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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.

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

June 2017
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