You are currently browsing the daily archive for March 2, 2012.

After reading Jenifer Joyce’s post (about doing the survey, planning a great trip, and having most of the kids back out) I was reminded to post about my survey outcome. I did post the survey results and my plans to do a video family interview style to help the kids do some family roots research. Well, after doing some acting games, some fun interviews with the other kids in the class, I was totally unsuccessfut in getting the kids to interview their family. There was NO WAY they were going to videotape their family members! So, back to the drawing board.  My main problem is that I have 4 students in the class that are interested only in disrupting the class any way possible so that they can spend the rest of the day in in-school-suspension. The other students are really worried about going against them in any way. I have a few kids who will go along, but I hate to put the pressure on them. So, I decided to go with their second survey selection – learning how to act. So, since the PSSA test is around the corner, what better practice than reading Shakespeare so that we can do all of those literary elements?  So far, only one of the 4 superstars has maintained that she is not going to participate. We are moving on without her. My goal is to make it look like so much fun that even she will want to join in. Donna mentioned someone who could teach them some fencing – I’m ready! Any other ideas are greatly appreciated.

As part of our inquiry project our CIG designed a pre-test asking a variety of questions pertaining to students motivation and participation in the arts.

One of the areas that many of my students overwhelmingly responded to was the question about interest in attending outside music/art events. Many specifically mentioned wanting to attend other school or even professional musical productions. It just so happened that one of my friends from home was recently cast in a touring production of Shrek… as Shrek. The tour was coming to WVU and I wrote a request to fund transportation to the event as long as the student would pay or fundraise for the ticket fee. I contacted my friend and arranged an after show meet and greet. I had over thirty students who initially expressed interest in attending. I ordered the tickets for the production and kept having students drop out of the trip because they ‘just decided they didn’t want to.’ I ended up having to reduce the number of tickets to the minimum group rate of $20 and still only had 15 attend. I then had to pay to make up the difference. The group that went had an amazing time and still now months later talk about it (and meeting Luki) on a daily basis.

The frustration comes that the kids beg to get to go and do things, to go on trips, etc. etc. and when the work is done they back out. The band trip is another example. Twice in the last three years the students have expressed an interest in going on a band trip. Some go so far to put in their down payment. Then they back out and the trip is ultimately cancelled because of lack of interest. Then we as a department get questioned as to why we aren’t doing enough activities to promote our discipline.

My CIG group planned on updating each other on our classrooms.  We thought we’d blog about it!  Our inquiry question is as follows: When learning necessary art and music skills, where can the balance between inquiry-based and teacher-directed instruction be found? (or which instructional strategies work best).

With Stop Motion photography, I chose for the balance to happen naturally.  I started with the necessary skills using teacher direct instruction and then learned from my students what their needs were.  This project of stop motion photography is a lesson that the students have been working on for about 8 class periods (two months).  I feel things are going slow because of the limited time I have with my students.  Even though it is coming along slowly, seeing my students learning through their own inquiry is very rewarding.

I felt the need to write things out on notebook paper today.  Check out the pictures to see the process of student inquiry based teaching/learning going on as well as the combination of Teacher-directed.

Students discuss how to end their clip so that it will roll into the next group.

This is an example of a collaborative decision made by 30 members of the Sixth Grade Orchestra. Every year we brainstorm a motto to place on our orchestra tee shirt. This motto was one of 12 suggested by the members of the class. After a series of discussions and votes, there were three remaining choices. In the final voting for this motto. was a unanimous. Then there was brainstorming to come up with the visual representation. The final product was a black tee shirt with turquoise and silver print. The students wear these shirts for their performances and proudly wear them to school on a regular basis. This was SYNERGY at it’s best in a sixth grade classroom!!!



Today at our CIG meeting day at the IU, I made a reply to a comment from Leslie. I realized while reflecting and writing that my inquiry is taking a different turn from where I thought it was going, still related to independent students. My goal was to create independent students. But in taking this question to my students it has developed into what kinds of tools do my students need to have, to help them to become more independent learners. (My students want tools) My student vocalists want to be more independent musicians. I have started doing more play in my classroom on the point of harmony. In several of my classes, we are making our own arrangements. So we take the melody and then play and try our own harmonies. This is time consuming and somewhat counter productive to preparing a concert. but when it comes together the result is fabulous. Since my concert is a collaborative project with our band and I have multiple choirs. If we did the number of pieces we would traditionally do in a concert by ourselves the concert would be 3-4 hours long. It is really nice to be part of a collaborated concert. In order to shorten the time we are required to do less music which means that the pieces we do can be more challenging and we have more time to work technique and quality. So I have the time to “play” with some pieces. In order to help my students I write out little parts of the songs we are playing with so that they have a little structure that guides them and they fill in the spaces along the way. I have had to do some mini lessons on improv and harmonization but my students are starting get the hang of it. We have a long way to go before mastery but it’s the journey that makes life fun. Technology is another tool that my students and I use that helps them to be more independent. My students help to write in harmonies into Finale and then everyone can see the work being projected to the screen. Our collaborative composing is more productive. We listen to other groups who have harmonized the same songs we are working on and pattern our harmonies with the parts we like best from each of the different recordings. The students draw on these ideas and create their work it is a long process but we tackle a little bit each time we work. They are becoming more open to the creating process and sharing each others ideas, an important step in independence.

Today was a catch up, get organized, and get blogging day. We are hard at work making check lists to ensure the Balancing Act is all on the same page. After I caught up on my blogging, I began commenting on my fellow team members posts,( who are busy at work sharing the latest news from their classroom and what they are brainstorming, and trying out). I also have been paying  visits to  both Camille’s and Cory’s blogs so I can learn new ways to spice up my blogs. Incorporating picture helps me to tell my story, I would like to record some videos to show others what is going on in my classroom . 

At the suggestion of one of the other members of my CIG, I opened up the concert programming to the students. I was very nervous about that since so many of them generally only want to sing pop songs. So I decided to open up the programming with some parameters. I preselected a variety of pieces that would fit within different genres I wanted to see represented in the concert. I opened the day by saying that we’d end by taking a vote and the simple majority would win. Any of the choices for each section were appropriate and ones that I would find acceptable. Taking one or two genres a day for about a week, we looked at a small segment of the music and listened to the recordings posted on the publishers website. There were some that I was secretly hoping they would pick and they did not.  Pieces that I never thought they would like that they raved about and request to sing each day. Without a doubt it has changed rehearsals for the better. Obviously not every person likes all of the pieces, but the students are starting to recognize why some of them were chosen and seem to be excited about singing. A certain piece really works on our blend and dynamics, another works on more complicated harmonies and diction. Previous they would get to a phase where they were disinterested in singing or bored with the music. Now, they’re complaining that I’m not there because of festivals or other events such as this and they can’t sing. Hopefully this trend will continue as the rest of the year progresses.

Inquiry based experiences in Orchestra lessons at the elementary level take are taking a different form than the ones at the High School.

Students attend lessons on a six day rotation. At this level a great deal of time is spent establishing form, reading skills and most importantly, practice habits. Our school district is deeply involved in leading students to understand and apply Stephen Covey’s Eight Habits of Highly Effective People.

In grades 4, 5 the focus is on habits 1, 2, and 3: Be Proactive, Begin With the End in Mind and Put First Things First.
When students begin to play in a large ensemble in grade 6, the focus is on group dynamics and habits 4, 5, and 6: Think Win-Win, Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood, and Synergize.

In an effort to increase the INDEPENDENCE of the elementary students I teach, it has been necessary for me to begin to track whether students remember to bring their instrument and book and attend on the correct day due to this new shifting schedule. This had changed previously establishes habits of independence and created as new need.

I’ll be the first to admit that when I started this project I was here for the credits. The supplies were also certainly a draw. I will also be the first to admit that I was (and occasionally still am) very frustrated with the inquiry process. I am very much a task to-do list type person- this assignment is due in this format by this day. The concept of having such a free form project seemed almost too daunting. It seemed like we had no direction or idea of what way we wanted to travel. My brain is still wired the same way, but each year I come back I find myself more open to incorporating inquiry ideas into my teaching. I think we have moments of student inquiry in our classes all the time but we just don’t think about it.  In working with my classes this year I am trying to remember the frustrations I felt when posed with the idea of inquiry. My classes this year have not been a part of my previous inquiry projects and are completely unfamiliar with the idea of inquiry.

After completing the pre-evaluation with classes and analyzing the data, I shared the results with the students. I asked them what trends they saw and what kind of ideas they thought could positively change the areas we as a group felt were not up to our standards. This small step at a time process seems to be working well. In addition to the pre-evaluation our CIG created I also created a post- concert evaluation for all the students to complete. We watched a video recording of the concert and for perhaps the first time the students were critically evaluating the performance they had given. We discussed the areas the students felt were most improved since the beginning of the year (diction, phrasing, dynamics etc.) and the areas that they felt were weakest (balance, blend, tone). There were some things the students were very critical of that I felt had actually gone rather well and some that they were very happy with that I felt could have been better. After some guided questioning we tried to come up with why those areas were lacking and what things we could do to improve those areas of weakness. Most overwhelmingly, the area of balance was seen as our biggest weakness. Students immediately noted the multiple class periods of the same performing ensemble. They struggled with how to overcome that issue since the schedule is already set, we aren’t allowed to pull out students for rehearsals and so many have multiple other after school activities. In speaking about this struggle with another teacher at the county festival they suggested recording the separate groups so they can practice hearing the other sections. My goal in the next two weeks is to get the recording of the individual voice part tracks imported into finale so we can run sectionals and link my Q3 to post recordings onto my school webpage for outside practice. I’m contemplating having them make that into a question- will having the voice parts posted online increase the amount of out of class practicing.


MAR 2 2012

All CIG members came together for the optional workday.  We are using this time to complete some of the required readings and blogs. We are also taking the time to read and comment on each other’s blogs as well as other members of Arts Educator 2.0.

I want to touch base on how my students are doing with the independent project. Although I am finding that many of them are not documenting their work, some of the work is amazing.  I have given them some ways to document, but do not want to give too much guidance because I would like them to do this on their own. I want this project to remain “independent”.  I have several students who are really doing great with this. They have gone out, found art they like and researched what materials are needed. One student fell in love with mosaic and how people were painting and adding mosaics to cow skulls. She was so excited about this project. She did not know where to find a cow skull, so she was going to settle for a deer skull, which are easier to come across. During Valentines Day, her boyfriend surprised her with a cow skull. We laughed at the “gift” and how most would not understand.

March 2012
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