Teacher hopes new CD will have students humming while they test

Karen Johnson, a teacher at Metzger Elementary, produces 'Fun with Science and Social Studies' CD
by: Jennifer Clampet, SINGING LESSONS — Karen Johnson holds  a copy of her new learning CD, “Fun with Science and Social Studies,” which presents lesson information to the tune of songs Johnson wrote.

METZGER - You've heard of whistling while you work. But how about humming while you test?

Humming is exactly what Karen Johnson, a first-grade teacher at Metzger Elementary School, wants to hear when her students try to remember a lesson on Canada or bees or the weather.

Johnson spent the summer working on a compilation of songs using public domain music plus vocabulary and classroom lessons linked to the school's first- and second-grade lesson plans. The product was a compact disc entitled 'Fun with Science and Social Studies.'

The concept was simple. Johnson reflected on her Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol training ,which is a research-based approach to planning and implementing sheltered content lessons that have been proven effective with English language learners. The SIOP strategies for teaching include using music.

Like learning the ABC's to the tune of 'Twinkle, Twinkle' or, like Johnson, referring back to a song to remember how to spell a long word like encyclopedia, music can help a child remember lessons, she says.

But when Johnson went looking for songs to use in lessons, she couldn't find very many. Instead she opted to create her own.

With the help of her church's former music director and six elementary-aged girls from the church's children's choir, Johnson was able to create and record 16 songs for an 18-song CD.

The CDs were given to every school in the Tigard-Tualatin School District to be used in first- and second-grade classrooms.

'You are an inspiration,' School Board member Barry Albertson told Johnson during a recent board meeting.

The CD has been out for less than two months, and already Johnson is getting requests from outside the district for copies of the CD. And through families and teachers, the CD has already reached people in seven different states, Johnson noted.

Johnson, who has some background in instrumental music, said she was surprised at the amount of work the CD production required.

'I had no idea what I was getting myself into,' she said, adding that the CD took all summer to edit, and the songs took two recording sessions to finish.

But Monday was the first day Johnson used one of her songs for a classroom lesson. And her face brightened when she told of how her class was already humming the music as they walked down the halls.

'It's exciting,' she said, 'because I know they're going to learn the words.'