Annie Tsai, a teacher in Taiwan, writes about how music and the Everybody Up Global Sing-along changed the lives of her students last year. This piece originally appeared on Annie’s Corner on 28 January 2012.
This is by far one of the most extraordinary projects I’ve done. There has been a lot of joy and learning along the way with surprising struggles of school politics. Nevertheless, they are all good and they will nurture my future teaching life.
I felt the need to document what has happened over the past few weeks. One is to share how I started this amazing project with my kids, which many teachers might like to look to in hopes of noticing opportunities around them. The second purpose is, I’d like to share what I have learned from the event, about … people and life. Yes, I know it sounds bizarre to connect these with a competition, but surprisingly enough, this competition opens a window of observation.
Global Sing-along Competition
I couldn’t recall where I first learned about the competition nevertheless I remembered my first thought was, ‘Gee, this sounds like fun! How do I get involved?’ The competition, Global Sing-Along, was hosted by Oxford University Press (OUP). They were very clever and considerate to have all necessary teaching materials ready and downloadable online. To enter the contest, teachers are required to record kids singing from titles offered by OUP and upload the video clips to OUP’s YouTube channel. There were five songs to choose from and includes all the teaching materials such as mp3, lyrics and accompanying MTV.
The first song couldn’t be simpler. The lyrics contain only two words, ‘everybody’ and ‘up’. Regardless of how some may see the song as too easy for any elementary level kids, it is a perfect test of how we teachers can expand and extend from a pure base. In daily school life, children climb up the monkey bars, they swing up high and low, they do a lot of rope jumping, they look up skyward to observe things … these child-like activities supply a rich foundation for extensive teaching moments.
I asked my 3rd graders which part of our campus they would like to showcase if they were to introduce our school to children from other parts of the world. They nominated 7 areas and I assigned each class to do an MTV for each spot. The video shooting took only one session and they just loved learning outside of the classroom.
We actually did all 5 songs and I did something extra with another song ‘I like chicken’. You can take a look at the I Like Chicken Lesson Plan.
I then let the material stew for a month and started to put the clips together in August. Things started to get a bit tricky here. Neither of my computers at home or office worked properly with Movie Maker! My desktop at school doesn’t seem to be equipped with certain necessary codes while the laptop I have at home tends to crash every five minutes when running with Movie Maker. I end up rebooting the program every 5 minutes and finally have my final production ready the night before the deadline.
A couple of months later, I got the call from OUP informing me about winning the first prize in Taiwan.
You can access the winning video clip here.
Then several news reports from local and nationwide media followed, I was interviewed a couple of times. Additionally, friends of my parents did a home delivery of some news clippings.
No, there isn’t any $ involved but the reward is an even better one! OUP invited the songwriter of Everybody Up, which happens to be the same person who wrote ‘From a Distance’ (1991), Julie Gold, to visit us. And what’s more, the all-time favorite Super Simple song writer/teacher, Devon Thagard, was among the VIP list. They were to spend two hours at school with the contestants (all now 3rd graders) and Devon would have a mini teaching session with the kids followed by Julie’s live performance of the song ‘From a Distance’. It was a thrill for kids and myself but probably a bit of stress for the administrative staff since the county government heard of the news and decided to visit our school as well.
Other than that, among training kids, preparing the display and show props and daily teaching routine, I could hardly worry about anything else.
The big day
Finally the big day came! You can see the OUP flickr album here.
A sum up video clip by OUP is here.
Devon did a mini lesson with kids (around 200 of them!)
Julie also played the song “From a Distance” at our activity centre.
It was phenomenal for all of us. A first time in many ways and a lot of kids (mostly girls) reflected that they found themselves in tears when Julie played the song (I was a bit surprised since they really don’t know the meaning of the song).
After the big day
After the event, kids and many teachers were still talking about the big day. I asked my kids to draw what they remembered on that day.
You can take a look here.
Some life lessons
- Never underestimate what one can do to change the situation.
- Find your leverage and use it well. Helpers will follow then but you have to initiate it first.
- It’s worth the risk to take the off-beaten road sometimes. Some kids need different stimulus and with careful planning, the learning experience can be really phenomenal and powerful.
- Participating in contests from time to time helps to freshen up the teaching mind and allows one to see learning from a different point of view.
A couple of journalists came on the day and I remember one of them asked me, ‘So what do these children get from winning this competition? You’ve got the recognition and what do they get?’
(Sigh) I was quite taken back by his twisted interpretation of winning and education. I believe, what a teacher can offer best to students is a phenomenal learning experience that years later may flourish into something extraordinary. Such experience reaches far beyond than any sweets, toys or iPad!