Jon Schwartz & The Kids Like Blues Band Program: How technology and music help children learn

Kids Like Blues

“We’ve managed to incorporate tons of technology into our classroom. Over 90 % of my students have personal blogs. Through their individual blogs, the kids can keep their parents in the loop and show off their creative skills. I get instant email updates when they blog, and nothing is cooler than seeing one of my students post to their blog – over the weekend!- about guitars they wish they had! Oh how I can relate!”

------Jon Schwartz

Can you believe a six-year-old child is as proficient as you do in Photoshop and blogging? Yes! That is what’s happening at Garrison Elementary School located in Oceanside, California. Jon Schwartz, a blues guitarist and a second grade teacher, creatively uses the blues, blogs and Photoshop, as tools to educate kids. Jon’s teaching endeavors, creativity and energy seem highly relevant to arts engagement opportunities for organizations across the country.

“The Kids Like Blues”

The Kids Like Blues Band Program is about using blues music and lyrics as a springboard for teaching academic content standards in reading, writing, listening, speech, social studies, and the visual and performing arts. Based on a careful song selection, Jon chooses lyrics with the appropriate cadence, imagery, and kid-friendly content. Students then sing out the vocabulary given the rhythm, and in turn practice reading through repetitive and engaging activities. The kids themselves are encouraged to choreograph cool dance moves and motions to help them define and recall complicated vocabulary.

These activities provide children an encouraging and exciting environment that motivates them to learn new knowledge and unleash their creativities. Chuck Berry’s “Let it Rock” is one of the most popular tunes.

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Students who are learning English, have speech difficulties or other learning disabilities, and just plain shy kids seem to develop more confidence as they learn the songs since the material presented to them is an engaging group practice, rather than them needing to talk by themselves in front of the whole class.

See how a Japanese girl benefits from the project:

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Additionally, both high achieving and struggling students who have made tremendous gains tend to take leadership roles in their enthusiasm generating  creative opportunities, such as designing dance moves, coaching others, blogging the artworks.

See how children create artworks through Photoshop and Blogging:

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“Perhaps most importantly, my students’ self esteem is soaring and they are becoming passionate about lessons that would have otherwise been dull..”said Mr. Schwartz.  These strong emotional responses to the arts are exactly what arts educators wants to generate in the children, what arts organizations want to generate in their audience, and what art wants to generate in the human soul.  Mr. Schwartz’s model of creative participation and engagement can be translated to audience engagement models through online groups or onsite post-experience workshops. The opportunities abound for the arts to become as exciting to your audience as they are to these students.


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