‘I Have a Dream’ Project Proves Strong Impact On Attainment In Literacy And History

Posted on June 16, 2014

This year, seven Chester primary schools, members of their communities and students from the University of Chester and RNCM came together to create a new mini-opera based on the civil rights movement in America. The evaluation report of the ‘I Have a Dream’ project highlights the impact of learning through music and drama on the school children’s literacy and historical awareness skills.

The ‘I Have a Dream’ project ran for three weeks in March 2014 with over 100 people from the Chester community. The children and adults were involved in a series of workshops with Manchester Camerata practitioners exploring the themes of freedom, justice and equality using music and drama. On 26th March they shared their work in an incredible performance at Chester Cathedral.

The project explored the idea of historical progress by highlighting the political and social differences between the USA in the mid-1900s and the USA at present under the presidency of Barack Obama. In just four days of intensive workshops with Camerata musicians, the participants reflected on the civil rights movement in the USA, including its effect in Chester’s sister city Pennsylvania where Dr Martin Luther King Jr. attended Seminary College, and explored issues such as freedom, equality and justice.

Robert Meadows, from the University of Chester, outlines that ‘Manchester Camerata has gathered evidence to prove the impact on music education and upon social and emotional learning. This paper provides findings to support the case that its work has a strong impact upon literacy and historical awareness.’

Its impact on literacy was primarily due to ‘the process of making up new and appropriate lyrics for the opera involved reinforcing literacy skills in innovative ways that had an impact on pupils’ speaking and listening and upon their writing.’

Literacy improvements included:

  • An increase in levels of confidence in speaking and listening
  • An impact on the ability of young people to collaborate
  • Pupils made more sophisticated use of vocabulary
  • Pupils learned more about the rhythm of language
  • Pupils had a strong sense of ownership over what they had created and written

The report highlights that ‘the approach had similarities with Ken Robinson’s definition of the creative process: the use of imagination to produce an original product that had value. There was a clear link between developing the imagination of the learners through the project and making an impact on the literacy skills of the participants.’
An example of this approach is as follows: ‘The interest of learners was galvanised and ‘hooked’ through interactive games that were used to introduce concepts and ideas in ways that were made personal and relevant to the pupils. These approaches also developed their confidence.’

Furthermore, the report highlights that the project ‘succeeded in raising historical awareness. All pupils ended the project with a clear understanding of the history of that time and how and why significant changes had taken place within American society.’

Examples of this included:

  • Through in role work, they gained an understanding of the diverse nature of society and relationships between groups in society
  • The pupils discussed racism as a key challenge of our time
  • The pupils developed their historical imagination through relating their own values to those of a different historical epoch
  • The pupils were given the opportunity to ask perceptive questions that developed their knowledge and understanding of history
  • The pupils discussed the process of change over time

Other impacts emerged in the report, such as improvements on social and emotional learning. One teacher also commented that the project was especially useful for a child on the Autistic Spectrum, as they benefitted from ‘having to recognise that you cannot always have the given structure of clear and direct explanation… that sometimes they need taking out of that comfort zone.’

Finally, unexpected findings included ‘Learning and Participation programmes of Manchester Camerata have an impact on building skills pupils need to make a smooth transition from primary to secondary and that this is significant for all levels of ability.’

If your school would like to take part in a similar project, please contact Lucy Geddes to discuss what would suit you: E: lgeddes@manchestercamerata.com T: 0161 2268696