Saturday, August 31, 2013

Back to School, the Band Way

If you hadn't noticed, I took the summer off. Well, I didn't completely take the summer off. I was working at a local community music school as well as preparing for the new school year, however I did not blog for a few months.

I have returned and I am starting out by sharing my lesson plans from the first 2 days of school.

For the first time in 12 years, I am teaching ONLY band classes this year. I know: MIRACLE. I have taught band, general music, guitar, piano, theatre, foreign language exploratory and remedial math. This is refreshing and I'm hoping it will help me to focus and provide a better overall plan for my students.

Here is the break down of my teaching schedule:

On A days (every other day) I see my 7th & 8th grade Concert Bands (on grade-level ability) for 80 minutes each, and my 6th grade Advanced Bands (started playing in elementary school) for 38 minutes each divided into a woodwinds/percussion class and a brass/percussion class.

On B days (the opposite day) I see my 7th & 8th grade Symphonic Bands (advanced ability) for 80 minutes each, and my 6th grade Beginning Bands (never played before) for 38 minutes each divided into a woodwinds/percussion class and a brass/percussion class.

The program is growing, with a total of 160 students this year. Of course, I'm aiming higher ;)

For the first days of school, I decided to keep the activities interactive. There's a lot of "policies" and "procedures" in all of the classes, so I needed to keep their interest.

Day One, Step One: Attendance
I need to take attendance to make sure the students are in the correct classroom and to make sure I am not missing anyone. Instead of responding with "here" or "present," I ask them to respond with a Musical Term. It can be as simple as the name of their instrument, they can look at the words posted around the classroom, or they can state a term they remembered from last year. I was impressed by 6th grade students saying "fortissimo" or "crescendo." Side note: for the next 2 classes, the students insisted on taking attendance in this manner since they enjoyed it so much.

Day One, Step Two: Non-Negotiables
In my school building, we have a set of 4 Non-Negotiables which guide student behavior. These are reviewed and briefly discussed (with examples) to reinforce that the guidelines are school-wide. Student volunteers read the Non-Negotiable aloud and then we discuss the meaning.

Day One, Step Three: Who is Mrs. McEndree?
I created a PicStitch of six scenes from my summer. For students who I had last year, it was an opportunity to "catch up" with them. For the new students, it gave them a glimpse into my life and who I am.

Day One, Step Four: Incredibox
Thanks to the Facebook Band Directors group, I was introduced to the awesomeness of Incredibox. I use this as a tool to encourage the students to introduce themselves and tell something about their summer. To be able to use the ActivSlate and manipulate the "groove" being created, they have to share. They were so excited to share and work with the website! They often request to play with Incredibox when waiting for buses at the end of the day!

Day One, Step Five: Writing Rhythms
This step is not completed by the 6th grade students, since their class was half the length of the 7th & 8th grade classes. The students create rhythms on whiteboards based on guidelines (4-beats, 8-beats), and then random students are selected to create the rhythm on the screen, using the ActivInspire program and the ActivSlate. The entire class tapped/clapped the rhythms, and then we selected rhythms to add additional sound effects. For example, a rhythm might end up as clap-pat-pat-snap-rub-clap-clap.

Thus ended the lesson for Day One. I save the Band Policies and Procedures for the second class, since I know they are inundated with this information in all other classes on the first day.

Day Two, Step One: Attendance
The students respond with a Music Term to verify attendance for the day.

Day Two, Step Two: Policies Scavenger Hunt
Which student really wants to read through the class policies? The student that is being given candy! I make a game out of reading through the policies, in which a correct answer earns a small piece of candy. The process is simple. A question is displayed on the screen (using PowerPoint or ActivInspire). When the students find the answer in the policies, they stand at their chair. I select a student to answer the question,making sure every student has the opportunity to earn candy. All correct answers earn a piece of candy. Many of the questions have multiple parts: How many Musicianship points can you earn each class and how do you earn them? The students then enjoy learning (or reviewing, for returning band students) the class policies and are actively engaged in the lesson.

Day Two, Step Three: Review Non-Negotiables
Another reminder of the school-wide Non-Negotiables

Day Two, Step Four: Band Participation Self-Assessment
This step is not completed by the 6th grade students, since their class was half the length of the 7th & 8th grade classes. Based on a document I found on Teachers-Pay-Teachers, I give the students a Band Participation Self-Assessment. As a point of clarification, the students are able to mark multiple answers for one question. After the students complete the assessment and complete the tally, we share answers in a general sense: I read each question aloud and ask the students the raise their hand (if they feel comfortable) as I read the answer they selected. Once finished reading the questions, I ask them to raise hands based on their final tally. Only at this point do I share with them how the tally relates to their probable success in class. Then we discuss ideas for changing their habits to increase success in class.

The students seemed to really enjoy their first two band classes. Although I went through a lot of candy, it was worth it to have them actively and positively reading the policies. The 7th & 8th grade bands began performing on instruments for the third class, while the 6th grade classes began rhythm and melody reviews prior to performing on instruments (and as a way to buy some time while they rent instruments and purchase method books).

I hope your first few days go as smoothly as mine. I try to rotate "First Day" activities, so that the returning band students do not repeat an activity (although the Scavenger Hunt is a yearly favorite!).