Ella Fitzgerald Online Exhibition

Posted by Speakeasy News > Wednesday 26 April 2017 > Webpicks

2017 is the centenary of the birth of Ella Fitzgerald, one of the most recognized voices in jazz history. The Smithsonian National Museum of American History is hosting an exhibition in tribute to "The First Lady of Song". The online version is an excellent authentic document for classroom use.

The mini-site is fairly succinct, with just four sections each of a page, and lots of images with captions. Don't linger on the opening page, on which the text is idiomatic and difficult for learners. Pupils can just be told that Ella Fitzgerald is considered one of the best singers in the history of jazz, and she was born in 1917.

The four other pages are short and simple, and ideally organised for group work from B1 with each group researching one theme:

  • "Breaking Through"
  • "Peak of Her Powers"
  • "Honors and Recognition"
  • "Celebrity Icon"

The last is particularly interesting because it explores Fitzgerald's breakthrough role as one of the first African-American female celebrities who appeared in advertising aimed at the general public.

Ella's Singing Class
The Smithsonian site also proposes a teaching resource: Ella's Singing Class. It would be excellent for an EPI on a culture et création artistiques theme with music and French. It is divided into four "stories". The first two use nursery rhymes, as Ella Fitzgerald did in her first big hit, "A-tisket, A-tasket".

The second story asks pupils to replace some of the words in a nursery rhyme with "scat" sounds. It's excellent for working on the rhythm and musicality of language in English.

The first story asks pupils to adapt the words of a nursery rhyme, a good creative writing exercise — it's easier than coming up with a text from nothing and encourages them to concentrate on pronunciation, rhyme and rhythm.