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Dignity for All Students – Anti Bullying 5 day Songwriting Residency


A proactive and creative way to prevent bullying and promote civility, tolerance and diversity while addressing the NYS Common Core Standards.

          In March of 2012 Brian did a songwriting residency at Jackson Heights Elementary School, Glens Falls, NY. The PBIS assembly residency was based on the Dignity for All Students Act and the NYS Character Education Mandates. 

The messages of civility, tolerance and diversity were addressed through a five day songwriting residency where each class wrote, recorded and performed an original song. Common Core State Standards were met with activities addressing reading, writing, speaking and listening. This residency gave students the opportunity to have rich, meaningful discussions about all aspects of bullying and how to prevent it. The students were highly engaged as they worked through pre writing activities, the brainstorming process, lyric writing, musical composition, editing, recording and finally performing a collection of original, creative and purposeful songs. While the message of the songs was based on promoting civility, tolerance and respecting diversity, the writing process itself was just as valuable in students attaining deep and complex literacy skills.

Watch Brian's Anti Bully Assembly - September 2013

Overview of the writing process used in the Jackson Heights Dignity for All Songwriting Residency

     The purpose of illustrating the steps is to show that other schools can work with Brian in a Dignity for All/Character Education/Anti Bully Songwriting residency or change the content to fit their needs. 

     The program listed below was completed at Jackson Heights Elementary school (grades k-4). One song was created per grade level. Brian collaborated with the Music teacher as his point person, but any content area teacher can be the point person. Additionally, a parent from the PTA chose to participate for all 5 days of the program. Brian worked with K-4 general education classes, special education classes including a 6:1:1 and 12:1:4. All students participated in all aspects of the program. 






Step 1 - Pre Writing Activity for Students

     This is an optional step that was employed by Cari Kassebaum, the music teacher at Jackson Heights. It is a pre writing activity in which she gave the students a worksheet with questions about bullying and the more subtle behaviors that precede bullying. 

     The answers the students wrote (or had parents write) were used in the brainstorming session with Brian in step two. See samples below!

Grade K-1 Sample                                                     Grade 4 Sample

Step 2 - Brainstorming the Content of the Songs


          This is where the students met Brian and, after an interactive overview of the songwriting process, they began brainstorming the content of the songs. The overall theme or topic of the song was chosen by Brian and the teachers in advance. This school did one song for every two grades. Often Brian writes one song with each grade level in a building. Here are some pics of the brainstorming charts Brian developed with classes. This is a great opportunity to have in depth conversations with kids about bullying and pre-bulling behavior and strategies for how kids can deal with it. These ideas became part of the songs.


Step 3 - Write Rough Drafts from Student Poems


          In this step classes wrote the rough drafts of their poems (that became the verses and chorus of the song) based on the brainstorming done in step two. They also revised as they wrote, a very important part of the process. Here are some pics of the rough drafts Brian developed with classes. After this they brainstormed musical styles, chords and melodies that they felt fit the lyrics they had written. Brian does this part of the process by posing questions to the students that lead him to musical ideas. The class as a whole decides which ideas they like best.


Step 4 - Make & Produce a CD for Students


          As the songs are polished and finished, Brian records the songs in his state of the Art studio. It is also customary for Brian to then do a recording session with the students so that their vocal tracks are part of the recording as well. Jackson Heights had Brian cut them a CD with all of their original songs. That CD was duplicated for students to have a copy of their own. The school actually cut its own album! Students can create their own album art for the CD cover.



Step 5- Post Writing Activity for Students


This was an optional step that was employed by classroom teachers. A Post Writing Activity sheet was used with all classes to generate reflection and summarization of the entire songwriting experience. From that, a variety of writing activities were chosen by the classroom teachers:

Younger grades drew pictures and wrote thank you notes. 


Second grade wrote fables with guidelines given in advance. There had to be a bully and regular kid and the story had to contain a conflict which in the end had to be resolved. 


Other teachers chose to have their students write quatrain and cinquain poems. 


Another class chose to do venn diagrams.


The residency was completed with a finale assembly in which the students presented their songs to the rest of the school, one of which was a new school song.

A Special Thank You to

Mrs. Cari Kassebaum!


"I would like to thank Mrs. Cari Kassebaum for her dedication during this project 
and all that she did to not only make this residency possible, but really making the most of this experience for the students at Jackson Heights Elementary School. 

She is an example of the difference that a truly dedicated and talented 
teacher can make." 

~ Brian Chevalier


A Thank You from the Students to Brian!

Anti Bullying Resources


“The standards insist that instruction in reading, writing, speaking, listening and language be a shared responsibility within the school.”

Kids Health - Helping Kids Deal With Bullies
PBS Kids - What Is Bullying?
Complaints List Inc. - Character Education Resources

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