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Valley Crossing Community School music teacher selected as Emerging Pioneer by Music EdVentures

Deb Graf “Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone” and “Old Joe Clark” may sound like typical songs coming from an elementary school music classroom, but these songs are more than just fun sing-alongs, they are part of a unique instructional approach called SongWorks that focuses on playful interaction. Deb Graf, music teacher at Valley Crossing Community School (VCCS), exemplifies this playful approach in her everyday teaching and for it she was recently selected as a recipient of the Fleurette Sweeney Fellowship for Emerging Pioneers in Education Grant through Music EdVentures, Incorporated (MEI).
The SongWorks model is grounded in play-based learning, interactive activities and singing games. “Once students can feel the music kinesthetically, they can do better with putting it down on paper and it becomes easier for them to study and fully comprehend,” explains Graf. “Physical actions that go along with song lyrics allow students to learn with their body, which makes the learning process more engaging for everyone.”

Graf became involved with MEI and Songwerks about two years ago by attending monthly master teaching seminars at St. Kate’s hosted by retired music teachers, where she hones in on her own skills by learning from other teachers. She was nominated for the grant by Terolle Turnham, a retired music teacher from Eagan.

“I love their philosophy of teaching because it is so similar to the responsive classroom teaching practices we use at VCCS and ties in really well with literacy. I've seen such success with all children, but especially boys in grades 4, 5 and 6 who are a challenge in any school district when it comes to keeping them interested in singing,” says Graf.

As a grant recipient, Graf will attend the MEI International Conference this spring in Denver, Colorado at no cost. After the conference, she has a lengthy list of assignments to complete that will help spread the knowledge she gains from the conference and provide additional professional development and collaborative opportunities for her and her music colleagues.