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More than 400 Carroll County Middle School students and staff members packed the school’s gymnasium with books in hand.
Facing them was an array of video camera tripods, microphone stands, and a fully-extended aerial lift, in which art teacher Corie Edens was securely perched as she filmed the crowd performing a massive wave from left to right and back again. Technology teacher Christie Jones also captured the scene on her camcorder as music teacher Chris Roode directed the movements like an aerobics instructor, calling out commands.
“OK, hold your book up high; then sit back down again on the final count,” said Roode, demonstrating the move. “Five, six, seven, eight.”
Music from Devo, the 80s American New Wave band, pulsed through the auditorium as students and staff moved as one to the rhythm, imitating Roode. Instead of chanting the lyrics to the Devo classic “Whip It,” the students sang a new version of the song written by band teacher Kelly Hash, entitled “Read It.”
“When a great book comes along, you must read it,” say the new lyrics, which contain literary references to Dr. Seuss, Harry Potter, and Huckleberry Finn, among others. Using a synthesizer, music teacher Chris Roode created a new karaoke track because all the ones he could find included the original Devo lyrics.
The idea to create a school-wide video originated when school secretary Shelly Craig shared a YouTube video with Principal Dana Oak that Craig’s daughter, Gracie, a second-grader at Winn Primary, had shown her. Ocoee Middle School in Florida had created a YouTube video based on the Black-Eyed Peas’ song “I’ve Got a Feeling” and rewrote the lyrics, naming their song “Gotta Keep Reading.” A video recording of choreographed movements set to pre-recorded music and shared over the Internet is often referred to as a “web-dub.” The Ocoee Middle School video has been viewed more than 900,000 times and has inspired a host of imitators. A recent YouTube search brought up over 50 different web-dubs of “Gotta Keep Reading” by different schools.
Oak said that she asked the school’s “Encore” team to spearhead the project to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ Birthday and Read Across America. The subjects taught by the “Encore” team include general music, art, technology, library science, physical education, and Read 180.
“We tend to forget about celebrating Dr. Seuss’ birthday and Read Across America in middle and high school,” said Oak, who performed some of the movements in the video, along with the students. “I was actually sweating. It was a pretty rigorous workout.”
In addition to the movement providing good exercise, the students also thought the choreography was exciting.
“I like the choreography,” said eighth grader Darian Skirvin. “I thought it was going to be pretty cheesy, but it’s pretty cool.”
Choreographer Cindy Hedges incorporated the book and made it central to the movement, most of which is from the waist up. In addition to the whole school participating in the choreography, Hash and Roode appear as the Dr. Seuss characters Thing 1 and Thing 2, both wearing a bright red outfit with Hash incorporating Devo’s famous “Energy Dome” head gear, which resembles a red clay planting pot turned upside down.
Roode said that a variety of video footage will be edited together and synced with the karaoke track, chorus recording, and chanting of the student body. The final product will be shown at the March 24 Carroll County Board of Education meeting, highlighting Carroll County Middle School. Jones said that once the video is completed, she will release it on YouTube as “Read It” by Carroll County Middle School.
“It is so wonderful to watch our students at CCMS show such enthusiasm and want to show-off our school to the rest of the world,” said Denise Smith, reading intervention teacher, who pointed out that the Encore team was able to incorporate student leaders, the choir, and student technology specialists, along with the rest of the student body in meaningful ways while creating the video. “The excitement has been contagious in the school all week long.”
Eight grader Kelly Layton echoed Smith’s comments: “It’s going to be awesome, especially because it going to highlight our whole school. Our parents are going to be proud of us, and our teachers will be too.”
“Sometimes school can be stressful, for students and for staff,” Oak said. “This video project has helped to reduce a little stress and given kids the chance to create memories in school. This will be something they will never forget.”
Jeff Fremin is director of public relations for Carroll County Public Schools.