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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.

We all (not so fondly) know the rest of this saying…try, try again! That basically sums up my first attempt at an inquiry based lesson in my music classes for 5th & 6th grade. Overall, it was not a bad experience…just not as incredible as I had thought. Here is my story:

I have been focusing in my classroom on doing more inquiry-based lessons and learning. I started with an idea I gleaned from one of my CIG members, Bethany, that she had used in her music classroom and found to be very successful with her students. The objective was to have students dissect a piece of music…something that the composer had a theme or idea in mind that he/she wanted to get across to their audience. First, students would listen and describe the instrumentation they heard, then describe the different aspects of the music such as tempo, form, dynamics, texture. This formative assessment then led into a more objective approach. Students listened to the same piece of music, but this time respond to the feeling they received from it. Then, they were asked to imagine a scene this music might portray if it was put into a visual art form such as a movie or picture. Bethany also had taken this idea a step further in her class and had her students think of a character for their scene and form groups with other students, combine their ideas/characters and act out their scene to the music.

I loved this idea! I was so excited to introduce this concept in my classes. I decided to start out with the formative/objective assessments of the music and see how the students responded to this. If the response was positive, I would take it to the next step of acting it out. If it was negative, I would go back to the drawing board. I was so thrilled about this lesson, I had every reason to believe it was going to be a huge hit in my mind.

I used a song called “Rodeo” with my 5th and 6th graders. It has a very suggestive castanet part that sounds like horse hooves. And of course, the name pretty much tells all. I didn’t tell the students the title of the song and I had them write their responses down as a way to legitimize their thoughts. I was surprised to find that they were not as “into” the concept as I had thought. They seemed more involved in discovering what instruments were in the piece than imagining their own scene to go with the music! Don’t get me wrong, the were several who gave very creative and well thought responses, but it wasn’t as captivating as I would have expected.

With this, I decided not to continue with the acting out/character portion of the lesson. But now I had some ammo from my students, knowing that they really enjoyed instrumentation. I decided I would try and assemble a lesson around this theme, and make it something they can be creative with and collaborate with others. Something that would involve inquiry, music, and creative thinking.

During the holiday I read selected chapters in the book The Mastery Of Music: Ten Pathways to True Artistry by Barry Green. Barry Green teamed up with Timothy Gallway who wrote the Inner Game books and Green’s first book was the Inner Game of Music.

In Chapter 7 of The Mastery, the topic is Concentration: The Spirit of the Zone, there are several quotes I find meaningful to the focus of the Inquiry of the Independents.

1. The brain is the key to the state of peak performance, in music and in life.
2. Green believes that mastering three Inner Game mental concentration skills i.e. being in the zone is as essential as mastering the physical technical skills of playing any instrument.
3. The three challenges to achieving mastery are defining the zone, getting to the zone and staying in the zone.

It seems to me this can be an avenue for me to explore and experiment through observation of students engaged in specific activities through helping them to balance awareness, will and trust in an effort to understand “the zone.”

In my thinking, being “in the zone” is being independent.

We have been encouraged by our administrators to apply H.E.A.T. In our teaching. I will explore whether there can be a convergence between the zone and H.E.A.T.

On another front the Fiddle File wiki has provoked many responses from my students. The discussions are focused around a list of essential questions. I hope to be able to post some of these samples on the Independents wiki as soon as we complete our winter performance next Monday evening.

Quote #4: “Inquiry requires teachers and students alike to take up multiple roles and responsibilities within and across classroom activities.”

 I don’t think you could sum it up much better than that. I feel like this quote speaks to what collaborative inquiry is all about….moving away from the practice of teachers standing in front of a room and spooning out information that the students are expected to regurgitate, and toward a classroom setting in which teachers lead, but the division of power is such that students are able to assume that role when appropriate and promote peer teaching and self learning.

That said I find the goal this year extremely interesting. Taking group inquiry into the classroom is one thing, but giving students the reigns to shape and mold the line of inquiry, even create it themselves, is quite the other. Relinquishing power in this manner, even for the most liberal of teachers, is a bit scary. Then again, I guess it’s the logical next step.

With regard to my particular CIG, the discussion question that I kept coming back to when I read through these ideas was “What ‘problems’ to you encounter with your students that could stimulate a shared inquiry as an active quest?” Our CIG is centered around this question. We want to find out why so many students refuse to practice their craft outside of a classroom setting. We also want to learn their motivation for taking an arts class (to fit in, to create art/music, to get an easy A) and how we can motivate them further.

Another productive day at the IU thanks to my CIG!  We worked together to get everyone on track for their inquiry.  I focused on finished a few posts, analyzing the data from my survey, and finding information my ideas for my inquiry content.  I’ve decided to use the information provided here: to kickstart my ideas. I’m going to decide between interviewing war veterans, people from different generations, and family members after discussing it with my students. The students will write interview questions, videotape the interview, and edit the videos into a TV show. This would cover most of the skills they expressed an interest in from the survey.

Right now, I am lucky enough to say that this is my 4th year in AE 2.0.  Four years of questions, searching for answers, and trying new stuff!

I say this not because I am bothered by it.  I say it because I feel like I have so many new ideas and flows of thought that I am wondering which direction to go from here.  I am passionate and concerned about teaching students to express and communicate who they are.  I want students to understand that they can contribute to the world in positive and creative ways.

Right now I am considering our group’s question:

How can we help students discover who they are and their connection to the world through the arts?

I am thinking about how I can create a classroom lesson that helps me revise and excel the activities that I have started the last couple of years, and create a new lesson that really addresses this year’s question too.

I am entertaining some ideas using the mp3 players and Audacity to allow students to do some mash-up type mixing, or allowing students to create a piece of music using sounds that they create and edit and mix them!  Right now I am just at the idea phase – but next I will be asking myself – How does this relate to our question? 🙂

I had my substitute administer a google docs survey that I was hoping that it would provide me with insight  to what my students would be interested in doing when I return.  This was going to be my window into their minds! Well, not so much. Of course I now have more questions than I had before. Did they misinterpret the questions I gave them? Do they think that this questions covers something that is important to me? important to them?  Well, regardless, I’m taking the information I have and I’m running with it.

One portion of the survey was to evaluate how independent they are in their learning.  When asking about completing their homework, the survey showed that about 27% of them can do their homework alone and on time.  The rest need help from friends, neighbors, or at home.  This shows me that they need instruction on how to find the answers for their homework.  Hopefully, when I post-survey them in the spring, There should be an improvement in this response and others similar concerning their independent learning.

Another portion of the survey was to discover what areas of study they would be interested in.  The first question asked the students to mark which of these areas they are already skilled in. The second question asked what they would like to learn more about.  This area has given me some really great tools to begin organizing my inquiry. Bigger question – what will it be???

I have been teaching about Henri Rousseau and his jungle scenes. Foreground, middle ground, and background are the other focus of this lesson. After I have shown a Powerpoint or Rousseau’s life and work I have students do an imagination exercise:” You have just been dropped off in the middle of the jungle, you look in the distance what do you see behind everything else, is it daylight or nighttime… are there mountains or volcanos… What is in the Background? Now look at what is closer to you, are there fruit trees, vines, or flowers… do you see birds, monkeys? Now look at the things closest to you, are there lions, crocodiles, gorillas… what do you see in the foreground?. After my students open their eyes I tell them to draw what you saw. The results were very different for each student’s sketch looked different even though they heard the same descriptions. I love that we were made to be creative beings 🙂 and its apparent through simple guided imagery






Today we made a lot of progress sharing what inquiry techniques we have been using. I enjoy hearing the techniques media being used and how each of our processes are different. Brian was focusing on art as a business and the ins and outs of  creatting supply and demand. Amanda was story boarding with collaborative groups with her third graders. Amber discussed how her students could add music to Amanda’s stop motion animation. Angie shared her installation art experience with her students and how to try out the lesson with the next group of students. Carol shared her clay lesson experience where she used a video to show techniques and gave her students longer work time . I was able to share my own experience with cool colors and warm color painting techniques also a torn paper Christmas tree turned out well. It was interresting
seeing and hearing everyone’s processes, they gave me ideas as well as inspired me to try new types of inquiry.

Cory, perhaps we can provide some tech support here?

I have been thinking about the participant’s process of including categories and tags in their posts. Perhaps it would be helpful for us to share some more specifics about this process?

January 2020
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