Taking Action: Students as Recording Artists

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Does anyone teach using the CBL model? At my school we are in our first year of implementing CBL school-wide and it is massively exciting and terrifying all at once. CBL stands for Challenge Based Learning. It is a type of inquiry process that puts the emphasis on students using technology as an integral part of their learning and requires students to think of and implement an authentic solution to a challenge.

Last term we worked on the big idea of ‘Systems’ and the challenge they were set was ‘Change the way our community uses natural resources.’ I want to share the solution my students came up with as a whole grade.

To decide on a challenge solution as a class we brainstormed all the different ideas they had for addressing the challenge. Some of the ideas that came up were:

  • Writing a news report and getting it put on the news
  • Making posters to stick up in the school and local community
  • Writing a song about how to save resources

Writing a song was by far the most popular choice so we set to work brainstorming anything and everything they thought might be included. I gave students the task of writing words, sentences, phrases, rhymes or anything that they thought might get the message across. Everything at this point was basically a huge discussion, idea melting-pot and decision-making process between the whole grade. I stepped back and watched in amazement as my grade 2s took over, ridiculously capable.


They decided to split up into groups that focused on saving water, trees, petrol and air (saving it from pollution… haha!). They came up with some amazing stuff, with conversations such as:
“When you take a shower, try not to take ages.”
“Yeah don’t take an hour.”
“Hour rhymes with shower.. Hahah!”
“What about ‘When you take a shower don’t take an hour?'”
“Mrs Fintelman, is that okay?”
At this point I was in raptures. After this we went through a process of discussing what they knew about how to put a song together and they brought up things such as rhyming, making a catchy chorus, making the chorus about the main idea, and using beats to make it sound good, incorporating a lot of knowledge they had learnt in Performing Arts. It took about an hour for us to collaboratively write a four-verse song… no mean feat! I won’t pretend that they did the whole thing on their own but the majority of the writing was done by the students discussing, writing, changing, deleting, altering, testing and most of all collaborating.


UntitledI suggested using GarageBand to record their voices so students had a play with the iPad version of GarageBand to see what it could do. They soon discovered that they could add instruments and change the sounds. We voted and decided that the hard rock guitar sound was the way to go. Since no one in the class knew how to play guitar or use one to put a song together, I introduced them to the concept of the 4-chord progression frequently used in songs (if you don’t know this is, watch this song to learn about it – Note 1: I didn’t show this to the kids, Note 2: Watch out for language). They were excited and were able to play the chords after we googled them. By this point our song was really coming together! All it took from there were a few lessons about persistence and practicing and the fact that our first recording probably wasn’t going to be our best one. We had one student in the grade who learns piano and he came up with a little riff to add to the chorus, which he was ecstatic about. Finally, after a million recordings, we had a finished product.

soundcloudcom.cardinalblue.piccollage.googleAfter this a couple of students worked on some cover art using the app Pic Collage. We then uploaded the song to Soundcloud (a website where you can upload your own original music for others to listen to and download) and discussed how anyone was going to find it. It was decided that to promote it we should use Twitter and our blog (post here). The song is really good and they are very proud of themselves. I think this is testament to what Grade 2s can achieve… an authentic, genuine action that can make a difference to the local and global community!

Listen to our incredible song “Don’t Waste our Natural Resources”!

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