Sam Seidel, director of K12 strategy and research at Stanford d. School, tells the story of how he was able to turn listening to music into an opportunity to build student literacy.
[MUSIC PLAYING] One specific story about my teaching literacy to a group of young people who many adults had not seen as literate or interested in the kind of literacy that was being peddled in schools. My students and I were all pretty excited about an album that had just come out which was– this is a while back now– it was Jay-Z’s album, The Blueprint.
And students really want to listen to the album and I could bring in the album and play it but I also was very transparent with them that my job wasn’t just to come play an album that we all wanted to hear. As much as that might be fun for all of us, that I was supposed to be teaching these literacy skills. And I showed them, these are the things that I’m on the hook for here. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.
You’re supposed to be learning. This is what’s going on and we all have this love, so how could we bring this all together? So we decided to write reviews of the album and in that process we were ticking off the things that I was supposed to teach and the things that we’re supposed to learn and we were doing it around a text that we all found interesting.
And so that was a way in that I found to be really effective. I brought in a few friends who wrote music reviews and we actually got this review that the class classroom published in the newspaper and I was able to bring that in and show them that their words had been put out and seen by all these other people.
So that was a really rewarding tangible example of where it wasn’t either, or, it wasn’t using the music as bait and then switching, it was actually just doing a little bit of work together. Not feeling it all on myself to figure it all out beforehand but come to them with like, OK here are the things that you need to learn and I need to teach. Here’s something we’re all excited about, help me figure out how we can do all of this.
And I found that when I came with the vulnerability and the personal authenticity to say, this is where we are. I’m pulling back the curtain. the students were game to jump in and actually engage with me around how to plan the lessons in that whole unit.
I think as a young teacher I was hesitant to do that because I felt like I supposed to have everything figured out. But one of the big lessons for me in that experience was opening up the space for them to understand what I was working on I think made them more willing to open up space to show me what they were working on.