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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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Learn to Yield, Yield to Learn (Videos)

For years I have worked on teaching my class the art of yielding to others. The idea of facilitating a student led discussion with twenty-four students, where no one raises a hand asking permission to speak, but everyone contributes to the conversation has always intrigued me. When should I speak? When is it better to hold my tongue and allow others to be heard? How does knowing when to speak help me as an individual and help my class as a whole?

For many, this may seem an impossible feat, but for Lightning Strike Kids Opera Company, anything is possible.

We participate in exercises to instill the value of yielding and to help us understand our own tendencies in behavior. We start with a counting game, which when introduced, seems simple, but in reality is quite difficult to master.

The objective . . . Start at 0, count to ten. One person starts the counting and others follow in sequence. If two or more people say any given number at the same time, the counting starts over at 0. In this manner, when the group members reach 10, they declare victory. Try it. How many attempts will it take?

Video of counting exercise

Yesterday, during a visit from our Community Superintendent, Dr. LaVerne Kimball, I witnessed a transformation in my students. They did it! For the first time, without my intervention, they shared thoughts, feelings and ideas about our opera process while successfully yielding to their classmates. One student stood to speak and immediately noticed his company mate standing across the circle. He sat down and waited for another opportunity, allowing his classmate to take the floor. This continued for twenty minutes, with everyone listening attentively and adding to the dialog when appropriate. Dr. Kimball now knows about our company jobs, our central message for the opera and specific aspects of our learning. But more importantly, we know more about ourselves.

Ashley

Angel

Imari

Michael

Emmah

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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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