“Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” (Cue music)

Photo by Jordan Benton from Pexels

Greetings from the sandbox! Welcome back Online9! The school year started off, well, late. We moved schools – from one location to another. The new school is bigger, brighter, state of the art, etc., I could go on. Needless to say, everything is behind schedule, including our units of inquiry. Still, we begin our 2018 school year. Here we go!  

 

This year, my teaching responsibilities have been extend to the upper grades. I am now the music teacher for students from grades one through five. My teaching schedule is packed, but I welcomed the challenge with the “older” kids. I knew they were capable of so much more – musically – and I couldn’t wait to start! The first few weeks of school were all about establishing essential agreements and assessing prior knowledge. Boy, was I in for a surprise! The students weren’t quite at the level I expected, in addition, they brought more sass and drama (insert eye roll here). But despite this, we must persevere. Onward!

What do you plan to do and why?

My aim is to reevaluate my current teaching approach and experiment with a flipped classroom with my upper elementary music students. This endeavor will hopefully achieve the following:

  • To create a digital library of video tutorials of me and/or my students performing on instruments
  • To provide an opportunity to teach in small groups for students needing more support
  • To challenge students needing advanced music literature
  • To personalize the learning for individual inquiry
  • To provide an authentic audience (with other classes and/or schools)
  • To empower students to create and spread the joy of music making

In a previous blog, Confessions of a purist, I mentioned my hesitation of technology and its place in a specialized subject, i.e. the arts. As such, I want to determine whether or not a flipped classroom can be a strategy to authentically integrate technology in my classroom without sacrificing my content.

“Confessions of a purist”

I stumbled upon a blog post which introduces flipped classroom and suggests how to prepare students before coming to a flipped class. One takeaway was the notion that no two flipped classrooms look exactly the same, just as no two traditional classrooms look the same. I was relieved! I was concerned that MY version of the flipped classroom wasn’t credible. Which brings me to. . .

How do you think you might get there?

To begin, I’d like to model the flipped classroom for my students. My thought was to use a video tutorial as a provocation. The students will have access to their own iPads and headphones. The students will log onto Google Classroom and proceed with the first task – to watch a video tutorial. The video tutorial will be no longer than a minute and the students will have the opportunity to replay the video as many times as necessary for them to learn an excerpt to play on an instrument (xylophones or recorders). After some time, we will come together as a group and perform what we have learned. This moment of the lesson will determine whether or not they were able to learn the excerpt on their own or if they need more support. The students will write comments on GC regarding the video to provide feedback regarding the pros and cons of the video and how we can improve the next one. Hopefully the format of the videos will remain consistent so that the students learn the “formula” of the video, enough to create their own (insert storyboard here). As a result, not only do the students demonstrate their music skills, but they have created a product that can be used for assessment and to share with a greater audience.

"The Flipped Classroom is a pedagogy-first approach that strives to meet the needs of the learners in our individual schools and communities. It is much more an ideology than it is a specific methodology…there is no prescribed set of rules to follow or model to fit…Practitioners of the various flipped classroom models are constantly tweaking, changing, rejecting, adding to, and generally trying to improve the model through direct experience with how effective it is for kids." 

- from the blog post "How do I get my students to prepare before coming to a flipped class?"
What are you hoping to see in your students learning as you conduct the project?

My Central Idea (or Enduring Understanding for those who use the Understanding by Design a.k.a. UbD framework) is: Musicians practice and reflect to improve their skills for a successful performance. THAT is what I hope to see in my students as we conduct this project. I want them to experience the practice and discipline necessary to have a successful performance. I can already predict that this unit will be longer than expected due to the time constraints – I only see them once a week – and (fingers crossed), the students will want more time in order to have a good product to share.

In theory I’ve got some basic ideas, but in practice is a different story. The project attempts to blend what I’ve learned in our previous courses – geeking out from Course 1, design principles in Course 3 and flipped classroom in Course 4.  I’m ecstatic to get started, and I hope that moving forward, this project will positively impact not only my teaching practice, but also my budding musicians.

Catch you on the flip side! (See what I did there?)

Alphabet Soup

PBL. CBL. RAFT. GRASPS. UOI. FBI. SOS. Whew! Nowadays, we educators have to navigate the alphabet soup of teaching and learning. There’s so much to keep up with! So much so, that in my music room, I’ve designed my own word wall – for me, NOT the students – so I can remember the jargon. After reading the articles on problem-based, project-based and challenged-based learning, I’ve discovered that the main tenets overlap in that they all share a similar goal of applying knowledge and skills to a real life situation, collaboration among peers, teachers serve as a mentor or facilitator, and so forth. There are slight differences, but, as we say here in the Middle East, they’re “Same, same!”

Using the RAFT summative assessment model, I recently embarked on a project with my students. I wasn’t aware at the time, but knowing what I know now, it can be categorized under project-based learning.

Task: You are an entertainment company. You are to choose a short story and perform it for the school community. As a class, you must organize yourselves as the the actors/actresses, artists and musicians. You will perform this story in [insert date here]. Good luck!

Personally, it was challenging to ‘let go’ of the reigns. I became a mentor – a facilitator. I supported by taking notes and documenting their thinking and their process; but, the majority of the work was student led. They took ownership of their roles because they were able to choose what and how to contribute to the group. Come October 2018, the enhanced PYP will be introduced where student agency is now a major component. Woohoo! Look at us being ahead of the game!

As weeks went by, I was able to sit with the students and create backdrops, props and masks. Little did I know, my quiet Abdulla* was a fantastic artist. Even the class didn’t know that we had a hidden gem! We discovered the natural leaders of the group because they ended up “directing” everyone on stage by telling them where to go and where to face. My little ensemble of musicians discussed what sounds effects and melodies would help the story come to life. Stepping back and seeing the magic happen was a real treat. The process of organizing, creating and executing the short story and seeing its success was evidence enough for me to reevaluate my teaching approach.  

After the performance, we had a moment of reflection. Could it have been better? Yes. Do the students want to embark on another project? Absolutely! The students had purpose. They wanted to share their talents for the school community. They embraced the idea of performing for their little brothers, sisters, cousins in the younger grades. They wanted to “attend meetings” with the artists or the musicians to discuss their ideas. They felt that the meetings made them feel as if they were “adults” in the real world. (Believe me, kid. You’ll regret saying that later). They gained social skills, communication skills, thinking skills, etc., ALL of the skills necessary to achieve a common goal. Maybe there IS something to this whole alphabet soup of teaching and learning…

But what about me?

Thinking back, I feel that I’ve missed out on this whole problem-based, project-based, challenge-based learning approach. It would have been fun to take part in something that my students get to experience now. If given the opportunity, training teachers using this approach would allow us (especially us as children of the late 80’s and 90’s) to participate in this learning model. If given a task and a deadline, I would seize the opportunity to take on a role that I choose, contribute by utilizing my best skills and learning alongside my peers. Who knows what I could have learned and how I could have turned out! But alas, we can glance at the past, but we must move forward to ensure our students can learn and grow so they can navigate their future.

Jack Ma said it best during his talks at the recent World Economic Forum. Take a look for yourselves. Have a great week!

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LH-fdIkdL_Q[/youtube]