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For my next inquiry blog, I would like to discuss the whole “star” concept that my colleague, David Dayton, has been using with his 5th and 6th grade band students.

I had been discussing our whole inquiry process with Dave, what our inquiry question was, and what we had hoped to accomplish by the end of this year’s class. Now, Dave and I have been discussing the whole issue of students lack of effort and motivation in our classes for some time now, so really digging into this concept seemed to be the next logical thing to do. Dave has been saying that “maybe if the students reeived some sort of reward it may help” for years. So, we started kicking around some ideas as to what would be an appropriate reward that might get students more motivated to practice their band instruments at home. We discussed extra credit in the gradebook, we discussed special classs privileges, we even discussed a way to give those who practiced a pizza party. None of these really clicked with either one of us. Then Dave said, “what if we just give the students a gold star for every line that they practice in the book; but only if they show by their performance that they have actually worked on it and that they have actually made improvements on it!” This sounded like a great idea to me!!!  So, how was this going to work, anyways??? Dave said, “let me try it with the 5th and 6th grade band students first and see if it works with them. If it does, next year we’ll try it with the 7th and 8th grade band students as well!” So, I asked Dave what exactly would the students have to do in order to earn a star??? He said that each day he was going to allow the students to play certain lines individually for him during class, and again, if they played them well, or could at least demonstrate that they had worked on them and made improvements, that student would be awarded a star. Dave also printed up wallposter-sized charts with all of the students names on them – he printed up a chart with all of his 5th graders names on it, and one with all of his 6th graders names on it. Once he started putting stars on these, students started counting how many stars they had, as well as counting the number of stars that their classmates had earned. Now it had officially become a contest!!! Students became very competitive with each other in seeing who could earn the most stars. So far this concept seems to be getting the students tol practice more outside of the classroom, which in turn is improving their individual playing abilities. Next year, Dave and I will try this with the 7th and 8th grade band students and see if we get the same results!!!

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Our M and D CIG group came about within the first Arts Educator 2.0 class. As our group sat there, we began to discuss where we were going to go with our inquiry for this year’s class. We discussed how we all were experiencing the same issues: trying to get students motivated enough to give their best effort in all of our art / music classes. So, we began to kick around ideas of what we could use as our inquiry question, which would then be the focus of our work for the remainder of this class. After much discussion, we came up with our inquiry question:

“How can inquiry strategies be incorporated into music and art classes to improve motivation and effort toward students’ practice habits?”

We then discussed that probably a great place to start with knowing how to improve student motivation was to create a survey / questionaire for all of our students. We could then examine the results and see what would seem to stimulate our students’ efforts / motivation in our classrooms. The survey would begin by getting some basic information from our students, just so that we would know what grade each student was in that completed the survey. Then, we continued the survey.  Some sample questions from our survey were:

– “During the rest of this year in class, I want to learn how to…”

– “I would be more motivated in this class if only…”

– “Do you practice / sketch outside of instruction time?”

– “If yes, how often?”

– “If not at all, why?” (and one more sample question)

– “I would put more effort into practicing / sketching if…”

We all contributed questions to our survey, printed them up at our respective schools, and had each / most of our classes take a day and complete them. The results were very interesting!!!!

One answer that seemed to occur regularly on my surveys had to deal with allowing my chorus students to have a voice in selecting music that they would enjoy. So, when we returned to school after the holidays, I pulled out all of our latest “Hal Leonard” catalogs, grabbed the CD’s out from the inner sleeves, and track by track, the students and I listened to samples of the latest choral arrangements. We would then take a vote by a showing of hands as to which arrangements were the students’ favorites. I would still pick selections from their favorites that I believed to be the best in quality, but the students still were happy that they had a hand in picking music that they would be singing for our spring concerts. It makes it so much more enjoyable in class now that the students are not only not complaining about the music that we are working on, but they are also putting much more effort into the songs since they themselves helped me to select them!

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