This spring, Upstream Arts has been running a residency with a fantastic new partner school, Linwood Monroe Arts Plus, part of the St. Paul Public Schools District. At Linwood Monroe, we have been working with 4th and 5th grade students with developmental and cognitive disabilities.
One very popular Upstream Arts activity is called “Poetry Orchestra.” Here is how it works:
- One Teaching Artist guides students through questions and prompts related to a specific theme. In this case, the theme was friendship, so the students were prompted with questions like, “What is a friend like?” “A friend should always…” “A friend should never…” and “What color is friendship?”
- Students explore creative ways to express themselves through language, imagery, color, and movement.
- Another Teaching Artist weaves the students’ responses into a poem, which is revealed at the end (see image above or transcript below).
- Next, the Teaching Artists lead students in creating melodies for individual lines of the poem, playing with assorted styles of music.
- Finally, selected lines of the musicalized poem are assigned to small groups of students and conducted by the Teaching Artists like an orchestra. The group has a blast improvising with different tempos, rhythms, and dynamics!
Click here to watch Upstream Arts Teaching Artist Norah Long – a professional opera singer and actor who regularly performs locally, nationally, and internationally – lead the Linwood Monroe “Poetry Orchestra” through the last few steps of this process with delightfully magnificent gusto! You can also read a full transcript of the original poem below.
Share with them, Kind to them, Nice to them
Happy like a Seal with a Gem
Dance it out like a Snake
Dance like a Dog
Dance like a Dragon
Dance like a Dinosaur Dolphin
I have your back. Can you please stop?
Football too fast? I got it.
Basketball, Baseball, Hula Hoop. We always work together.
Protect them, Help them
Don’t be harsh like a Tornado, like a Volcano of Lava
Be a Shooting Star, Be the Sun
Be the drizzling Rain, Be the Rainbow
Friends are the Rock Stars of Life
They save us, They teach us
Like a Superhero, Like Fast Flash
Friends are Fantastic!