Monthly Archives: April 2018

Final Project: Frank Elementary (My Mentor Teacher, 4th Grade Choir)

My Mentor Teacher:

My mentor teacher, Cathy Fletcher, is the general music teacher and choir director at the school.  Before teaching at Frank, she taught piano (she still does), and has always been involved with teaching and sharing music and other arts with students in other jobs that she has had.  She says that she loves teaching general music because “this job gives [her] the chance to personally see to it that the children in [her] school learn about the arts and can participate in music activities,” unlike previous administrative roles that she has had.  Her main goals for all of her students are to: (a) to learn to sing correctly and to play an instrument; and (b) to read regular notation. She has a very large collection of Orff instruments in the classroom that she teaches with, and every class gets the chance to play them in practice to keep a steady beat and the older grades learn ensemble pieces.  They also play recorders, in 3rd and 4th grade, where they get their “karate belts” for being able to read a piece of music. They have practice with reading notes almost every class (she has puzzles starting in 2nd grade to read rhythms and notes and also aural exercises). Everything she does in class is to achieve these goals.

She gets her teaching materials by borrowing from other music teachers, GamePlan K-5 teacher editions; visuals & SmartBoard visuals; songs from Music K8 (a subscription that she pays for) and current folk singers that focus on children’s music; classics that she wants to pass on to another generation (e.g., Puff the Magic Dragon; America the Beautiful).  The school originally had two music classrooms, but she was able to get a bigger room and decreased class size so they didn’t need the extra music teacher. With the GamePlan books that she has, she got whole set and visuals when the fine arts coordinator sent out survey and got money from district to get a set for each teacher, though she doesn’t use the discs.  In her “keep the beat” exercise that starts class, she plays a lot of popular music that the students know, and also introduces “oldies” like Elvis and the Beatles and gives them mini-lessons on them.

When asked about what she wished she had right now and what she would like to change, she said: “I have LOTS of resources (30 Orff instruments; 150 recorders; SmartBoard; 5 keyboards; thirty 3/4 guitars, etc.) so I don’t really wish for anything in the classroom. I wish that there were more parent support for extras like getting the children to before-school clubs and performances off-campus. That’s been a huge frustration.” Frank is a Title 1 school, so she gets a lot of funding and the opportunity to run a guitar club, which was replaced by piano club this semester when the school got her 4 new keyboards.  She did provide seats for the students from her own money for the club, that meets for an hour before school on Wednesdays and Fridays, with 2 different groups of students that come in. On days that I have gone in, there are always students that show up late or not at all to keyboard club or 4th grade choir simply because their parents didn’t want to make the trouble. The school had the opportunity to send 10 choir students to a district choir festival, and the students that were chosen originally almost all dropped out because their parents didn’t want to pick them up from the one performance that it required.  For me this is a bit frustrating because I can see that most of the students want to participate but are held back by their parents.

Even though she doesn’t get a lot of parent support, her “district is proactive about supplying each music teachers with current curriculum and hosting special events for [the] choir. The Frank principal is very supportive by using available tax credit money for things like keyboards. The PTO and the City of Tempe provide support for choir shirts. Most importantly, the administration gives lots of support with behavior issues so [she] feel[s] like it’s a team effort to improve the lives and behavior of all [the] kids.”  I am always seeing her talking to the PTO, administration, and other teachers about what she needs and what they can do for each other. There are some parents that are very willing to help and take their students to things, and it is very nice to see that there is some support there.

4th Grade Choir (meets before school 8:30-8:50 ish)

To help get students more interested in music and in choir (officially a class only for 5th graders), she offers a 4th grade choir that meets before school on Wednesdays and Fridays.  It is a club, where students join voluntarily and with their parents’ permission, and they get to perform with the 5th grade choir at their events.  It is not for a grade, but if they have 5 absences (unexcused) they cannot be in it. She normally starts the year with around 50 students, but the number gets smaller as the year goes on.  This is due to parents not getting the students there on time or making them quit because they don’t want to take them in, sometimes students quit, and others meet their 5 absences because they would rather play on the playground before school.

The choir represents the population of the school, almost all of them are hispanic or Native American, and there are very few African American and white students.  There is only one boy, and he seems to feel like he stands out because he always sits in the back and doesn’t seem like he projects as much as he could. He shows up every time that I have, but each time that I have gone in there has been a student that I don’t recognize because they don’t show up regularly or they show up at the end before I get a chance to interact with them or see them interact with their friends.  One of the last times that I went in I saw a student for what I believe was the first time, and she was not able to sing in tune (I am not sure if this is because of her abilities or because she didn’t know the songs due to poor attendance).

There are a lot of them that don’t show up on time, but usually show up to at least be able to sing one song.  Most of the time they are late because they are getting breakfast in the cafeteria, maybe because it is the only chance that they have to eat in the morning, or they like the socializing before school.  She starts with a few minutes of warm-ups at the beginning, and this gives students a chance to show up a few minutes late without being a big distraction. Not all of them participate in the warm-ups, but there are enough of them focused that by the end most of them are singing and not fooling around.  Some of them don’t participate because they don’t know them that well (as a lot of the time they show up after everything is done) and some of them are afraid of them for various reasons.

There are a lot of students that love choir and plan on doing it when they get to the 5th grade.  There are a handful of students that show up every meeting early because they get to take role, and they want to be able to mess around with the instrument that are around the room, mainly the keyboard and Orff instruments, and sometimes the drums that are in the front.  When they mess with the instruments, they don’t really know what they are doing, but pretend that they do and just have a lot of fun together. There are a few that do have some piano experience and like to show of to their friends and teacher that they can play a simple song (this might be due to the fact that the Mrs. Fletcher is a piano player).

It is easy to see which songs they enjoy, because they pay more attention to directions and sing louder, even sit up straighter or look like they are having fun.  They have been working on a song, “The Clouds,” that almost none of them like, it can be seen and heard each time they work on it because they act like they are distracted (more so than usual) and don’t watch the conductor.  Most of the students don’t have the words memorized and always forget what part they are singing. When they get to “Best Day of My Life” they all get excited and sing everything to the best of their ability, and usually ask for it right when they walk in.

One of the songs that they are working on, “Tongo,” has percussion parts that they all get excited to do because they get to rotate who does what part, although they don’t seem to know the song all that well.  It is a lot of call and response with words that are not in English and some of them struggle with memorization, and cannot keep the tempo consistent with the drum parts. They don’t really seem to care, because they are just having fun.  Upon talking to Mrs. Fletcher about them, she told me that the 5th grade choir does well with the song and that they will handle most of the singing and playing.

When they are getting ready for performances, they go from sitting on the rug and having the words projected on the screen to standing and singing the words memorized, and being conducted rather than having Mrs. Fletcher at the piano.  One of the last times that I have gone in was the first time that everyone (that was still a part of the club) had shown up, even if they were trickling in just a few minutes before being dismissed. When they get closer to performances the students show up more frequently, but they don’t ever comment on each others’ attendance.  They are all friends and are comfortable around each other, and at the end they help everyone find their backpacks and leave talking to each other. Whenever the students show up right before the end Mrs. Fletcher is usually willing to have them sing a song one more time so that they can at least do something.

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Bell Horses Reflection

 

All semester I have been trying to work on being fun in my teachings, so at the beginning of each lesson I tried to keep everyone engaged and ready to have fun, by joking about being tired or something and getting them ready to pay attention.  These lessons definitely felt lighter and more fun than when I taught “Old Brass Wagon” because I tried to keep everyone engaged the whole time and come up with different activities that children might like to keep them from getting lost.  I felt like it was easier to take charge at times than in the past, and it is just getting more experience with these kinds of lessons.

I go into the lessons feeling scared because I fear that I will have trouble recalling the whole lesson (I memorize as much as I can) and with the last lesson it was kind of a combination of me needing notes and deciding in the moment that I wanted to go an easier route that I didn’t follow the exact lesson plan.  In the last lesson, I said “as a group” and “work together” but I just ended up telling everyone what to do and realized what I did as it was happening but I didn’t want to stop.  Overall I did a good job of keeping on track with the memorized plans, and by following the examples from class I was able to get through each lesson and have some sort of individual assessment, something else I have been trying to work on.

I need to work on my questioning a bit, because I don’t always know what is appropriate for younger students.  I have talked with my mentor teacher about my lesson plans from class to see what she thought of them, and she always thought that they were a little too difficult for younger students.  Looking at the first video I realized that the first question that I asked was a little challenging, unless I had sung the song a bit more, so I need to work on balancing things out and finding what will work.  I am trying to get more comfortable with learning through discovery, but I am trying to incorporate more of the teaching strategies that we learn in class and not talk too much.  I am doing better with having fun, but I need to keep the energy up, especially in my voice because I tend to get monotone at times.

In the Orff lesson, Dr. Stauffer suggested that I get more creative with the words that I used (i.e. giddy-up rather than bell horses for the tambourine part) and think about how I can improve the arrangement (have the xylo in 5ths and put the 3rd in the glock part to fill out the chords).  The arrangement that I had worked, but I would like to get better at making Orff arrangements of songs, and teaching them, and I think that it will just come with practice and looking at other arrangements.

I am not always sure how to break things down, because the exercises that we do in class don’t always match up with the songs that we choose (the elements that we teach are in good spots, at the end, but a lot of times not like that with what I choose, and I try to model my lessons after the in-class experiences).  I need help on where to place questions because it hardly ever feels natural to me, mostly because in my internship when we teach a song it is just repeating the teacher and having the lyrics projected.  I also don’t always know how to end a lesson, because it is usually “good job” unless there’s something specific that was being taught (Old Brass Wagon had 16ths and Bell Horses had la).

Song Teaching (C) – Bell Horses

Lesson Plan: 19 April 2018

Focus: The main purpose of this song is to teach the notation and solfege of the pitch “la.”

“I can…” Statements:

  • …remember a song
  • …sing in a group
  • …sing the song in solfege
  • …remember the pitch “la”
  • …remember the hand sign for “la”
  • …notate the pitches, including “la”

Materials:

  • Felt boards and notes
  • Bell horses cutouts
  • “Bell Horses”

Bell horses, bell horses, what time o’ day

1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, off and away

Procedure:

  1. Review the song (1-2): hum, sing as a class and with steady beat
  2. Sing song with tapping out words on our laps
    1. Sing song with different parts of body: Shoulders (sol), Lap (mi), Head (la)
    2. Teacher once, then students join
  3. Break down song: “bell horses, bell horses”
    1. Repeat after me with motions (bell horse, bell horses)
    2. Repeat after me with motions (sol-mi-mi, sol-mi-mi)
  4. Hand out boards and cutouts
  5. Put it down on our boards
    1. Sol is going to be on the first space, where does mi go?
    2. Sing on note names and point with horses
  6. Go to the next part “what time o’ day”, and
    1. Repeat after me with motions (what time o’ day)
    2. Repeat after me with motions (sol-sol-hum-sol)
  7. Write down what we know
    1. Does that note we don’t know go up or down? Is it close or far away?
    2. Put it on the line because it is close, it’s called la
    3. Sing part with motions
  8. Sing whole line on note names, pointing
  9. Sing whole line on note names with hand signs
    1. Review sol and mi
    2. For our la hand sign let’s keep doing what we were, but bring it in front of us
  10. Review last line, singing, maybe add motions or hand signs to get started
    1. Get with a partner and see if you can figure out the rest of the song (on staff)
    2. Keep one of your boards the same and work on the other
    3. Check with another group to see if you have it right
    4. Try what we have using our bell horses
  11. Sing whole song with our hand signs
  12. Sing the song (words) with horses

Assessment:

Everyone is participating at each step, doing the motions for each part, singing throughout, keeping the beat and the rhythms, participating in the felt board exercises and hand signs.  At the end of the lesson they are able to identify “la” on the staff and hand signs.

Song Teaching (B) – Bell Horses

Lesson Plan: 17 April 2018

Focus: The main purpose of this song is to teach the pitch “la”  that can be applied to instruments and notation in later lessons.  This lesson is to recall the song and game and perform an Orff arrangement of it, with a bordun part on the xylophone, a color part on the glockenspiel, and an ostinato part on tambourine.

“I can…” Statements:

  • …memorize a song
  • …keep a steady beat
  • …memorize parts on instruments
  • …play an instrument

Materials:

  • Bass xylophone
  • Glockenspiel
  • Tambourine
  • “Bell Horses” Orff arrangement

Bell horses, bell horses, what time o’ day

1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, off and away

Bell horses, bell horses, what time o’day

3 o’clock, 4 o’clock, off and away

(can continue counting)

Bell_Horses_Orff_Arrangement-1

Procedure:

  1. Intro: recall the song
    1. Try humming it and see if anyone catches on
    2. Sing it together (1-4)
    3. Sing and pat the steady beat
  2. Everyone say “bell” and clap it (bordun)
    1. Clap bell-rest, until everyone is doing it, then sing the song (1-2)
    2. Who wants to play the xylophone?
    3. Find 2 A’s and play the bell part and sing the song
  3. Everyone say “horses” and clap it (color)
    1. Watch me for the next part
    2. Clap: rest-rest-rest-horses, until everyone is doing it, then sing the song (with bordun)
    3. Who wants to play the glockenspiel?
    4. Find A and D (left hand on A, right hand on D) and play horses starting with the A and sing the song with all parts
  4. Everyone say “bell horses” (ostinato)
    1. Clap bell horses, until everyone is doing it, then sing the song (with bordun and color, 1-2)
    2. Whoever is left grab a tambourine
    3. Play bell horses the whole time, adding parts slowly
  5. Play and sing the song (1-8)
    1. Everyone starts at the same time

Assessment:

Everyone is participating at each step, doing the motions for each part, singing, keeping the beat and the rhythms, playing the instruments.  Everyone can play their own parts on the Orff instruments and recall the others.

 

Professional Development Workshop

I was able to attend the 2018 AMEA conference, and one of the sessions that I went to was “Flying a Plane While Building It” led by Jennifer Howard (high school band and guitar teacher) and Shawna Balzer (general music and choir teacher), both graduates of Arizona State University.

This session was all about how to make it through the first five years of teaching, because there are a lot of teachers that quit before they hit that five year mark.  It is important to not be so stressed about teaching, however hard that may be.  There are a lot of things that aren’t taught in college, and you have to be ready for just about anything, like teaching a subject that you aren’t trained in, balancing a budget and doing paperwork, and how to deal with parents and communities.  Making sure that you have a clear grading policy and standards for classroom behavior are important, and to be able to be able to enforce your policy as if your classes are core classes, you need the support of your principal.

The first thing you have to do when you start is develop relationships with your colleagues and principal and be open with them about what you need, because your classroom is very different from a “normal” classroom.  You can always invite your administrators and other teachers to your concerts and events, and if you don’t reach out to them, they probably won’t show up and might not give you the support that you need.  You should try to go to the things that you are invited to, other school events to show that you also support them.

It will take time to establish relationships, but especially if you are planning on remaining in the same school, you need to work on developing connections.  You are going to become a public figure, so you have to get to know your community and your students, do what it takes to build the relationships you need with their parents because a lot of the time the parents have a big impact on your program.  The community around you is also going to have an influence on your program, like what kind of events you have and go to, and maybe even the kind of music that you program.  It is wise to look at the community around your school beforehand and keep up-to-date on it so that you know what you are getting into and what they expect of you.

You have to keep good records, because it is possible for things to get lost.  Things like keeping planners and lesson plans (even back-up lesson plans), organizing everything (paper, electronics, room, parent communication) and avoiding “the pile” are some tips on how to keep from getting overwhelmed.  Taking pictures of things, screenshots, making copies, are things that can help you in the future should you run into any problems.  Also, having shelving in secondary classrooms so that students have access to resources such as etudes, scale sheets, fingering charts is helpful so that students have what they need and they don’t have to disrupt your class.

With any class you can have students come up with their own goals for your class, and class goals to meet by the end of the year, to get them invested in your class, and these goals go up in the classroom.  This can foster a community environment between the students, and the students and you, and can make your classroom feel like “home.”  Being trustworthy and building positive relationships with your students probably the biggest thing to work on during the first few years so that you have the support and resources that you need to run your program.

Jennifer Howard was my high school band director, and a lot of what I do now and the ideas that I have, have in part come from what I have been able to observe from her.  A lot of what they talked about in this session were things that I was able to see actually happening, as teaching at my high school was one of Jennifer’s first jobs, and during my time there and even after I graduated she mentored me a lot.  At my first internship I saw a lot of what they talked about in terms of building good relationships with colleagues and how those positive relationships can help your program, and on the other side I saw how poor organization can cause a lot of unnecessary stress.  At my current internship I also see a lot of relationship building, especially with parents.  My mentor teacher knows almost every student by name and because she helps with pick-up duty she is a familiar face to a lot of teachers, which gives her some of the events that she wants to have.  She stays pretty organized, and almost always has some kind of back-up plan, or at least knows where to go if she is in a bought of trouble.  This session really made me think about these kind of things, and what I need to do right from the start, and just talk to my next mentor teachers about to really find the right path for me.  It doesn’t hurt to ask when you need something, it is better than stressing about it and not being able to figure it out.

Song Teaching (A) – Bell Horses

Lesson Plan: 12 April 2018

Focus: Teaching the song well enough to recall in future lessons for teaching solfege (la).

“I can…” Statements:

  • …memorize a song
  • …play a game
  • …keep a steady beat

Materials:

  • Sets of bells (or jingly instrument) for each student
  • “Bell Horses”

Bell horses, bell horses, what time o’ day

1 o’clock, 2 o’clock, off and away

Bell horses, bell horses, what time o’day

3 o’clock, 4 o’clock, off and away

(can continue counting)

Procedure:

  1. Intro: learning a song and a game
  2. Listen to the song (1-4) and find the words that rhyme
    1. If they can’t find them, sing it again
  3. Keep a steady beat and listen again, this time for words what repeat
    1. Answers: bell horses, o’clock (accept whichever)
  4. Keep with the steady beat and see if you can sing along
    1. Keep singing until everyone is singing
  5. Sing the song with tapping the rhythm on palms
    1. Everyone stand up and get a set of bells (or other jingly instrument) and sing the song and play the rhythms
  6. Game: now we know the song, let’s do something fun with it
    1. We’re inside so no running (on heels, slow gallop)
    2. You can be with a partner or by yourself
    3. Sing the song while going around the room and play the instruments
      1. On the steady beat or the rhythm of the words
      2. Sing it (1-8)

Assessment:

Everyone is participating at each step, answering questions, singing, keeping the beat and the rhythms, playing the instruments, participating in the game.  

 

Old Brass Wagon Reflection

I think that overall I need to be a lot more engaging, and look like I am having fun so that they can have fun.  Throughout my videos I did a fairly good job with being a good model so that they could sing the song (fairly accurately based on what I was singing) with confidence.  A lot of times I think that I just needed to be more confident, at almost every stage of the teaching.  I think that sometimes I am focused more on being accurate with my plan than keeping everyone engaged than making it fun and musical.  When teaching the Orff arrangement I tried to get them involved as much as possible and getting everyone to learn each part to kind of help with teaching the rhythm notation, but there were a lot of times that I felt I shouldn’t have talked so much.  In that video my back it to the camera, but I know that I was not showing a lot of energy, and that is something that I am still trying to work on.  When I said “we’re going to do our game” I realize now that I should have tried to be more fun with everything.  From my teachings I think that I made it seem like music was not always consistent because I did struggle with some parts of the song, and watching everyone’s faces when I would get to those parts makes that more apparent.  In the last video I think that I did sing the song a bit lower than the previous lessons, because I forgot to get a reference pitch.

As each lesson went on I tried to be specific when addressing everyone, the last one was the best one I think with talking to everyone and making sure that everyone was involved and got attention.  I was trying to be conscious of my word choices, and making sure that I didn’t use things like “I want you to” and just trying to be encouraging when I was teaching the different parts and the note names.  I tried to use phrases that made us more of a group and participating with everyone than just taking a leadership position and telling them what to do.  Granted, I still need to work on doing some more showing than telling, mainly from the Orff video, I don’t think it was necessary to explain as much as I did, and even then I still could have shortened some of the showing/experiencing parts before playing.  There was an instance with Charlotte where I took time to get her to repeat something a few times to make sure that it would stick (like we were in a real general music classroom) and would try to do that kind of stuff when necessary.  I think that my last lesson was the best, because I thought about getting everyone involved as a class but also tried to give them some more freedom than they had in the previous two lessons.  I tried to take approaches that I have seen in class and in my internship, with all of the repetition when playing and saying rhythms.  I don’t think that I had a lot of questions that were “yes/no” other than when transitioning and checking that every one was ready to move on.  I didn’t ask that many questions except at the end when I was reviewing with everyone at the end of the Orff and rhythm teachings.
My plans were good from a scaffolding standpoint, I tried to model them as much with what we did in class as possible because I knew that it would help me stay organized and it would work as long as I was confident.  I memorized my plans before teaching them, because I don’t like having to stop things to refer to something, and when I did get confused or mixed up I just went with it because I don’t think that it mattered that I could stick to a plan as actually teach.  I did have to stop occasionally to remember where I was and figure out where I was going, but I don’t think that it negatively affected the lesson plans.  Looking back I would like to have included some more questions in earlier plans that made learning interesting, especially with the Orff arrangement because it was just a lot of showing and telling rather than getting them involved.  I probably wouldn’t change much about ordering, just doing more to get everyone involved and not focus on just getting the teaching done but making it a musical experience.
I think that my pace was good, everyone seemed to get it with each lesson, and I adjusted where necessary.  I think that sometimes there was a bit too much repetition, like in the Orff teaching where everyone was saying and clapping “old” I think that it was not necessary to keep doing it different ways, I probably could have just done it one way and moved on right away to playing it.  Repetition worked best in the last lesson, I think that at some point they could have picked up on how we were figuring out each beat, because I tried to keep it as consistent as possible.  I started to get better with giving feedback other than “good job” and “we all did this…really well” and addressing individuals rather than the whole group all of the time.  The icon teaching was a bit tricky at times, with everyone focusing on giving me a real teaching experience and testing how I would react to them asking questions, and I wasn’t quite comfortable with getting them to feel what sixteenth notes felt and looked like.  That is something that I was thinking about, on when exactly to have them feel the rhythm versus knowing the beat and be able to identify the amount of “sounds” in each beat.  Overall my last lesson felt the most successful, especially at the end when I could check their individual levels and knowledge (also happened with the Orff parts) and not just say that we all did a good job.  My goal was at the end of each lesson for everyone to feel good about how they did in the group.