Kids Like Blues


Not many six year olds know all the lyrics to the songs of Chuck Berry, but this isn’t true for one group of kids from Oceanside, San Diego. Under the mentorship of their teacher, Jon Schwartz, these first-graders are immersed in a blues-based programme that’s changing the way they learn. Schwartz uses blues music to encourage creativity and achievement in the classroom. His project Kids Like Blues encourages music is a medium for learning reading, writing, speaking and the visual and performing arts.

Getting kids excited and motivated about schoolwork is not always easy – particularly for kids with difficulty learning via traditional methods or for those acquiring a second language. But music can be a way to engage with academic content in a fun and stimulating way. The songs Schwartz uses are carefully selected to have appropriate levels of syllabication, vocabulary, imagery and subject matter. In this way, the children are even able to use the songs as a springboard for learning about culture, history, myths or folktales.

Schwartz is a former professional musician who took his love of blues music into the classroom to share the experience with his students. He started mixing songs into the lesson plans and that’s when the magic happened. “I never imagined I was introducing a fantastic launching point for thematic, standards-based teaching,” says Schwartz. Now, nearly a year on, he is in awe at the progress his students have made, noting that not only has it taken their learning to new and unprecedented levels, but it has inspired him to be a better, more confident and more passionate teacher.

At a time when standardised testing has been pushing subjects like art and music out of the classroom, projects that fuse academics with art, creativity and performance are finding a renewed purpose as a medium that can both enhance learning and raise achievement levels. Because music fosters the sort of emotional connections and Schwartz incorporates a variety of ways to engage during lessons, students at different levels and with varying learning styles are able to benefit from the interaction equally.

The project was such a success that they've formed the Kids Like Blues Band which continues to inspire and motivate kids and teachers who see their performances.


Written by: Megan Du Triou

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