Author Archives: Andrea Henderson Music Education Blog

Final Reflection

At the beginning of the semester I was uncomfortable when trying to get through the lessons, because I was not used to trying to be playful, and I was also not used to teaching through experience.  At first I was more worried about getting through the plan exactly the way that I wrote it than trying to make it fun and enjoyable.  When I looked back at my first couple of lessons from the first semester I was actually shocked to see how different my teachings got, from seeing everyone being bored to actually being playful and having some fun.  I know that there are some issues still with talking a lot instead of doing, and I don’t always have great questions for learning through discovery, but it’s just something that I need to work on.  The more experience I got, the more I could figure out what kinds of questions were appropriate and where to put them.

I have been trying to not make my lessons so strict, both in my planning, and with the way that I presented myself.  This was a combination of me getting comfortable with the class and the people in it, and observing how my mentor teacher handled her classes.  Her style of teaching is very different than the ways we learned in class, but really helped me with sort of combining the things that I liked about each style and working with them in a way that felt comfortable with me.  As the semester went on and we were all becoming more comfortable with each other in class, our lessons all became more playful naturally, because we were trying to have fun like children and act like them to give each other some “real” experience with having to answer questions, correct things, or fix a student that might not be getting it.

I noticed that I got quicker with getting to the point of the lesson so that no one was completely bored, and adjusted the plan as the lessons progressed.  I still need to work on not “telling” so much, but as I got comfortable with the teachings and watching how they were taught in class, I found it easier to memorize plans and didn’t stumble over when to ask questions and move on, and just trying to figure out a way to say what I needed.  It got better to read everyone’s expressions when I was teaching, and being able to adjust and rethink some things before I said them, and to say them differently to get everyone to stay engaged.

I didn’t sing in this lesson, but over the course of the semester I began to become more confident in my singing, and being more playful.  I might struggle sometimes with making sure that I choose keys that children can sing in (and stay in them throughout the lessons), but this is something that I will still have to work on, when I can.  I find myself wanting to revert back to my “strict” way of teaching, but once I get used to not talking so much (at least in a way that is just lecturing) I think that it will sort of come naturally.  I think that talking to other teachers and watching them and the different activities they do will help me find things where it feels natural to be playful and won’t be forced.

I’m not sure what kind of a teacher I am yet, because when I first thought about being a music teacher, general music was something that seemed scary to me, because I have only been in band programs since elementary school.  Now I really enjoy it, teaching and participating, and this course and my internship have completely changed my view on it.  I was scared that I would not be able to keep up the energy everyday, but I think that as long as I focus on making the learning experiences fun, it will become more natural.

I really enjoy teaching, and think that I can be happy teaching whichever music classes I get to.  From this class I think that I can think of more activities for students, to make sure that they are having fun, but also still learning.  I think one of the biggest things is to remember that children can learn, and the more fun you have, or at least the more memorable you can make an experience, the longer things will stay with them.

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Final Teaching

Lesson Plan: 3 May 2018

Focus: Students will participate in “Musical Chairs,” an interactive game where they will learn and review tempo.  For this lesson students will learn Adagio and Presto using the game and songs assigned to each tempo.

“I can…” Statements:

  • …keep a steady beat
  • …define tempo
  • …define Adagio
  • …define Presto
  • …participate in a game

Materials

  • 1 chair per student
  • Speaker (bluetooth or aux)
  • Music player (phone or laptop)
  • Tempo terms and pictures (board)
  • Tempo songs:
    • Adagio: Over the Rainbow (Pentatonix), Lon Lon Ranch (Taylor Davis)
    • Presto: Hound Dog (Elvis Presley), Sing (Pentatonix)
    • Tempo Change (Bonus): Bare Necessities (Jungle Book)

Procedure:

  1. Keep the beat: who wants to be the leader (can do multiple movements)
    1. Sing (Pentatonix)
      1. Choose new leader
    2. Over the Rainbow (Pentatonix)
  2. Learn/review tempo on board
    1. Tempo is how fast or slow something is
    2. Go to board
      1. For today we’re going to work with Presto and Adagio
      2. Adagio = Super slow
      3. Presto = Super fast
    3. What do we think that first song was? (Sing = Presto)
    4. What was the second? (Over the Rainbow = Adagio)
  3. Review rules for Musical Chairs and set up (practice rounds)
    1. Everyone lines up chairs back-to-back
    2. Walk around the chairs like the tempo, being safe
    3. When the music stops find a seat
      1. A seat is taken out each round
    4. If you’re left standing, you’re out
    5. When you’re out, keep the beat somewhere on your body
  4. Play game
    1. After rounds what was the tempo
    2. Last round: Tempo Change: Bare Necessities (Jungle Book)
    3. If there’s time do it again, in 2 small groups, or just quicker round

Assessment:

In the beginning everyone is keeping the steady beat wherever instructed.  Everyone is participating in remembering the tempo markings. During the game they are always moving with the beat (whether patting or moving in the game) and identify it as Adagio or Presto.  

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.

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.