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About Learning for Real

As a teacher with 31 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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Lyric Writing: A Collaborative Effort (VIDEO)

We are now in the process of introducing all jobs in the opera company.

As a writer, a chief responsibility is composing song lyrics. Given a familiar story about fishermen from The Congo, small groups set to work crafting lyrics for an aria to be sung by one of the main characters, Benguela.

Generally speaking, learning to work collaboratively is no easy feat. But today, teams settled quickly into a productive flow. There was immediate interest and engagement in the task.

I was delighted to see students who struggle with writing take the pen and lead their peers in this creative pursuit. The classroom was abuzz with unique ideas and lively discussion. To my surprise, several groups broke into song, tapping rhythms and singing melodies to accompany their words.

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About Mary Ruth McGinn

As a teacher with 32 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. Nineteen 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 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. The profundity of the work, the transformation of the students and a desire to “bring to light” new ideas in education, inspired Mary Ruth to share this way of thinking and learning. In 2006 she was granted a Fulbright Scholarship, sponsored and funded by Teatro Real and Fundación SaludArte in Madrid, and a sabbatical from Montgomery County, to travel to Spain to develop and implement a similar program there. She lived there two years training teachers and working side by side with teachers and students in their classrooms. The reception of the project was overwhelming. Mary Ruth returns to Madrid every summer to train a new team of educators and artists in the process. In the summer of 2018, she joined forces with The Kennedy Center to offer the opera training for teachers in the Washington Metro area. She currently teaches third grade at Stedwick Elementary School in Montgomery Village, Maryland where she is implementing a classroom curriculum based on the principles of authentic learning. Read more of Mary Ruth's blog Learning for Real.

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