Ballads in 3rd Grade

Victor Cockburn Records Lyric Ideas from Students at Burr School

Victor Cockburn Records Lyric Ideas from Students

In Mrs. Nicholas’ third grade classroom we were looking closer at the lyrics to a poem and song that I had just sung with them about Harriet Tubman. The poem was by Eloise Greenfield, and the song was by Walter Robinson. I weave these works together, as they provide factual and emotional perspective about Tubman, and the lives of slaves at that time. Also, as both pieces are written in the Ballad style, they provide a model of telling a story using this writing genre.

The students loved the poem, and on first hearing were able to answer questions about specific information found in the lyrics. The students could sing along on the son’s chorus and, again, were able to identify facts found in the songs lyrics. We identified how the writers used metaphor, and descriptive language that captured emotion and danger.

Photograph courtesy of Elliot Haney Photography

We looked at the poem first, and talked about the poor grammar Eloise Greenfield deliberately used. The students soon correctly identified the “speaker” of the poem as another slave telling us about Tubman. Slaves did not go to school and did not generally have education in reading or writing, so their grammar was often poor. From that we explored the question as to why the slave owners did not want their captives to read or write? The discussion turned to the advantages of being literate, to learn and share new ideas, and to express thoughts clearly and creatively.

Next week we will be writing our own Ballads using writing techniques such as sense imagery, simile and metaphor, descriptive language. Further along in this residency students will write ballads about themselves.

I am one of four Troubadour Teaching Artists presenting workshops at the Charles Taylor School in Dorchester, MA. In a five workshop series, Poet Elizabeth McKim is writing poetry with the fourth grade, and Ilene Miller is visiting fifth grade teaching skills in writing Personal Narrative. Claire Gervias will be visiting three Kindergarten classrooms for three workshops each, presenting early childhood literacy activities with Troubadours Little Wings program. I am visiting four, third grade classrooms for five lyric writing workshop sessions.

-Victor Cockburn, Senior Teaching Artist & Co-Founder

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