the sail move the boat more efficiently than it did the first time? Did we save money on the sandwich shoppe ingredients by buying bulk? Did your audience understand your intended message? How do you know? Therefore, teachers plan for students to have opportunities to try out their solutions and to share them with authentic audiences. In gallery walks, for example, students write observations and ask questions about other groups’ math work, and in math congresses they display their solutions and explain their thinking/strategies. The process of sharing drafts with and giving feedback to other writers before they revise their work is an essential element on our Writing Workshops.
While learning can be messy, assessment need not be. In fact, one of the functions of assessment is to help educators focus on what matters most when students engage in learning: the learning. To this end, teachers at Ancona make themselves present in the learning process, observing and recording the evidence of understanding or the development of skills as they happen. Because this is not always easy, there are some powerful tools the teachers at Ancona have adopted or invented to measure learning. As an example, teachers use the Running Record ate to evaluate growth in reading throughout a student’s years at Ancona. At all grade levels, teachers sit with students as they reada series of increasingly more difficult texts, recording the child’s oral reading and comprehension. This snapshot of a child’s current reading level empowers teachers to assign the child’s just right reading level. Together with spelling inventories, running records help teachers assign the most effective word study activities for each child, and also serve as portfolios that document a child’s growth over time, revealing patterns and changes in the tempo of his or her learning.
We are very aware at Ancona that our students will some day (too soon) be assessed in order to be placed in new educational settings or to be ranked within those settings, and so we offer them the guidance and practice necessary to prepare for this kind of assessment. But if that were all we did, we would be like the farmer who puts his pig on the scale, reads the numbers, possibly records them in a book, and then puts the pig right back in the standard stall while he himself goes inside to dream of winning blue ribbons. It may make the farmer feel better, but it certainly won’t grow him any great pigs–or win him any blue ribbons, either, for that matter.