I have pushed myself this year to truly integrate the International Baccalaureate (IB) Units of Inquiry while focusing on individual musicians. In this set of posts, I plan to reflect upon the journey of the fifth grade musicians as well as my own. I would also like to challenge you to think more about the nature of the experience and less on the content area. I am framing this in the context of music, but how might this project look in social studies, science, language arts, or art?
The idea of this project came about after a long conversation with my friend and choir colleague Eve Pierre. Eve is an amazing musician, educator, facilitator, consultant, and friend. She has been my mentor and springboard regarding all things IB and Standards Based Grading.
The unit we are currently exploring is Where we are in place and time: An inquiry into orientation in place and time; personal histories; homes and journeys; the discoveries, explorations and migrations of humankind; the relationships between and the interconnectedness of individuals and civilizations, from local and global perspectives.
We began inquiring about the migration of music and what impact that may have on people in the past, present, and future. This kindled a conversation about aural traditions, how music has been past down from generation to generation, and cultural contexts of music in different cultures. Through talking to the musicians about music, culture, migration, and bouncing ideas off of Eve, Seeds of Culture began.
Project Overview (Part 1):
Musicians choose a song that connects them to their culture (Part 2)
Create a short digital presentation of the music’s affects from the past, present, and future
Teach the class a portion of your song
Create a Seed Rhythm on a looper e.g. Looseque or DM1 (Part 3)
Find other musicians that share the same or similar Seed Rhythm
Compose and perform the original pieces at an Exhibition style concert (Part 4)
I will write posts as the musicians share each part of their projects. So far, this has been an incredible way to get to know individual learner’s personal histories, cultures and journeys. I am learning so much about their music, but most of all, strengthening relationships.
“In order to be creative, you need to be able to view things in new ways or from different perspectives.” (pg. 15) Being creative or innovative is not always creating a brand new idea, sometimes it is reinventing common things MacGyver was a genius! He could create anything with a rubberband, bobby pin, and a piece of chewing gum. Who would a Musical MacGyver be?
How do we design experiences for musicians to create, reinvent, and innovate in our programs? As I read the teachers reflections to this reading, there are recurring themes emerging.
There is a tradition of excellence at district and state festival
My administrator is basing my teacher evaluation on how well the ensemble performs at contest
I was never taught this way
I don’t know how
These are going to become the springboards from which the rest of the week’s discussions and projects will launch. This begins with laying groundwork for teachers, administrators, and parents to see other ways, different ways, of being a musician. As one instrumental music teacher in the class wrote, “we must be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater”, the changes need to be small and deliberate. Beginning with relevant and timely music that will engage the learner/musician to become more autonomous when approaching musicianship. Autonomy in learning emerges when musicians are asked to solve musical problems through a project based approach.
“Advantages for me as a teacher of creating musical activities include finding the time spent with students to be more enjoyable, perhaps because my role moves naturally to that of a coach and facilitator. I also enjoy the opportunities for personal artistic expression when modeling musical creativity.” (pg. 19)
The experiences that you design for musicians to be creative, artistic, expressive will have a longer lasting effect than the piece of music they are reading and performing. The musicians that visit your classroom may not remember the specific piece they played, the concept, or rhythmic passage you were rehearsing, but they will remember how you made them feel as a creating musician.
My frame for tomorrow’s discussion will be a question I will ask. How do we as music educators create relevant experiences for learner/musicians?
“…technology tools have become indispensable to music makers outside the world of education”. (pg. 20)
This is a cry for help. Technology tools that are absolutely necessary to “real world” music makers are often ignored by contemporary music educators. Where does this leave the musicians in our classrooms?
I would like to ask “What if…” What is music education was different?
I have always been a project based learner and design classroom experiences for learners in my classroom to do the same. They have voice and choice of as to how they show their understanding of concepts and processes. The divergence in their pieces are exciting to see and hear. The cycle went something like this: learner/musicians experiences a concept through an anchor or mentor piece of music, conceptualize a way to create a piece to show their understanding, rehearse, perform, and begin framing the next project. It has been awesome, but there was something missing. The more I read about learning and thought about the way I learn, themes started to emerge. A few that resonated with me were the lack of reflection and revision. In my classroom, we were missing self reflection and time to revise existing music. It was my fault. I was so focused on “covering material” or “getting everything in” that I was missing a big piece of the learners experience. The ways we deepen our understanding is by trying, making mistakes, trying again, and revising. With my new realization, I have worked toward developing a way for musicians to reflect upon their performances during their revision process. I am still working through the details.
In my classroom, we focus on the process of creating and performing music. Throughout a learner/musician’s experience, they (or their group) will do a “check-in” performance for the class. This performance in not their final presentation, rather a glimpse into their composition process. This also provides more of a formal run-through of their musical ideas they have been experimenting with and a time for them to hear what their piece sounds like without all of the sounds from other musicians bleeding in. Read more about Musician’s Workshop here. As musicians are sharing their “check-in” performances, I capture video in the Three Ring mobile app to reflect upon later.
Capturing Video with Three Ring
Three Ring is a hybrid website and app which allows us to build our digital portfolios throughout the year. Three Ring has been an invaluable resource for me as an educator to capture thinking and process, for students to reflect upon their musical process while developing their digital portfolios, and for parents to have a window into my classroom and their children’s musical experiences. I have shared many artifacts and performances with parents which has provided a window into my classroom that has not been open before. As the musicians perform for peers in class, these performances are captured by my mobile device and tagged with their classroom teachers name, musician’s names, and any learning goals. See the “check-in” video below here.
When learner/musicians present projects such as completed “incomplete” listening maps, their green screen performances are captured for their music portfolios, for reflection, and are then shared with parents. See one here
After the entire class has performed for one another, given and received verbal feedback, we take the next class period to reflect upon our progress, create personal goals, and plan the revision process.
Reflecting with Socrative
The tool we use in class is Socrative. Socrative is a student response system that empowers teachers to engage learners in reflective practices via smartphones, laptops, and tablets. This hybrid app can be used to create quizzes and multiple choice question, however, I choose to use it differently. I only create short answer questions that frame the reflection of their performances. After a musician has watched their “check-in” video on Three Ring, they navigate their (or my) mobile device to b.socrative.com and enter my room number.
They are then prompted to answer the following question:
What are your learning goals for [insert concept here]?
How are you showing your understanding of [the above concept]?
Did your check-in performance meet your expectations? Please explain.
As a musician, what was your biggest accomplishment during the performance? What makes you think that?
As a musician, what was your biggest struggle during the performance? What makes you think that?
What is (are) your personal goal(s) for the next time your group comes together to revise your piece?
The musicians take a bit of time reflecting and typing in their answers.
As the class finishes their reflections, I download the .xls spreadsheet of all the musician’s answers and goals. I use this to inform my mini-lessons and to support the learner/musicians individual needs based on their answers to the above questions.
When musicians return to their composition groups for revision, they each come with a personal goal which refocuses them individually while revising within their group. This also allows me to meet with individual musicians or pull focus groups to support them toward their personal goals. We have made reflection a part of the regular musical experience.
It has taken me years to realize that reflection is as important in learning as the experience itself. As John Dewey reminded us nearly a century ago, “We do not learn from experience . . . we learn from reflecting on experience.” Why has it taken me this long to figure it out?
There are so many music apps out there for iDevices making it may be hard to decide which ones are best. Once you find apps that you may think would work for you and the musicians in your classroom, it is important to decide if it will create opportunities for musicians to do new things in new ways. I would recommend that you download the chosen app yourself and play with it. Create something. The musicians that visit your room will have no issues navigating an app themselves, but I find it useful to know the app well enough to be able to authentically create a musical experience that is relevant to the musicians and to scaffold a musician if needed.
We are not teaching the apps. We are creating experiences for musicians to listen, perform and create music supported by technology. I have had a set of iPads in my classroom for the past 2 years and have gathered some apps that support the ways we experience music. These may or may not work for you and your students. Many have multiple entry points to support musicians with differentiated prior experiences. Some cost more than others, but well worth the cost.
From the multi-touch instruments to smart instruments, this is a powerhouse music creation app. GarageBand has multiple points of entry to create opportunities for musicians with different experience levels to perform and create together. The new update supports up to 32 tracks of recorded sound and hosts many internal loops. Starting a Jam Session allows you to play or record live over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth with up to three other musicians. The musician who initiates the Jam Session collects everyone’s recordings so they can be mixed as a song and be shared later. This is an app that is used by all of the musicians in my classes for many of the projects they create.
Remix your life with MadPad! Turn everyday sounds into an instrument. You can create custom soundboards with the sounds from your surrounding environment and remix them into a musical creation. Record loops and add layers live while recording the piece to share later. You can also share your soundboards on Twitter and FaceBook. This app is great when discovering organized sound, simultaneity, and texture. I also scaffold this app with VidRhythm.
Korg has created an incredible interface using an intuitive X-Y pad to provide expressive musical control. The Pad loads entire scenes and gives control to single tracks of many different electronic genres. From Electro House to Dubstep, musicians manipulate melody, harmony, rhythm, texture, and mix by stroking, tapping, or rubbing the screen with their finger. The built-in loop sequencer lets you layer up to five musical parts on one scene. You can record your performance in real time, or export a completed loop as an audio file and share directly to SoundCloud. My colleague who teaches middle school choir wanted to recreate a dubstep remix of a piece they were performing. The singers asked me if there was an app to add wobble bass to their piece. This was it.
This is a Pro DJ app. Create remixes and mashups quite easily with Traktor DJ with direct access to your iTunes library. The 2 deck interface continues the familiar swipe and pinch gestures. This app gives you complete control of your music beginning with automatic tempo and key matching, a crossfader, 3-band EQ, and filter on each channel. There are built in DJ effects including reverb, delay, and dramatic glitch effects like BeatMasher. My secondary general music class used Traktor DJ for their final project. They put together an Electronic Music Event. Each musician contributed a 5 min. live set mixing music of their choice. It was an incredible evening.
When performing, this app is awesome for soloing. ThumbJam enables expressive performances by making use of tilt and shake to add vibrato, tremolo, note bends, and volume swells for more realistic results. There are many instruments to choose from and the sounds are very nice. ThumbJam broadcasts tempo, key, and scale to other nearby devices via Bluetooth so many musicians can be in sync live.
As I finish this post, I think I need to create a series of posts for different areas of experiencing music. I will write posts for listening and performing as well. Stay tuned.
I received an email from a friend after my first Musician’s Workshop post. He sent me a quote that framed his thinking, and now mine, for how teacher feedback plays a role in the workshop model.
Lucy Calkins (1994) shares “[o]ur decisions must be guided by “what might help this writer” rather than “what might help this writing.” If the piece of writing gets better but the writer has learned nothing that will help him or her another day on another piece, then the conference was a waste of everyones time. It may even have done more harm than good, for such conferences teach students not to trust their own reactions” (p. 228)
Conferences in Musician’s Workshop have many similarities to other workshop models. When I am conferencing with a learner/musician, or a small group of musicians creating together, this is the process:
Ask the learner/musician or group of musicians to perform what they have so far. (Assessing the learner/musician’s performance as they play or sing)
Ask the the learner(s) what their contribution is as a musician to the piece.
Ask the learner/musicians where they feel they need support.
Specifically scaffold one musical dimension (element) at a time, either something the learner/musician contributed, or what you had heard during the initial performance.
Scaffold their playing if needed.
Ask them to describe the ways in which they will use the strategy they just practiced.
The conferences usually take anywhere from 8-10 min depending on how much support is needed or the size of the group. You may only get to 2 or 3 groups in one class period (I see each class for 30 min.) and that is okay. The other learner/musicians need that time to practice independently.
Ask the learner/musician or group of musicians to perform what they have so far. (Assessing the musician’s performance as they play or sing)
As you listen to the piece being performed, try to identify where the learner/musicians are in their process. At what stage are they in composing their piece? For example, if the they are creating a binary piece, are they creating the A, or B, or transitioning between both?
To identify the area of struggle, you may also ask an open ended question. For example, you may ask “How will the listener know when the music has moved to the next section?” The learner/musicians will explain their thinking and may uncover a misconception. If they answer something way off, you may ask a follow up question such as “What makes you say that?” This clarifying question will help guide you in helping the learner/musician move closer toward understanding. Their performance coupled with the learner/musician’s answers and explinations will help you assess the depth of their understanding.
Specifically scaffold one musical dimension (element) at a time, either something the learner/musician contributed, or something you had heard during the initial performance.
To continue with the binary example, If the learner/musician is having difficulty maintaining a steady beat and also composing contrasting sections, choose one and focus on that. I would start with the steady beat first to solidify the groups simultaneity and come back for the contrasting section. Keeping a steady beat and the group together is more important than composing a contrasting section.
Ask them to describe the ways in which they will use the strategy they just practiced.
This is their time to synthesize their plan. Understanding how to implement a new strategy into their process is an important step. I will confer with them about the strategy and through our dialogue, create a plan. The learner/musician makes a plan and begins to put they plan into action. These are intrinsic goals that the learner/musician decides on to make them a better musician, which in turn supports their contribution to the music.
I ask the learner/musicians to reflect upon their experience using tablets and student response systems. This allows me to gather their thinking in one place. The next time they visit my classroom, I have their individual goals on my iPad to better support our conferences.
There have been many teachers and administrators writing about the need to establish relationships before learning may occur. Musician’s Workshop enables relationships to form through individual conferences, open ended questions, valuing the learner/musician’s prior experiences, and focusing on the process. This is a growth mindset model that is differentiated for each musician.
Are you facilitating a Musician’s Workshop in your classroom, yet?
Calkins, L. (1994). The art of teaching writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
I am a middle school music teacher. Well, let me rephrase that, I teach middle school musicians. More and more, I am being asked to describe the “nontraditional” approach to learning music that happens in my room. I don’t think it is “nontraditional” but I will agree it is not what most music teachers learn in their pre-service experiences.
I have spent a lot of time discussing different workshop models with my colleagues. For three years, I have even taught a summer school reading and writing program where I was able to explore reader’s and writer’s workshop with third grade readers and writers. This experience provided the groundwork I needed to frame the musical experiences learner/musicians are asked to navigate in my classroom. It is Musician’s Workshop.
Musician’s Workshop is what I will describe as a constructivist approach to learning music through problem solving. Not necessarily reading and writing music, but focused more on self-expression, creating and performing, and connecting music to cultural and historical contexts. This way of experiencing music supports both being musically literate (reading and writing music) and musically competent (creating, improvising, and playing music by ear). Musicians will critically and analytically listen to music, perform original music, recreate others’ music, and create composed, improvised, or arranged music. There is inherently a performance facet of being a musician, however, Musician’s Workshop focuses on other authentic processes of being a musician.
Structure of Musician’s Workshop:
Piece of anchor music
Groundwork that enables (musician’s previous experience that supports, or mini-lesson and launch)
Musician’s time to solve the musical problem
Share with a broader audience
I will do my best to open a window into my classroom.
I teach in an International BaccalaureatePrimary Years Programme Middle School where the 5th grade learners are preparing for Exhibition. This year’s overarching idea is How can we positively effect our community? In the music room, we are considering How do we express ourselves?, an inquiry into recreating someone else’s music.
Anchor Music :
The melody of the chorus was our connection to this song. We used melody as the doorway in (Wiggins, 2009) to the process of recreating another musician’s music. The key of C lends itself well to the xylophones we play as well.
Groundwork That Enables:
For this problem solving experience to be successful, musicians needed to have had groundwork provided in previous years or class experiences. This should not be the first time they are being asked to play a melody by ear. Focusing on melodic contour and notes moving by steps, skips and leaps will support musicians problem solving the melody.
This is the time that seems loud and chaotic. It is loud and chaotic. The volume and cacophony is structured. Each musician is problem solving pitch, rhythm, direction, and melody at the same time. It will get loud. It has to. Sound is our medium. The video below is what my classroom looks and sounds like when musicians are problem solving. Please listen closely to the individual musicians as I zoom in to their playing. There are many different approaches to peer scaffolding. Some play and echo, some play at the same time, some provide vocal support, and some play hand-over-hand. Whatever the support may be, it is what is best for that learner. Time to problem solve is crucial to the growth of the individual musicians. This is their time to experiment, iterate, be scaffolded, learn, and scaffold others. The gradual release to independence is where the learning happens. This is where the individual musician grows toward independent musicianship within a large ensemble.
We have an in-class performance of Home by Phillip Phillips. We then use this recording as a critical listening experience.
We used an app called Skitch, a free, lightweight screen capturing and annotation app for iPad, to support an analytical listening experience. The musicians listened to the anchor music again while annotating over the lyrics. They show the form of the song while adding “what else do you hear?” to each section. This informs the next steps in the process of our class cover. (The video is of another song we did. I didn’t capture a video of the Skitch for Home, but wanted to invite you into the process.)
We then cycle the Musician’s Workshop process again and add the instruments that we added to the Skitch.
Share With a Broader Audience:
This is most exciting part! We share our music on social media platforms such as Twitter (@MrM_MusicRoom) and FaceBook. Growing our PLN broadens our audience and creates a bigger authentic network of learner/musicians who perform and learn from each other.
Creating a network of connected musicians broadens our thinking as we become more globally minded. We are going to perform Home by Phillip Phillips and Care by Kid Rock, ft. Angeleena Presley and T.I. for 5th grade Exhibition. The extension of the whole class cover is for the musicians to split into smaller bands and iterate the process of self expression through recreating another musician’s music. I’m looking forward to watching the process unfold and watching their performances.
Wiggins, J. (2009). Teaching for musical understanding (2nd ed.). Rochester, MI: CARMU.
Ok, my anxiety is starting to build. I am not going to MACUL this year. It is not my decision. I made an arrangement with my school district this year and I am holding up my end of the deal. Nonetheless, I have been glued to Twitter since yesterday evening following my friends travels to Grand Rapids and their TweetUps and f2f meetings. These are the people that support and give me gentle nudges to be the best teacher I can be. And yes, today is a snow day, but I would risk driving 35 mph for 3 and a half hours to be with those incredible teachers and learn along side of them. This is my PLN. I am #notatMACUL14 but will learn everything I can by being a connected educator. Next year.
I had the pleasure of hanging out with our middle school’s Minecraft club after school today. It was awesome the way the kids were entering each other’s worlds and building things together. One 6th grade student asked if I was going to hang out and asked to use one of my MaKey MaKey boards to build a custom controller for Minecraft. And so the design cycle began.
This maker already had a conceptual understanding of the control chair he was about to invent. He also knew the Minecraft interface well and how to hack the keyboard controls. He just needed the right materials. Tinfoil and MaKey MaKey. Create
He rolled a chair over and began taping foil to either side of the seat. The idea was to control the direction that his character turns by leaning either left or right in his chair.
He understood that their needed to be a closed circuit so he also taped tinfoil to his pants to trigger the left and right controls when he leaned either way.
The other control that the maker wanted was to walk forward. Thinking about how his controller worked, he decided to use his shoes as the trigger to move forward.
His favorite part.
The reflection process is as important as the Imagine and Create processes. In this case, this maker needed to redesign the forward interface. He decided to use a paper clip and tie into the MaKey MaKey’s “w” key.
It is in this process where the maker mindset moves to make the design better. It is in the problems that arise that creates experiences for learners and thinkers to practice this mindset.
It was so cool to watch and be a part of the thinking process. This maker has incredible ideas and a creative mind. Keep you eyes out for a custom chair controller in Kickstarter.
Me and Christopher Woodside at PMEA District 7 Photo by me.
Christopher’s National Voice of Music Education talk brought focus to the idea that music educators we are advocating that learners participating in music helps score better on standardized tests. This is what we think that administrators and classroom teachers want to hear and will keep us in our classrooms. This is one way of advocating. NAfME and the Broader Minded movement has another idea.
I share the belief that music positivley impacts academic achievement. I think that it goes beyond that. Understanding the world better is a residual of learners engaging in the authentic processes of creating and expressing musically. Music shapes the way our students understand themselves and the world around them. The Broader Minded Movement asks everyone to think beyond the bubbles of standardized tests and educate the whole student.
Here is the thing, learning is learning and thinking is thinking. Content areas are a way to curate thinking, much like hashtags. Teaching conceptually and through processes makes the learning holistic. There are unique ways of knowing the world through music that beings out expressive qualities in learners. Performing, composing, arranging, remixing, and genre shifting are a few processes in which learners are asked to collaborate, think critically, communicate, create, revise, and make decisions, all within the constraints of an essential question.
The video below shows how music can be a way to model and practice grit. “I wasn’t good when I started playing music, but I kept practicing and worked hard because I loved it, and I got better. I got blisters on my fingers when learning the guitar, but I played through them and it has made all the difference.”
Fifth grade learners are beginning to plan their Primary Years Program (PYP) Exhibition. The overarching theme is “How are you positively effecting your community?” I have been thinking about how I can connect the musical experiences we are having in my room to other ways of knowing.
Outside music room at West Hills Middle School, Michigan
Chalk Talk is a Visible Thinking Routine developed by Ron Ritchhart. This particular routine is designed as a written conversation used to uncover prior knowledge and questions. It is an open-ended discussion on paper. This routine ensures all voices are heard and allows individual thinking time. Originally designed as a silent written conversation, I have altered the use for our unique situation. I posted the question “How does music play a role in community?” outside of my classroom on a large bulletin board. The chalk talk is open to everyone in the school and is attracting students that are not in my classes. We are discussing the effects of music on culture in class and using the chalk talk as a springboard into these conversations.
Musician’s Statements and Technology
Thank you Tricia Fuglestad (@fuglefun)
Each musician is going to make a Musician’s Statement, then create and share them using the apps CamWow and Pic Collage. These two apps are free and work in tandem to create the image above. Musicians will make these next week
Step 1: Open CamWow and select the effect you would like to use. I chose the fuzzy b&w to keep the focus on the statement and name of the musician.
Step 2: Take the picture and share the picture to Photo Album.
Taken with CamWow
Step 3: Open PicCollage and Tap to create a new collage
Step 4: Add your photo from Camera Roll and double-tap to edit
Step 5: Choose Clip Photo and draw around your face with your finger and click Done. This step will allow you to clip out the CamWow watermark.
Step 6: Drag your clipped background to the garbage can in the upper right hand corner.
Step 7: Pinch the clipped picture to size and rotate. Be sure to leave room for the statement text and musician’s name.
Step 8: Tap the Layout button on the lower left of the screen and Change Background. I set the background to black to keep the focus on the statement and musician’s name.
Step 9: Tap the Plus button on the bottom of the screen to add text. Type the musician’s statement and name in separate text boxes to ensure separate movement and sizing. I put my statement on top and name on the bottom, but I would suggest to stage the test where it fits best with the picture. In the app, the capital “T” allows you to change the font, the pen changes the text color, the paint bucket changes the background color of the font, and the three dots adjusts the justification and text outline.
Step 10: Tap the share button on the lower right of the screen. I do not post to PicCollage. Save your PicCollage to Library.
Step 11: To collect the images, I have created a DropBox folder. Open DropBox, select your folder, and tap the three dots on the upper right corner of the screen. Choose your image and Upload.
I saw my friend Brandy Carlson, elementary art teacher in Walled Lake, Michigan, today and talked through this statement project. We made her image in 5 min. on the couch.
We are creating cover songs, green screen videos, and musician’s statements to prepare for Exhibition. On April 30th, the 5th grade learners will present their PYP projects and I can’t wait to see what they will contribute to their community.