Category Archives: Community Leader

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.

Advertisements

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.

Final Project: Frank Elementary (The School, Revised)

The Neighborhood and Community:

The immediate neighborhood around Frank Elementary is sort of run down, compared to the areas surrounding it.  The area that can be seen from the school and the road that everyone sees when they are going to enter the school, looks very old and not kept up.  There is almost nothing within a quarter mile of the school that looks particularly welcoming. The school is located on Priest Dr. between Baseline and Guadalupe and the road that leads to it is very small and causes a lot of traffic, but it is very safe because of the reduced speed and limited number of lanes.  The businesses that are around it are all very close to each other and are mostly Hispanic markets and food shops and auto shops, and they themselves are very old and are in okay shape but still look a little run down in comparison to other businesses in the area. The school is surrounded by houses on almost all sides, with some Tribe land with properties that block the school from the main road, and these are fenced off but make the school look not that welcoming.  There is not a lot that goes on in the area, most of the noise that is around the school is from the traffic. The cars that are in the area tend to be older, just like the houses that can be seen from the school grounds and the road that I take when I get there. From looking at the houses that are in the area compared to the houses that are further away but still included in the boundary are worth a lot less ($60,000 vs $400,000) and there are a lot of properties in the area that are currently up for auction.

The Students:

A large number of the students are from the immediate area and about an equal amount of them walk (⅓), take the bus (⅓), and are dropped off/picked up by car (⅓).  They are almost always being dropped off/picked up by parents or guardians, and all of these students are observed by teachers as they are leaving the school. Teachers that help with car pick-ups and monitor who each student is going with and know what their cars and parents look like.  There are a lot of students that come from broken homes or have something in their personal lives that they are dealing with when they go to school, such as having a parent in jail, being adopted recently because of a family issue, and other things that they can’t really discuss. They also come from different levels of household income, and this can be seen from who drops them off (the kind of car they drive, whether they need to walk, when they get to the school, etc.) and how they are dressed.  There is one student that I see every time I go to the school and it appears that he only owns one or two pairs of pants that are in the school dress code, and one of them has a very large rip in it, causing him to have to wear some sort of leggings or other pants underneath to cover up. There are students that get dropped off and picked up by parents in very nice cars, and they are always dressed sharply. These are just some of the extremes that I have observed, most students appear to be of similar incomes and situations.

Boundary and Population Stats:

Most of the children and residents of the area are of hispanic, African American, and Native American descent.  From seeing the students, talking to my mentor teacher, and from online research, the student body is 99% minority, with hispanic and Native American making up the majority.  The school is right in the middle of a Native American community, and some of the surrounding area is owned by that tribe, so there are some centers for the Native American school located near the school.  The area owned by the tribe is not kept well, and the school can’t do anything about it. There is a large hispanic community as well, and these communities have a clear divide, in their events and land. This doesn’t really affect the students and how they interact with each other, everyone generally gets along well.  In an area that offers boundary exceptions, here are very few parents that want their children to go to this school, and will often try to go to other schools because of the area that it is in. The boundary is very weird, to me, because the school is located so close to one border and spreads out, which is one reason I think that parents choose to send their children elsewhere.

School Programs and Resources:

The school offers free breakfast to every student, whether or not they are on free or reduced lunch, because it is their belief that students that eat breakfast are more likely to succeed.  That being said, 99% (2017) of the students are part of the free or reduced lunch plans (free, reduced $0.40, full $2.50), meaning that their family income is low enough for them to qualify.  There are some students that bring their own lunches, or their own snacks to have with their lunch, but the majority of students get their lunches from the school.

The school has its own website as part of the Tempe Elementary District No3 district website, and there are only a few teachers that have their own websites, including the general music teacher.

The School:

The school’s halls are all very welcoming and full of school spirit, displaying their motto of: Be Safe, Be Respectful, Be Responsible, Be a Scholar! and the students class projects.  Each classroom has its own bulletin board that they can put things on. Throughout the halls there are a lot of positive signs and banners for different colleges and universities (I think this is to motivate students).  The first room that students and visitors see when they go through the office is the library, and on my way to the music room I see boards full of student achievements and a cardboard cutout of a superhero that students can stand in.  The administration almost always says the motto when they sign off from announcements.

In the middle of the school there is a large amphitheater area where they have assemblies once a month to recognize students and their teachers for their excellence.  They are always stressing excellence in their students and trying to make sure that the students know that they have high expectations for them. Recently some teachers coordinated with my mentor teacher to write a school fight/spirit song for their groundbreaking ceremony for the new school and they had every student learn it, and they still sing it at different occasions like the assemblies.  The school’s administration and teachers are always encouraging the students to be a part of the Frank community, and to get along well with each other, which is one reason they have theses assemblies.

At lunch, though, the students all sit in a single row, all facing the same direction, so their only interaction at this time is with those next to them, and my mentor teacher explained to me that this is the best way they have for getting the students to focus on eating and to keep the noise down a bit.  They get the chance to play together at recess, but a lot of the times they play in small groups. The teachers have tried to implement games for everyone to play together and announce it before each grade is dismissed to recess, but a lot of the time it is hard for the students to stay focused in the games and they leave to do some independent play (or small groups).  On Fridays the school has Jamba Juice come and sell small smoothies for $3 as a treat, and there are a lot of students that are always excited to buy some, even when it is cold outside.

The school is surrounded by gates and there are some security cameras in the halls so that they can keep an eye out and keep everyone safe, but the cameras are a bit old and are a bit limited in what they can do.  The administration and other members of the staff walk around the halls sometimes, and monitor the students at recess, but the students are often alone in the halls when they are going to the restroom or they take the bathroom pass and walk around the halls themselves.

The district has a handbook for the students and families, for them to know the rules and resources of the district, and the Frank students have to have their parents sign and return a page to know that they understand it.  It is available in English and Spanish. The school has a dress code (uniform is certain solid-colored polo shirts and no jean pants) to minimize distraction for the students, and are fairly strict in enforcing it, but they have some alternative dress days and on Fridays they are allowed to wear school themed clothes.  After the AZMerit testing they gave out some alternate dress days as a reward.

The school is going to be rebuilt over the next few years, in the same area to keep the same address, but they are getting all new buildings and parking lot and once the new school is build the old building (built in 1929) will be torn down.  The administration is keeping the parents and community updated as they are going through different phases.

The Music Room:

Frank is a Title I school, so there is a lot of funding for the extracurricular activities like band, orchestra, choir, general music, and other music clubs.  There are a lot of Orff instruments that are all grouped together that the students love, there are a lot of African drums, and recorders that are available to the students.  There are also a lot of music symbols and puzzles on the boards that the students get to do and are quizzed on, and the teacher uses the SMART board a lot when they are learning songs to have the lyrics displayed.  On each wall there is something to help them with their puzzles, like the note names and how many counts each rhythm gets, dynamics and tempos, and solfege and hand signs.. She also has a board with different levels as a reward-type system where a student gets to put their teacher’s star on a 1, 2, 3, 4 with 4 being the highest for their behavior.

The students all have their assigned spots on a rainbow rug with squares in it, and they are very good about sitting in their own spots so that they are facing front and are paying attention.  The school also has a lot of guitars that don’t get used (there is no longer a guitar club), but the teacher recently bought 4 keyboards to have a keyboard club 2 days a week for an hour before school to get some students playing and reading a staff.  She also has a 4th grade choir that comes in before school sometimes to get them ready to join choir in 5th grade. The students know that there are a lot of other instruments like various hand percussion that are put away in the cabinets that they look forward to for different activities.

Mrs. Fletcher knows every student, and is close with them in some way.  They always say hi to her and are excited when they see her in the hallways.  She develops a relationship with every class and student. When they ask questions about her life or share something about themselves, she responds appropriately, and has pictures of some of her family up so that they can understand when she talks about them.  She tries to never yell/get frustrated when there are students that don’t follow directions, or when a class is being a little rowdy. In each class they start with “keep the beat” and a each class a new student gets to be the leader and they always clap for them, and at the end of each class they have the “best row” from the rug and the student congratulate them on their good behavior.  Most of this is from a point system that she has for completing the puzzles and paying attention, and it is a classroom management strategy that she has implemented.

Each grade level tends to have their own curriculum, that she picks based on what they might be doing in class, goals she has for them, things she thinks they might like, and school events that are going on with a theme that she has songs to.  They do a lot of singing, as a goal of hers is to have them singing correctly (using their singing voices not their speaking/yelling voices, using their head voice, matching pitch, etc.) and make sure that they have fun by adding motions. They tend to respond well to the songs that she gives them, even though they are not all a part of their culture.  Some of them are fun or educational in some way, but even when there are country songs they still sing; almost all of the student body is of hispanic or Native American descent, but from what I can see they love music class and don’t ask for their own cultural songs.  She doesn’t have any composers or cultural things around the room, just the music posters and some pictures of her family around her desk.

Music Opportunities for ELLs and Underprivileged Students

Rosie’s House is a music academy that is run and located in Phoenix, AZ.  It is completely free for the students, that are in grades K-12.  There is no tuition, because it is run on donations and grants, and it is run out of a church that does not charge for the use of the facility.  The academy also provides the students with instruments (on loan while they are attending), free of charge, and these are acquired through donations.  The only requirement from the students and their families is that the parents have to donate their time and provide community service.  In order to get into the academy, the student’s family must be in a certain income range (low) and there is an interview and audition process, merely for the people to determine if they think that they can work with students, and to test that the students do have some sort of music competency/musicality.  There is a limit to the amount of classes that students can take, because this opens more opportunities for more students to join.

The main focus of the academy is to give students with no musical opportunities the opportunity to study music.  This normally means that the students live in areas where there is no music program in their school, for a variety of reasons, or they simply cannot afford to participate in any available music programs.  Keeping everything free is the biggest thing, because it is in place to help underprivileged students the opportunity to have this experience.  The families have to be low-income, and according to someone I interviewed that has observed Rosie’s House, most of the children that attend are not ‘white,’ they are mixed-race or Hispanic, or some other minority.  A lot of the students are bilingual, which goes along with a high Hispanic enrollment.  One can infer that some of these students are ELLs, even though they are all probably fluent in English.  Sometimes ELLs are limited in the activities that they can participate in, and Rosie’s House is a great one for students in the Phoenix area.  Teachers should be aware of opportunities like this in their communities, to help all students, not just ELLs, get the music education in their lives that they need.

 

 

20160427_185724

Flexible Musician

How do you deal with different levels of musicians within an ensemble?

Every ensemble is going to have a gap in the experience and abilities of the members, and as a director it is your job to be able to deal with that.  Green said that “Having clear focus and discipline is essential” (Green, 2003, p. 68), and this is applicable to both the students and the director because they have to work together to make the progress that they need.  Students often are not able to bridge the gaps between them on their own, so it is best to be able to address these issues in a large ensemble setting and give them the tools to be able to work on the gaps.  Ways to do this are to get different types and levels of repertoire, enough to challenge the students with lower abilities but also at a good level for the students with higher abilities.  Having a balance with the repertoire is important because it shows the students that you care about them building their skills, and also shows that you are helping them get the most out of their musical experience. Ayers said that “The root word of “evaluation” is “value,” and authentic assessment includes understanding what students value and building from there” (Ayers & Alexander-Tanner, 2010, p. 81), and I think that this ties in with different levels of musicians because you are helping them build a balance between their music and their skills.

Innovative Practitioner

How do you incorporate theory into ensemble classes and also show students the benefit of it?

In order to successfully incorporate theory into an ensemble setting, the students must be taught the very basics from the beginning.  This can be done in the first few minutes of class every day, for repetition, and should be applied to repertoire as much as possible.  Once the students begin to recognize and understand the basics in the context of the repertoire then you can move onto things that are slightly more complicated.  In a study, “Eleven participants described progressing methodically from simple to complex in classroom instruction” (Paney & Buoniviri, 2013, p. 407) when teaching melodic dictation to their AP Music Theory classes, and this approach can be applied to any teaching of music theory.  This approach would work well with the basics, especially when put into certain contexts, because it worked well when teaching students to listen to and dictate both rhythms and notes, and even at a complex level, when they had little to no experience.  Approaching theory like this, or any music in general, and putting it into a context is when students will begin to comprehend, and see the importance in what they are learning.  Being able to understand the mechanics behind music will make them better musicians, because they will be doing more than just playing the notes on their page, they will be actively engaged and finding exactly how they and their part fit into and function as part of the whole ensemble.

Inquisitive Thinker

How do I know that I am teaching well? That I am comfortable with the way that I teach?

I think that at some point every teacher will begin to question whether they are doing things the right way, and they need to be able to think objectively about what they are doing in order to evaluate themselves.  It is important to look at both the teacher and the students.  One thing that might get in the way is a teacher’s unwillingness to change simply because they themselves are comfortable the way things are, even if the students are not.  Teachers need to be able to think critically about themselves, and this can be done by first observing others teach.  In a study, undergraduate students began teaching and “soon found themselves not only observing other teachers but critically analyzing the teaching methods and outcomes they observed in order to assess what strategies were effective and what teacher actions they may later integrate into their teaching” (Haston & Russell, 2011, p. 386).  This is something that every teacher should do, because by observing others objectively and then turning around and doing the same thing to yourself you can begin to see what direction you want to go from there.  Another way to evaluate your own teaching style is to simply look at the students and see how they react to your teaching style, see how much progress they have achieved since you started teaching them.  This can be done after observing other teachers and their students, and compare the way their students react versus your own.

Community Leader

How do you keep students motivated when music gets more difficult and they might feel discouraged?

Barry Green (2003) said that “Music is one of the most powerful sources of truth that we have: it has the power to change lives” (p. 271) and this is something that teachers and students need to remind themselves of when things get hard.  When students are struggling with something, it is important that both the student and the teacher take the time to address the problem and approach it carefully.  There are people that shut down when they don’t understand something or begin to have problems, and teachers have to be able to deal with them.  Sometimes it is as simple as slowing things down in ensemble rehearsal, not singling anyone out, but working things out as a group in the hopes that the student will catch on or those around them will help.  Sometimes students require more focused or individual attention, like working with a particular section or pulling them to the side and focusing solely on them until they start making progress.  When I have problems, I simply remind myself that “All musicians have bad days” (Green, 2003, p. 275) and that because music is so important I should work hard to keep it a part of me, and this is something to remind students of.

References

Ayers, W., & Alexander-Tanner, R. (2010). To teach: The journey, in comics. New York: Teachers College Press.

Green, B. (2003). The mastery of music: Ten pathways to true artistry. New York: Broadway Books.

Haston, W., & Russell, J. A. (2011). Turning Into Teachers: Influences of Authentic Context

Learning Experiences on Occupational Identity Development of Preservice Music Teachers. Journal of Research in Music Education, 59(4), 369-392. doi:10.1177/0022429411414716

Paney, A. S., & Buonviri, N. O. (2013). Teaching Melodic Dictation in Advanced Placement Music

Theory. Journal of Research in Music Education, 61(4), 396-414. doi:10.1177/0022429413508411

Final Paper and Poster

20160427_185724Final Paper (Intro)

Flexible Musician

How do you deal with different levels of musicians within an ensemble?

Every ensemble is going to have a gap in the experience and abilities of the members, and as a director it is your job to be able to deal with that.  Green said that “Having clear focus and discipline is essential” (Green, 2003, p. 68), and this is applicable to both the students and the director because they have to work together to make the progress that they need.  Students often are not able to bridge the gaps between them on their own, so it is best to be able to address these issues in a large ensemble setting and give them the tools to be able to work on the gaps.  Ways to do this are to get different types and levels of repertoire, enough to challenge the students with lower abilities but also at a good level for the students with higher abilities.  Having a balance with the repertoire is important because it shows the students that you care about them building their skills, and also shows that you are helping them get the most out of their musical experience. Ayers said that “The root word of “evaluation” is “value,” and authentic assessment includes understanding what students value and building from there” (Ayers & Alexander-Tanner, 2010, p. 81), and I think that this ties in with different levels of musicians because you are helping them build a balance between their music and their skills.

Innovative Practitioner

How do you incorporate theory into ensemble classes and also show students the benefit of it?

In order to successfully incorporate theory into an ensemble setting, the students must be taught the very basics from the beginning.  This can be done in the first few minutes of class every day, for repetition, and should be applied to repertoire as much as possible.  Once the students begin to recognize and understand the basics in the context of the repertoire then you can move onto things that are slightly more complicated.  In a study, “Eleven participants described progressing methodically from simple to complex in classroom instruction” (Paney & Buoniviri, 2013, p. 407) when teaching melodic dictation to their AP Music Theory classes, and this approach can be applied to any teaching of music theory.  This approach would work well with the basics, especially when put into certain contexts, because it worked well when teaching students to listen to and dictate both rhythms and notes, and even at a complex level, when they had little to no experience.  Approaching theory like this, or any music in general, and putting it into a context is when students will begin to comprehend, and see the importance in what they are learning.  Being able to understand the mechanics behind music will make them better musicians, because they will be doing more than just playing the notes on their page, they will be actively engaged and finding exactly how they and their part fit into and function as part of the whole ensemble.

Inquisitive Thinker

How do I know that I am teaching well? That I am comfortable with the way that I teach?

I think that at some point every teacher will begin to question whether they are doing things the right way, and they need to be able to think objectively about what they are doing in order to evaluate themselves.  It is important to look at both the teacher and the students.  One thing that might get in the way is a teacher’s unwillingness to change simply because they themselves are comfortable the way things are, even if the students are not.  Teachers need to be able to think critically about themselves, and this can be done by first observing others teach.  In a study, undergraduate students began teaching and “soon found themselves not only observing other teachers but critically analyzing the teaching methods and outcomes they observed in order to assess what strategies were effective and what teacher actions they may later integrate into their teaching” (Haston & Russell, 2011, p. 386).  This is something that every teacher should do, because by observing others objectively and then turning around and doing the same thing to yourself you can begin to see what direction you want to go from there.  Another way to evaluate your own teaching style is to simply look at the students and see how they react to your teaching style, see how much progress they have achieved since you started teaching them.  This can be done after observing other teachers and their students, and compare the way their students react versus your own.

Community Leader

How do you keep students motivated when music gets more difficult and they might feel discouraged?

Barry Green (2003) said that “Music is one of the most powerful sources of truth that we have: it has the power to change lives” (p. 271) and this is something that teachers and students need to remind themselves of when things get hard.  When students are struggling with something, it is important that both the student and the teacher take the time to address the problem and approach it carefully.  There are people that shut down when they don’t understand something or begin to have problems, and teachers have to be able to deal with them.  Sometimes it is as simple as slowing things down in ensemble rehearsal, not singling anyone out, but working things out as a group in the hopes that the student will catch on or those around them will help.  Sometimes students require more focused or individual attention, like working with a particular section or pulling them to the side and focusing solely on them until they start making progress.  When I have problems, I simply remind myself that “All musicians have bad days” (Green, 2003, p. 275) and that because music is so important I should work hard to keep it a part of me, and this is something to remind students of.

References

Ayers, W., & Alexander-Tanner, R. (2010). To teach: The journey, in comics. New York: Teachers College Press.

Green, B. (2003). The mastery of music: Ten pathways to true artistry. New York: Broadway Books.

Haston, W., & Russell, J. A. (2011). Turning Into Teachers: Influences of Authentic Context

Learning Experiences on Occupational Identity Development of Preservice Music Teachers. Journal of Research in Music Education, 59(4), 369-392. doi:10.1177/0022429411414716

Paney, A. S., & Buonviri, N. O. (2013). Teaching Melodic Dictation in Advanced Placement Music

Theory. Journal of Research in Music Education, 61(4), 396-414. doi:10.1177/0022429413508411

Professional Development Seminar

Christina Soper’s seminar “Crawl, Walk, Run: Prioritizing Your Beginning Instrumental Curriculum” at AMEA was all about curricular pacing: having to slow down and give them the tools that they need in order to build a good foundation as performers.  Beginning band directors have to make sure that by the time their students graduate from their program and move to higher levels of music classes that their students are able to do what they need to, and that they do it well.  Building good foundations is what helps musicians in the long-run.  Instilling good playing habits and literacy increases their success as musicians, and it all starts at the beginning.  Beginning band directors have the responsibility of recruitment, their success in this affects junior high and high school band programs, and they have the responsibility of giving the students all of the tools for success.  These tools include finding the right instrument (what the student is most suited to play), establishing procedures (both in the classroom and taking proper care of their instruments), teaching rhythms and music, and how to read them and how to articulate.  Most people don’t recognize the important job that beginning band directors have, their programs affect a student’s entire musical experience, and the programs of other schools for which their school is a feeder.  Going to this seminar really improved my views on and respect for beginning band directors, because Ms. Soper highlighted all of their responsibilities and showed their importance.