Fiestas Julias!

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The kids before the parade.They were excited!

It’s been a whirlwind of fun here in Huehuetenango! Starting today and ending July 18 is Fiestas Julias, which translates to July Festivals. For the next week there will be stands on the streets filled with great food, snacks, and souvenirs. There will be a carnival in town, and of course more fun to be had. What are we celebrating? I am still not exactly sure. From what I understand from one of my colleagues and a brief search on the internet, it is a week to celebrate the mother of the Virgin Mary, Señora Santa Ana. We (the staff of Colegio Bilingüe Esperanza) are going to take this week to rest, reset, and immerse ourselves into festival! But before any of that could begin, we had to dance in the streets.

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Costumes of the school ahead of us in the parade.

The week kicks off with a parade of all the schools in the department. Most of the schools in the area use a live band to play songs such as Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.” Our number was a flash mob dance routine featuring bands such as The 1975, Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift, and of course One Direction, our students favorite band. Our school wore our school uniforms with matching navy blue ties for the boys and bows for the girls. Other schools have matching costumes ranging from cowboys and cowgirls to younger students wearing animal costumes, and traditional dress as well.

Practice begins early. Our school started learning our routine for 40 minutes each day at the beginning of June. The week of the parade we took the students outside to practice walking while doing the choreography. I am so proud of these kids. During practices, they worked hard and carefully followed directions in order to improve. During the parade, we were a major hit, receiving compliments and screams from the crowd because they were singing in English and dancing in sync. This led to local parents wanting more information about our school!

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Our banner featuring the United States flag and the Guatemalan flag!

I loved being a part of the creative process. I was in charge of teaching the kids Phil Wickham’s “At Your Name” during Music class. We sang this song in between our dance sessions during the parade. Myself, an English teacher Carolyn Boustead, and Spanish teacher Alfredo Figueroa spent one afternoon choreographing the dance together. I was encouraged by the way the three of us were able to bounce ideas off of each other to eventually create a dance that was both fun and challenging for the students.

Below are two videos. The first one is of the full dance during an earlier portion of the parade route (Special thanks to my friend Bethany Moore for filming). The second video is a short clip of part of the dance about halfway through the parade route. Thanks to Mark Wakefield for sharing the video! Enjoy! It was fun to be a part of a great Huehuetenango tradition.

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Recorder Update

I started recorders with my students a couple of months ago and we are now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Most of my classes have two or three songs left to finish the recorder karate curriculum. The students have surprised me with their willingness to learn and grow musically these past couple months thanks to the recorders. We have analyzed the sheet music and played each song in the curriculum with poise. Some of the songs in the curriculum include, “Amazing Grace, “When the Saints Go Marching In,” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” Of course, it wouldn’t be a complete unit unless I put my own twist on the program…

This is the chart i have in my classroom outlining student progress.
This is the chart i have in my classroom outlining student progress.

While at Pepperdine, I studied the methodology of teaching Elementary Music. In class, we discussed student-friendly methods to effectively create a musical classroom. One of the assignments I was given was to develop and teach a recorder lesson for elementary students. My professor provided us with song suggestions, but I wanted to do a different song. I went to my professor and asked if I could use the Star Wars theme instead of one of the other songs she provided. She eagerly said yes!  From there, we spent an hour in her office creating the sheet music and rhythmic patterns that would be used for the lesson. It was a blast! When I first taught the lesson, back before I had any teaching experience, it flopped; however, I saved the lesson, knowing that the content and idea were good. Today, my 6th graders completed my Star Wars lesson, and it was a success. I have been  impressed with their progress, but I was particularly happy to see how quickly they picked up this song. They were determined to finish strong and go out with a bang!

When my students receive new music, their task is to write the names of each note, circle new symbols in the music, and sight read it once on their own. We have been developing this

One of my students sight reading the Star Wars sheet music
One of my students sight reading the Star Wars sheet music

routine and skill since the beginning of the recorder unit. Once they finish a trial run of the song on their own, I scaffold new music theory rules that are relevant to each song in a group setting. I ask the students to draw each symbol that they circled on their music on the board. From there, we slowly go through each new concept and define it. After the group discussion, we play the music together one measure at a time. Usually the playing portion will take a couple of class periods to complete and perfect. Today, my 6th grade students completed this whole routine in one day.

I am proud of the growth of all of my classes, but today I am especially proud of my 6th grade students. Below is a video of three students playing the song. I hope you enjoy! I think this video captures their personalities perfectly.