Kennedy Center Artist Teaches Lyric Writing At Ring Elementary

Kennedy Center Teaching Artist Stuart Stotts recently visited Ring Elementary School where he taught students to write lyrics. Stotts used music, lyric writing and movement to engage and motivate students.

“Tell me something you are learning about in school?” asked Kennedy Center Teaching Artist Stuart Stotts.

“We are learning about communities around the world and how they get books,” said Ring Elementary School third grade teacher Kim Austin.

“Can you tell me some specific things you’ve learned?”

“In Zimbabwe, they get books by donkey carts,” said a student.

“Wow, that is a great line for a song. Instead of in Zimbabwe, could we write, far off in Zimbabwe? Let’s try to sing it and see how it sounds.”

Mr. Stotts worked with students at Ring Elementary School on lyric writing in conjunction with what they are learning in the classroom. As a group, the class created a new song about reading all over the world, a subject they are studying. Mr. Stotts used music, lyric writing and movement to engage and motivate students. He demonstrated for teachers how to explore with students different song structures and patterns that students can use to write, sing, rehearse, and perform original song lyrics. This creative process helps students demonstrate their understanding of any content area while experiencing the joy of music. Teachers also had a separate opportunity to participate in a professional workshop with Mr. Stotts.

“I love this topic because it connects students to the importance of reading. The students read many books about how people around the world get access to books,” said Mr. Stotts. “Kids were excited about sharing what they knew and they had a real investment in the song and creating something that was unique and different.”

The classroom visits are part of the partnership team consisting of Chautauqua Institution, Jamestown Public Schools and the Chautauqua Lake Central School District who were named among 10 inductees in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Partners in Education Program. This is the second year of the collaboration, which gives the schools multiple visiting artists opportunities each year.

“Chautauqua Institution is proud to serve as a year-round arts education resource that now offers in-depth residency programs in schools, field trips at Chautauqua, and professional development for teachers. Partnering with Chautauqua County schools is an honor and a priority as we look to serve our community throughout the year,” said Deborah Sunya Moore, Vice President of Performing and Visual Arts.

Stotts is a songwriter, storyteller, and author from Madison, Wisconsin. He has worked as a full-time performer since 1986 and gives more than 200 shows a year for kids, families, and adults around the Midwest, and sometimes farther. Mr. Stotts is a frequent presenter at conferences and workshops for teachers, parents, and librarians. He has worked extensively as an artist-in-residence in elementary, middle, and high schools. He has also released several award-winning recordings and is the author of The Bookcase Ghost: A Collection of Wisconsin Ghost Stories, Books in a Box: Lutie Stearns and the Traveling Libraries of Wisconsin, Curly Lambeau and the Green Packers, and the forthcoming We Shall Overcome: A Song that Changed the World.


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