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“Why is critical thinking essential?” Nov. 2005, by The Critical Thinking Co- Staff.

After reading this article I realized that teaching students how to critical think is more important than teaching them how to take tests. As Americans we are more focused on sports or social events instead of education.

“Aside from food, water, and shelter the one thing that a person will most need in life is education. Of the four neccessities, education is the only one that can belp ensure a persons consistent ability to provide himself/herself with the other three.” This statement is so true, we still have many students that feel that education is a waste of their time. These are the studnets that we will be paying for them to live on government money. Most of the time it is generation after generation  that does this. Children learn how to work the system rather then make something of themselves.

Others such as politicians talk about the importance of education, but the US is not where it should be compared to countries such as Japan, France, and China. The problem is the philosophy of education in the United States. Students are provided with information that they basicly memorize, take the test, and quite frankly forget what they have learned afterwards. Critical thinking is building upon what they already know and what they will continue to learn. It is important to keep gaining knowledge and not always learn and need to take a test. Educators should not be forced to grade students by standardized testing. They should be allowed to grade in many different ways.

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.

Reading #2

So I read this article; “The Making of a Music: The Construction & Reconstruction of a Teacher’s Personal Practical Knowledge forming Inquiry.” My first response to this reading was Hurray! I can so relate to the process that Anne went through as she was starting over. I understand her feelings of self-doubt and rediscovery; the stresses of time and wanting to give my students the very best quality while still experimenting and changing according to the needs that I see. My School is trying to get all teachers to do what Anne did. I feel that there is disconnect in their understanding and therefore in their expectations. There is the struggle of change. In my field, music, we live in the realm of inquiry (what would happen if… or how would this sound if we tried…) and what Anne called “play”. Sometimes inquiry happens because of something students bring into “play” a question or an observation. Sometimes because of something really cool that happens while we are rehearsing, a connection made.  I really liked how she focused on the creation of experiences for students within which they would communicate their understanding to others, learn to respond to one another, and be transformed through the interaction of narratives. This helped me as I read my students reflections and evaluations of the Christmas concert collaboration. I have given my students some different tools to help them with their collaboration as a direct response to their evaluations and what they felt they would need to be successful.

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

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?

 

 

 

 

Based on this statement from http://www.cii.illinois.edu/InquiryPage/ :

 

 
Based on John Dewey‘s philosophy that education begins with the curiosity of the learner, we use a spiral path of inquiry: asking questions, investigating solutions, creating new knowledge as we gather information, discussing our discoveries and experiences, and reflecting on our new-found knowledge

I can’t help but focus on the quote, “education begins with the curiosity of the learner.”  My job from this moment is to discover what my students are curious about. This will drive my curriculum for my communications class for the new 9 weeks beginning when I get back to the classroom.  I have decided to make a survey that my substitute can give to my social studies students. These students will represent the 7th grade student body of my district. I will develop questions to help me discover what my students will use in the path of inquiry.

 

I enjoyed going through the thought process of Sondra’s painting assignment. However I wish I would not have read preface before the journal. I had a hard time taking the reading seriously after the author explained, “I also had to use language in the way Sondra would; so, there is some of the ubiquitous text messaging lingo used by teens… lol: laugh out loud… omg: Oh my god… sk8ter: skater.”

So after getting past this explanation of a fictional teenager and her lingo, I actually found the journal pretty interesting and informative. Sondra comes to the conclusion that themes for contemporary art come from many different sources and she writes, “I’m still wondering why teachers always want us to look at other art to inform our work when artists are copying us. Absurd.”

Themes and inspiration for a work of art can come from a student’s own experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Honestly sometimes I find it hard to believe that teenage students even have an original idea, but they do! They just need the push through the thought process as in Sondra’s journal. I often relate lessons to the students in some way, like having them create themes that interest the student or are about the student. This leads to discussions, arguments, and ideas. The thought process then flows naturally.  I find this to be one sure way to motivation and success.

The last two sentences in the article: Allowing Artistic Agency in the Elementary Classroom by David Rufo, are particularly insightful and I will use these notions to inform further exploration of inquiry in my classroom this year.

Rufo states: “Children need time to create unfettered by systems, institutional expectations, and government-directed assessments.  Art does not conveniently fit into, and should not be forced to adhere to, the ways in which other curricula are designed and put into practice.”  Rufo provided Open Studio and Read Aloud time for his classes.  He found that during these times, students felt more comfortable creating without the confines of a predetermined lesson.  Through observation, Rufo realized that the process was more important than the product.  I believe this to be true.  However, I feel as though I am expected to produce “take-home” artwork.  This expectation comes from parents, other teachers, and administration.  Even though I want to stress creativity and experiential learning, parents want to see an end result.

One of the things I do when planning a lesson is decide what process or skill I want to teach and figure out which project suits that need best. Students can then take home a project and explain what they learned, or more importantly, how they learned it.  Some of the lessons I have presented as inquiry-based lessons needed more structure than others.  What would happen if I didn’t structure as much?  Would it take longer?  Would the students learn more or become frustrated without a result?

When I think about inquiry, I think about the process of learning.  How do students come about finding new information or have an experience?  How can I set up an environment or an opportunity to allow for that discovery?  The word: inquire means to question.  Becky Gartley told me she always starts with a question.  What is that question?  What question will ignite those creative thoughts?  What will spark critical thinking?  Is it an experience?  How can I plan for and provide an experience that will allow students freedom in their learning choices?

David Rufo was interested in allowing for more latitude, in giving students more freedom to choose their learning experiences.  He uses the term self-governance.  I am concerned with how to meet the expectations of teaching my discipline (meeting standards, adopting anchors, planning interdisciplinary lessons, etc) while allowing for as much student self-governance as possible.  As a facilitator of inquiry, the teacher needs to make a decision when something is or is not working.  That’s the balance I attempt to seek out.

For my second reading I chose to read “The Three Artistic Processes: Paths to Life Long 21st Century Skills through Music.” I found this article to be extremely helpful  and relevant to my work in my CIG this year. The article discusses taking the subject of music and by using the three artistic processes an educator can have a clear way of  “organizing standards-based music teaching and assessment as well as a vision of the musically educated student. ” The model discusses the three artistic processes being” Comprehensive, Practical and Authentic. Out of these three it is the authentic that peeks my interest the most.

Authentic– The processes are those that real artists use when Creating, Performing and Responding to music and the other arts.”

After reading this statement I realized that I truly wanted to embrace this idea, and then I had to ask my self  “is this something that is happening in my classroom, or is this something that I am working towards?” After reflecting for a while I came to the conclusion that it is something that is happening in my classroom, but it is something that my students and I are trying to make stronger.  I feel that the article really began to hit home when I read this statement:

” The ultimate goal of music education is to empower our students to continue active musical involvement as adults.  Since the ability to carry out the steps in the Three Artistic Processes is what makes a person a musician, the ‘mission’ of every music teacher should be to help all students learn to carry out each of those processes independently.

Conversely,the major reason that so many students set aside their instruments or vocal skills after graduation is because their music instruction has been primarily teacher-centered…”

This is something I have always wanted for my classroom. To not make it about me teaching them, but about them learning. They begin to gradually assume musical responsibility and ownership. I find making my classroom more student-centered and leaning more using inquiry has been somewhat difficult and I now realize that it is because I have not necessarily re-enforced the authentic process with my students on a consistent enough basis. I find it interesting that as a musician this is a process I continuously engage in, but rarely ever encourage my students.

The reading also discusses how the three artistic Processes also encourage 21-century thinking skill including critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration. The more I think about this section the more I feel that it relates directly to our inquiry. These skills are something that I find I push my students in constantly. However, I have now generated some new questions that I will reflect about later, based on these skills and how they effect the inquiry process.

This reading is about Anne, who at the middle of her teaching career as a Physical Education Teacher, decides to shift gears and become an 8th grade core subject classroom teacher.

The basis for her entire classroom structure, environment, and motivation was all about utilizing family relations as a meaning-making structure for inquiry.

Her methodology in her “new” core classroom was simply this; by working collaboratively with others, we can not only learn from one another, but we can also learn to respect and appreciate each others ways, knowledge, and experiences.

Sounds great, yet not always the easiest thing to pull off with students. In my opinion, in order for this to work and be an effective classroom method, the structure for how this works needs to be well-defined, as well as constantly monitored and re-inforced. I agree with Anne that we can all learn so very much from one another as long as we are interacting in a proper means of “give and take”. We all need to practice being better listeners and learn how to share information with each other in a way that comes across as “non-condescending” and “non-judgemental”. How hard this is for many of us as adults, and we are trying to get young adults to be able to achieve this “collaborating” task successfully.

In my 7th and 8th grade band, I try to do a “sort of” small group activity with each section. I will allow my clarinets (or my flutes, trumpets, etc.) to go off during a class period and work on the music on their own as a group. I tell them that they are to help each other with notes and rhythms, as well as with correcting fingering problems with notes as well. I don’t want it ever to become a situation where 8th grade band members are telling 7th grade band members what to do, but more of a shared learning experience where the 7th grade band students can learn some musical knowledge from the 8th grade band students, and the 8th grade band students can learn how to help the younger students, as well as become more knowledgable and more understanding of all of the members of their sections’ strengths and weaknesses. It seems to be a productive activity so far because the next day in band all of the band students in that section tend to play their parts much better than they did before they had “section” or “group” collaboration time. After all, bands, choirs, etc. all perform much better together when there is a great deal of “harmony” amongst all members of said groups anyways – and isn’t this one of our main goals to begin with???

I wish, however, that I knew what “co-operative learning” books she (Anne) read from cover to cover to help her establish a structure, along with guidelines to her “collaborative” environment. I’m a big believer in setting parameters and having a detailed outline set before diving into an activity with both feet, so for me, I am sure I would benefit greatly from reading a few “co-operative learning” books cover to cover myself!

Respecting, learning from, and getting to know others outside of our own personal “comfort zone” is not a task any of us go into very open-mindedly. Even as teachers, we tend to “stick” with people in our school who teach our same subject matter, same grade level, or who we have gotten to know by spending time together through various meetings or duty assignments. Hopefully, as educators we can all become better collaborators with each other and be able to share the benefits of this method with all of our students!! Maybe they will even end up being more receptive to “collaborating” and learning from each other as young adults than we are!

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