The fourth grade class that was used to develop the framework presented in this project has been a precocious class ever since I began teaching them in kindergarten. A goal of an effective teacher is to guide students to function independently. Since the majority of students in this particular class did display independent skills, I began planning this concept: they would write and present their own musical play. However, being aware also of their limitations, I realized they would need guidelines. The maturity level of fourth graders does not allow the teacher to rely on students for small group leadership during extended projects. Therefore, I had to structure their framework so that I could control most of the classwork. Also, I wanted the students to follow the guidelines of their curriculum. That limited the level of sophistication available to them in writing and accompanying their own music. Thus began the process that has resulted in this framework. My experience was not always smooth; obviously, I was working with the rough beginnings of this formula. Ideas were added, and ideas were discarded. When an idea did not work, time was wasted for the students but not wasted in terms of what was gleaned for use in this project.
At the same time that I was considering the original musical play ideas for my creative students -- they were then in third grade -- I was also searching for an appropriate synthesis subject for Hamline University's Master's degree requirement. The creation of an original composition or performance was a subject choice. With this choice, I could synthesize my liberal arts courses, especially the Orff Schulwerk, and past experiences with musical plays. I also had the type of elementary group deemed necessary for a creative production. Add to this the unavailability of any literature about students writing their own musical play, and my choice of a synthesis topic was logical.
This paper details the process I tested in finalizing the framework I formulated. Since it is crucial to know the psychological development of the age group being taught and be able to identify characteristics of creative students, I offer first a list of definitions and criteria. I then present a profile of my fourth grade class in light of these criteria. What follows this is the final framework that I found most effective for use by a teacher in guiding a class thorough this creative activity. Detailed next are my experiences, mistakes, and successes. The written play, music, and a video tape recording of my fourth graders' production are explained and accompany this paper. Finally, I have included arguments concerning the validity of this project and reflections on the success of the project.