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After my students completed their scenes and chose their instruments, I collaborated with our school’s art teacher, and one of my CIG members, on how they would color their scenes. She chose four different art techniques and had them use each one for their scenes. The techniques were pointillism, monochromatic, all primary or all secondary, and abstract. The next step was for the students to attach card onto each scene of the instruments they used in that scene and what they represented.
They were also to create a title for their story.

It was great to see how most of my students worked very diligently on their projects and were independent in making decisions and solving problems on their own. It was also exciting to watch their creativity flow from themselves and not from me. I gave them all a choice on how they wanted to present their work. They could either present it verbally to their classmates or they could write out a story on paper. All of my students wanted to present to their classmates. I think part of this was due to them wanting to avoid writing, but I think more of it was the fact they were proud of their hard work and wanted to show it off.

Their presentations were quite informal, which is what I wanted…I didn’t want them to feel any pressure but to just simply talk and share about what they did. They used the iPads to play each sound in their scenes and explained why they chose those sounds. I then had a my students vote on which group’s project best represented their class for the Arts Ed Day presentation. I explained to them that they shouldn’t pick their own project simply because it’s theirs, but they should choose based on the quality of workmanship placed in the project. I was really impressed to find that the votes seemed to reflect the projects that I would have chosen as well, knowing how much work and effort each group put into their projects. It seemed that their classmates also had that same sense and I think it made people feel a sense of justice and reward for their hard work.

The best things about this project were that the students were able to make their own choices and decisions about how they wanted to portray their work. I enjoyed letting them create an artistic work by using their understanding and interpretations. I think it allowed them the ability to expand their understanding of instruments, their specific timbres, and the way a composer might think when they are forming a piece of music. The greatest set back I came into contact with during this project was timing. Since this was something I never did with a class before, I didn’t have all the details figured out right away. I started with an idea and took it from their….and in some instances that is good, but in this one, it just made the projects last over too long of a period of time. Since I only see the students once a week…and if that depending on holidays, in-services, etc. it made it difficult to complete in a more appropriate time period. However, I think that since I know exactly how the details of the project work, if I do it again, I have a lot more things figured out and I can tweak the details as needed. But I think that’s how our lessons plans should work…they should be mold able and able to evolve and change according to what our students need.

If there is one thing I’ve learned in my five years of teaching it’s that you can’t make cookie cutter lessons when there are no cookie cutter people. Few things will work all the time, some most of the time, most will work some of the time, and some will completely fail. I think we often learn most from the ones that dont work lie we thought they would. The goal is not perfection, because you may think you habe “the perfect lesson” and then some snotty kid says “this is boring”…then what? The point is to try and use what works, modify if needed, and scrap what doesn’t. Change is as necessary as consistency….and you can have adaption and evolution amid consistency. I’m a firm believer in needing both. You need creativity and structure, you need imagination and logic, you need the arts AND

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I figured that I should wrap things up with a “this is what I learned” post. My CIG has been examining inquiry strategies that may or may not increase motivation and determination in our classrooms. My strategy involved the implementation of a rewards system for my students. Initially the system was a success. The students wanted the reward (band bucks toward school store purchases) and where willing to work for it. As the weeks progressed, however, I saw less and less motivation to do well on the playing tests. At first I determined that this was not a reliable method of motivating students. But recently, something funny happened. I’m seeing more and more kids in my room in the mornings and an increased motivation to play/perform well. I think that it just may have taken more time than I thought it should. And, during several weeks in which there was a lull in student motivation the students were in the middle of PSSA testing. As a result, I am beginning to believe that a rewards system can be a point of motivation to students. But, it can’t be the only thing. Students have to make a personal connection to their art in order to keep them coming back. Things like a reward for hard practice can help move them in the right direction, but ultimately they have to see the value in what they are doing and want to get better.

On March 2 our CIG met at the Uniontown High School to help out with a program taking place.  The Invisible Children program came to present their video Kony 2012. IC has been presenting an assembly at the Uniontown District for the last 5 years. Their non-profit organization raises awareness for the plight of children in Uganda affected by the 20 year war. These children are constantly threatened with kidnap, torture, sexual slavery and being forced into fighting. Each year as the students see the new informational video and hear from the young Ugandans who share their stories in person, they respond with compassion and generosity. This compassion seems to manifest itself through art. This year the young people have planned a 5K run followed by an art and music festival.  Many times students respond n a very emotional way through their art making. These pieces are then part of the festival and may be experienced and purchased by the attendees. I have seen first hand how art making answers the deep seated question “Ok, I see this terrible need on the other side of the world, but what can I do about it.

On our final work day at the IU the M and D CIG decided to put our research into a digital story. In 3 minutes or less each member of the group would tell their own part of the story. After the script was complete we each made an audio recording of our own portion. It was decided that Jen Joyce would put the story together and that we would need to send her the pictures or videos we wanted included. This past Thursday we all got together in Sherry Knight’s room at Trinity High School to see the finished project and discuss how we would conduct our presentation the following Friday. We were blown away by what Jen had put together. She really did a great job and had obviously put a lot of time into the project. It is so nice, and has been nice, to work with such creative and smart people. People who take the initiative to get something done and then come through with a product that goes beyond expectations. I feel very fortunate to have worked with the members of my CIG as well as member in years past. Looking forward to Friday!

I have had some interesting developments in my class’s inquiry into student practice and the rewards system. For the first playing test I assigned two short excepts that the students were responsible for being able to play. Both were excerpts that the students had seen before and had been practicing for several weeks. As a result, the scores for the first playing test were overwhelmingly good….which was my plan and hope. All of the students received either a 50 cent band coupon or a 1 dollar coupon, and all students received their weekly star. The students were happy, I was happy, all was well in band land.

The next week things changed….which was my plan and hope. In addition to the rewards system, the students had requested on the pretest that we move more quickly through our weekly playing assignments. They indicated that we were spending too much time on certain pieces (which I did because they were not practicing enough and thusly were not ready to move on). On Thursday I assigned two new pieces in their band books. I spent the entire Monday class rehearsing the pieces and doing my best to make sure the kids understood the rhythms, pitches, and finger positions.

Thursday came (we only have band class twice a week) and I told the students we would be warming up, reviewing the two pieces, and beginning the playing test. “But Mr. Bruno, we’ve only had a week to work on these songs! We can’t play them yet!”  “But,” I told them, “you all said that we needed to move on, and not spend so much time on the same songs.”

After the dust settled on he final playing test only two students had received band coupons and only half of the entire class earned the required points to receive a star on the board. They were crushed.

I explained that the band coupons and the possibility of a party at the end of the year where meant to be REWARDS, not something they would get for showing up and giving it a good try. I told them that I wanted them to all to get the 1 dollar coupon every week, but that they would have to EARN it through practice.  It seemed to be a real wake up call for some of the students. I just hope to see evidence of better practice habits next week.

After much discussion, the class and I came up with two rewards for the proficiency tests. One would reward individual achievement on a weekly basis, and one would reward collective achievement over the remaining weeks in the school year.

For individual achievement I spoke with the president of our parent organization about helping me develop ‘Band Bucks’ that could be redeemed at the school store. Band Bucks come in two amounts, $1.00 and $.50. For the collective achievement I spoke to our principal about organizing a band party the last week of school. We will order pizza and soda and listen to music.

In both cases student achievement will be based on their score on the weekly playing test. I designed a rubric in which students are given points in four categories, 1.) If they have their book and instrument (3points) 2.) Rhythmic accuracy (4 points) 3.) Melodic accuracy (4 points) and 4.) Reasonable tempo (4 points), for a total of 15 possible points. In order to receive a $ 1.00 band buck the student must earn 14-15 points on their playing exam. In order to receive a $ .50 band buck the student must earn 10-13 points. If the student earns fewer points than 10 they are not eligible for a voucher. In addition to earning points for band bucks I am also logging the students’ scores into a weekly ‘star’ poster that I designed. The poster has each student’s name and remaining weeks in the school year. If a student earns at least 8 of the 15 possible points they are given a star for the week. If every student in band is able to collect 10 stars (out of 14 remaining weeks) they will earn the pizza party. However, if even one student comes up short, none of the students will earn the party.

I believe this rewards system holds students both individually and collectively accountable for making sure that they practice on a regular basis. The students accepted the terms of the rewards system and we have begun to implement it. More to come about the results.

            I began this year’s foray into inquiry with a pretest regarding student practice, that my CIG designed. Upon reading the results I learned several things about my students. One, they are not practicing enough. I knew that already, but I now have written proof. Two, they felt that some kind of reward system would motivate them to practice more. I hate this idea, as a musician, because I feel that improving your skills should be the ultimate motivational tool. But, my goal is to motivate students to practice more and I will do what I have to. Three, many indicated that they wanted to be “pushed” more and “challenged” more.

            After taking some notes, I spent the next class period going over the results of the pretest with the students. We discussed each question, the results, and what those results mean in terms of improving the collective motivation of the class. The two points we discussed at length were the rewards system and the class’s desire to be challenged from week to week.

            At the end of class I talked to the students about inquiry. I told them that I would like them to form a line of inquiry that we could use to serve as the basis for a research project about student motivation and inspiration. I gave them some examples of inquiry questions, and after several suggestions we settled on one that I thought appropriate for our class, “How will giving us rewards for practice make us better at playing our instruments?” I revised the language slightly and we are now operating under the following inquiry question, “How will implementing a proficiency rewards system impact individual student practice habits?”

            Our next step will be to define the particulars of the rewards system and implement the system into our weekly routine.

For the second reading I chose to read “The Creative Music Strategy, A Seven-Step Instructional Model” and was pleased with the content. Not only did I find it helpful and insightful, I was able to relate to and connect with the material being presented. Last year the Yellow CIG designed a unit of collaborate inquiry in which the students would be part of a large scale travelling art project. The students of music teachers in the CIG were charged with composing music to accompany the visual artistic works. To that point in my teaching career I had conducted basic composition lessons with my classes but nothing on the level that we had discussed for the project. As such, I sat down and brainstormed some ideas on how to create a unit that would teach the students about the elements of composition, while insuring that they were able to creatively engage in group composition that could be recorded and used in the project. The list that I came up with was staggeringly similar to the seven steps listed in this essay.

The first step, “Springboard for the Strategy” was the first thing our CIG decided upon. Earth Day became our theme. Step two, “Develop an open-ended musical question” was my first lesson. I spent the period discussing the history of earth day and the elements of composition, and in doing so had the students develop questions to accompany the lesson. Step three, “Large-group brainstorm” was the natural third step. Let the students dig in and give it a try. Doing it on a large scale allowed students to give and receive ideas without the fear of giving an “incorrect answer”. I somewhat skipped step four, “Personal Exploration” because my students created their compositions as a group, not as individuals. Students were placed in smaller groups to allow for additional rhythms and melodies but not to the level of individual students. In that sense, we kind of skipped to step five, “Small-group planned improvisation”. Once the students had created the parts of the composition and agreed upon the form we moved to step six, “Record for Reflection”. And when the project was complete we were able to reflect upon our pieces not only as single entities but as par t of the entire travelling art project.

I enjoyed this article because it not only gave me some new ideas for future composition lessons but it also lent credibility to the lesson I had already planned. This article outlined a much more comprehensive look at creative music making, but the process was very close to the model that I had already created. I really look forward to conducting this lesson again and adding the strategies mentioned in this article that I overlooked the first time.

I wanted to share with my fellow AE these 2 videos made by a group of students in Art 1. These are the responses of this particular group to the inquiry question; How can we re-tell the story of our school?

I would appreciate your feedback, especially any help with editing out the sound noise on the final rap video.

 

Preview of Sunshine video:

http://vimeo.com/33917005

 

THE Sunshine Video:

http://vimeo.com/33917437

 

 

 

I read the article “The Creative  Music Strategy” and overall I thought this article was great and insightful.  I think it is definitely applicable and practical.  The only downfall I saw with this process was that it appears to me that this might be difficult to do all of your lessons around…maybe that is not the expectation.   Maybe it is just ONE way of doing a lesson, and in this case I think it’s perfect.  But to do every lesson from this perspective, I think that could get kind of monotonous.  One of my favorite parts of the article was a list of characteristics of a creative teacher.  I will list them now to make it easier to discuss in this post.  I will put the list in bold and my comments and thoughts in regular font.

1. Respect for children as individuals – I definitely feel I encompass this first one and I feel it is definitely the foundation for any educator.  If you respect your children for who they are personally, you are going to teach them creatively to meet their needs.

2. Ability to relate/establish rapport with children – This is directly linked to the first one.  Children have a very keen sense of knowing when an adult has respect and care for them and when they are just another person taking up a seat in a classroom.  I feel I have a very good relationship and rapport with my students in which they know that I care about them and their learning.

3. Flexibility in adapting to needs of children – this is essential for making learning and content relevant to children.  In my 5 years of teaching I have been at 5 different schools and all 3 levels of eduction (primary, jr. high, and high school).  And I have seen how my lessons have adapted and my approach has changed in each setting and for each individual class,

4. Enthusiam for learning and living – I feel this is such an important component, that isn’t so much what happens in the class room, but what is your life like outside of the classroom?  A teacher who has a life a part from school that is thriving and not simply surviving will promote the same vibe in their own classroom.  I know this is part of the reason why there is enjoyment and motivation in my classes, because my take on life is to discover and experience as much as I can!

5. Leads children to experience the wonder of music through personal discovery – This is necessary, because music, and all the arts for that matter, connect with personal experience and without it, there isn’t a real response.  There must be an organic, personal aspect to music, a way students can discover things themselves, in order for there to be a real experience.

6. Helps children to discover the social relevance of music – I think this is really important, especially with how quickly musical influence changes and evolves.  Students need to see how music relates to history, art, politics, and life in general as well as how it relates to them personally.

7. Recognizes the earmarks of creativity in children – I think it is important to different types of activities so you can see how certain students blossom in some areas and other students do in different ones.

8. Arouses curiosity about music that won’t let go until it is satisfied

9. Possesses confidence and security resulting from adequate preparation and experience

10. Plans wisely for each stage of development

11. Make the study of music exciting

12. Aware of the importance of using community resources

13. Demonstrates insight to appraise children’s work objectively and to provide encouragement for additional experiences

14. Knowledge of materials and instructional procedures

15. Presents appropriate personality and dress

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