• What do they know of the writer/singer?
  • Where did he come from?
  • What is his message?
Today we talked a out the words of K'naan's song "Wash it Down". I am not sure I did all of the poetry justice but we culled a lot of hidden meaning from the words.
The Dusty Foot Philosopher

K'naanWash It Down – Free listening lyrics at Last.fm

Listen to K'naanWash It Down (full track) for free.
Some of the phrases gave them trouble, others were very clear to them.
""tension, the stressing disorder"
"hazardous accidents driving with negligence"
"too many beverages"
We could not figure out 'Stephanie or Erika', or "hassling creditors", but after discussing credit and debit, they wrestled with the concept of owing money.

I asked them why they thought K'naan used war 4 times in the first stanza. none of them came up with my conclusion, emphasis. I love looking at it from their perspective. They thought to emphasize it. One thought was that it was like the repeated firing of a gun.

I asked them why people use language. They had a great deal of trouble getting past the language in the song in the classroom! I know they use these words in the hallways and on the play yard! We compared the language and the topics they hear about in rap and other artists, i.e. one student asked if the song was going to be about "the 'hood". My belief is that we have to speak to them, as adults, to help them understand the values that they are being exposed to in the music they hear and the music videos they watch and the violence they see on TV and in the videos they rent.

I plan on doing an Internet Safety lesson next week. I know that they are chatting with friends and engaging in risky behaviour. I only hope I can help them understand the dangers out there. We have already talked some about Bullying. The next step is to help them engage in safe behaviours on-line.
What an interesting discussion! We came to the conclusion that people swear to get attention, to make a point, to convey emotions, to "be kewl".We compared language we would use with family vs. friends.

What was really interesting was comparing their reactions to seeing these words in print and seeing them in the classroom. We discussed the different synonym and Euphemisms for words that describe words like "vomit". I held them back from thoroughly exhausting all references that they could dream up - there were several! Language has proven to be a difficult problem at school. I hear "what the hell" so much.

I did a bit of a role play by pretending to be a student responding to a request by a parent, i.e. being asked to pick up "doggy do" from the back yard. How would be describe the experience to our friend, when complaining about having to do it! This helped explain euphemisms to them. They understood my point.
Wikipedia says: "A euphemism is an expression intended by the speaker to be less offensive, disturbing, or troubling to the listener than the word or phrase it replaces."
Tomorrow we will go back to the words of Water and revisit them, having viewed the DVD after speaking about the first verses. My daughter, a hydrogeologist, has spoken at length to me about this topic. After a time this morning they were anxious to see the DVD. They were fascinated in seeing the making of the video. Horrified to see the garbage and the ramshackle buildings.

The second time I delivered this lesson, with the gr. 8's, I thoughtfully asked them to find Kenya and Somalia on the maps in their planners BEFORE we started. [duH with a capital "H"!] I should have thought of that the first time, working with the gr. 7's. Sometimes I think I have never done this work before. Start with what you know - place the concepts in their minds before you deliver the new information. I already did the research and found an excellent map. Wikipedia isn't too bad a source. We did speak about the politics of Somalia. We compared what happens in Canada when you disagree with the politicans and you are fighting for power. Most chimed in with "an election" when I posed the question! Most timely, seeing as they ought to vote on Tuesday to begin the process.

We were shocked to read of the death of one of the workers in the Health Care Facility. They were further impressed with the work of the clinic featured on the video, located in Kiberia, Kenya. My grade 7's were charged with using math to figure out how old Ms. Festo was when she died. They determined she was only 39 and that her children were now motherless. Tabitha Atieno Festo, 1965-2004.
Maybe, sometime, one of my students will make such a difference in the world.
"The truth is the work" -K'naan

Further research:

See also: Integrating music into Language Arts Curriculum

Oprah. did a show on child soldiers
She spoke with Nelson Mandela about the AIDs issue in Africa.
UN Special Session
From 8 to 10 May 2002, more than 7,000 people participated in the most important international conference on children in more than a decade, the Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Children, at which the nations of the world committed themselves to a series of goals to improve the situation of children and young people.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his opening statement to the General Assembly, addressed the children of the world. "We, the grown-ups, have failed you deplorably," he said, adding, "One in three of you has suffered from malnutrition before you turned five years old. One in four of you has not been immunized against any disease. Almost one in five of you is not attending school. We, the grown-ups, must reverse this list of failures."