Sunday, April 29, 2012

Getting Students to Reflect

Every year, I have insisted on having my students reflect on their musicianship. In my first year of teaching, I started with Post-Concert Reflections: having them write what went well, what can be improved, and their overall feelings in regards to the recent performance. After 10 years of teaching, it now has many layers.

At any moment during class, I can teach students to reflect. We play an exercise out of the method book. I ask the students to think of one compliment and one critique for themselves, their section, or the entire group. Depending on time, I ask for them to share ("I would like 4 compliments and 4 critiques"). Then we play the exercise again with them applying what they just shared. Sometimes the results are amazing!

I have also create Progress Portfolios where the students set goals and then monitor their progress over multiple classes and/or weeks. Depending on the age and level of the group, these can be simple goals ("I will use proper posture every time I play") to more complex ("I will improve my intonation by adjusting breath support and embouchure").

After every performance, every student completes a reflection. We reflect on individual accomplishment and group accomplishment. If judging and comments were involved with the performance, I ask the students to reflect on which comment "stuck" with them the most and which suggestion they could immediately implement.

I sent a proposal to the State Conference planning committee and I hope to be selected to present a session on Student Reflection in the Performance-based classroom. I just have to wait and see :)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Music Bingo

You don't need to purchase a music bingo game; I have made my own that I can pull out at any time and change to fit the music topic my class is learning. It can be used for note names, rhythms, vocabulary, practically anything that can be drawn on the board and then a "clue" given for them to find it on the board.

The bingo board can easily be created in any word processing program or created by hand. I created a blank board: 25 blank boxes (5 x 5). At the top of each column I spread out the word MUSIC (like the word BINGO on typical boards). I copy as many of these boards as I have students who will play the game. The idea is that each student will create their own board, ensuring that each student has a unique board.

My 6th grade general music class is currently learning to read the treble clef, so they filled in the boxes with the letters of the music alphabet (ABDCEFG). I give only 3 guidelines to the students: each box contains only one letter, no letter can be repeated in a column, and there is no "free space." I also encourage them not to copy from their neighbor... it's a game right? You don't want them to beat you to the prize :)

As they are creating boards, I am putting 2 spoonfuls of M&Ms or Skittles into bathroom-size cups. I love using these candies for them to mark their boards!!! The students love nibbling on a few while they play, and then eating them all when the game is done. I do not have to worry about losing pieces or storing pieces. I encourage them to reuse the cups, either giving them back to me at the end of the game or taking them and using the cup for their own purpose.

Now the fun begins. I have a container with slips of paper that have every clue in every possible combination they could have in their boards. For "treble clef" bingo, the slips say such things as "M space 2" or "I line 4." To play, the students have to know the lines and spaces of the treble clef. "Space 2" corresponds to "A," so for the first example the students would look to see if they placed an "A" in their "M" column. The second example, "D" in the "I" column. We usually do the first 3 together (call it out, discuss it, look on the boards) to make sure everyone understands how to play, then away we go!!!

I personally like to have a few winners (3-5) before I have them clear their boards and start over. I keep track of what I have "called" by using either a white board, a document camera, or some sort of tech app (such as a Promethean slate). That way I don't get confused, the students can see what has been called, and while I'm checking if a student has gotten "Bingo" the others can check their boards and/or catch up.

And, yes, we play for prizes. It could be simple stuff: lollipops, pencils, erasers, additional M&Ms or Skittles. Depending on my class size, I may bring in larger items: full-size candy bars, PopTarts, treats, doodads from the dollar store.

For rhythm bingo, it could be based on note values ("M 4 beats") or clapping simple rhythms for an audio version. For vocabulary, it would be definitions dependent on your unit ("M quick and lively").

I have found that all middle school students love Bingo, whether they are 6th grade or 8th grade. They are having a blast and I am reinforcing the lesson in my unit.

Starting Line

On the advice of other music education professionals, I have decided to start a blog a covering my classroom: my lessons, my ideas, my thoughts, my successes, and my failures. It is my hope that other educators will find help and hope in these posts. I'm not sure where to start, so I will be back later with my first classroom related post.