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As a teacher with 29 years of experience, Mary Ruth McGinn has always sought innovative ways to meet the needs of each of her students. She has spent her entire career in schools where a majority of students speak English as a second language and where poverty significantly impacts the... Read more

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Back on Track

What’s in a title that makes you want to pick up a book, see a movie or go out to the theater?

Lightning Strike Kids Opera Company will tell you that the title must be catchy, engage the audience and refer in some way to the deeper meaning of the story. Through alliteration, rhyme, paradox, metaphor or play on words, the students find a way to express what their opera is REALLY about. By asking what a story, song or poem is REALLY about, we access a thinking process that enables students to go beneath the surface of the text to uncover the author’s intended message, unique perspective or personal interpretation. We then ask the same about our own story.

Company members work in groups to discuss and document the deeper meaning. What are we hoping to share with our audience? What will others take from our opera? What will our audience be thinking and feeling as they leave the opera?

While pondering possible titles, we brainstormed words related to our setting and powerful moments in the opera. From this exhaustive list, students suggested titles and defended their relevance.

As small groups shared ideas, one title resonated with the entire company. Upon mention, Back on Track received an overwhelming chorus of delight and approval.

Student responses to the question, “What is our opera REALLY about?”

It’s about . . .

Who you really are inside
Pain
Life is never fair
Better understanding
Coming together with loved ones
Friendship
To always remember the lessons of others
Think about things before you do them
Think about consequences
Making wise choices
How I affect other people
Working together to get through hard times
Letting out your emotions
Separation
Truthfulness
Your heart breaking and coming back together
Life is never perfect
Don’t let tenacity take over your friendship
Life is hard
Responsibility
If something breaks and you glue it back together, it will never be the same

What is the song Get On Your Feet by Gloria Estefan REALLY about? (Daylon, Lauryn and Danielle)

What is our opera REALLY about? (Katie, Lauryn and Sofía)

What is our opera REALLY about? (Linda, Samantha and Jianna)

Justification for the title BACK ON TRACK

All five characters, their brains have something on the wrong side. Sometimes we all get on the wrong side, too. But, we can fix it if our characters can fix it.
Linda

It is a good name for our opera because we all need to get back on track.
Daylon

Everyone is circling around the right track. Everyone has mixed emotions because they are spinning fast.
Elliot

If a train is not on track, it needs to get back on track because the train could crash.
Sofía

Back on track is a fantastic title. Jake is losing his best friend. Max is upset with Jake. Christina’s feelings are getting crushed by Rosy. Rosy keeps on lying and doesn’t know when to stop. Spike has a hard time, too. Every single character has to get BACK ON TRACK.
Philip

If we make bad choices, we’re off our track. If we make good choices, we’re on our track. It is important to be on track.
Samantha

In the beginning, everyone is all messed up. At the end, everyone is back on track.
Elijah

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Mary Ruth McGinn

About Mary Ruth McGinn

As a teacher with 29 years of experience, Mary Ruth McGinn has always sought innovative ways to meet the needs of each of her students. She has spent her entire career in schools where a majority of students speak English as a second language and where poverty significantly impacts the learning experiences and opportunities of students and their families.

Sixteen years ago she had an experience that changed her life and altered her professional path in a profound way. She attended training sessions at The Metropolitan Opera Guild in New York City, spent nine intense days living the process of creating an original opera and learned how to replicate the experience with her students. She then began creating opera with her students and using the process of creating the opera as a vehicle through which to teach curriculum and life skills. The authentic purpose for learning coupled with the arts provided the perfect stage on which to construct a love for life-long learning.

She currently teaches at Stedwick Elementary School in Montgomery Village, Maryland where she is creating another original opera with her third grade students.

Read more of Mary Ruth’s blog Learning for Real.

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