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My Experience at the Roots, Routes, and Rhythms Elective Seminar

I’ve really enjoyed the elective seminars that are available to the trainees in Community-Word Project's Teaching Artist Project (TAP). I recently went to the Roots, Routes and Rhythms seminar, which was facilitated by City Lore, a nonprofit that fosters living cultural heritage through education and public programs. The seminar gave me new lesson ideas, reinforced a lot of the concepts I’ve learned during the TAP trainings, and showed me how using call-and-response can tap into students’ intuitive learning processes as well as engage them in the lesson.

Roots, Routes and Rhythms is a program City Lore created to, “engage students in exploring the roots of contemporary music and dance cultures in their boroughs and neighborhoods,” as stated on their website.

Throughout the afternoon, we used experiential learning to study how call-and-response was incorporated throughout traditional art forms. We participated in the lessons as the students, but we also reflected on the methods that the teachers were using throughout the afternoon. The seminar was divided into three different segments, during which we studied a traditional art form and its origins and then took part in its creation and performance. Each of the lessons began with a mini-performance or an interactive call-and-response, which immediately grabbed our attention. We were then informed about some of the technical aspects of the art forms, allowing us to take part in their creation and performance. Throughout each portion, we reflected about the different ways that call and response was used.

We learned about a complex drum beat from Peru; Puerto Rico’s Bomba, a collaborative relationship between music and dance; and the Ghazal poetic form from seventh century Arabia. Both of the music lessons engaged us in an intuitive learning style, mimicking how a young child first learns language. Rather than the teacher explaining everything using words, we could naturally copy and respond to the teacher’s demonstrations. The teacher then engaged us in reflection, so that we could unpack and articulate what we learned. This process was a great example of something I’ve been learning from the TAP trainings: the student should take an active role in the learning process, rather than the teacher doing a lot of talking. For the poetry lesson, for example, we were given a couple of Ghazal poems to read and then identified the structure and devices used. After learning the basics, we were put in pairs and tasked with creating additional lines for one of the given poems. After that, of course, we shared our work and reflected on it. Here again, things I’ve learned from the TAP trainings were reinforced. The lesson was layered: starting by looking at examples of other artists’ works, followed by learning necessary vocabulary, and then culminating with the students creating, sharing, and reflecting on their own and each other’s work.

In addition to seeing more examples of how to structure and build a lesson, I saw how impactful call-and-response can be and look forward to incorporating this technique throughout my lessons.

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