UbD and the Ensemble: Backwards is Better!

Essential Questions: Why aren’t my students learning what I’m teaching? Why do I feel like I have to reteach concepts over and over and over again?

NCCAS Review Starts Today!

The National Coalition for Common Art Standards announced recently that they would be releasing drafts of the K-8 Art standards for review this evening. I watched the orientation video and was thrilled to find that the new Common Arts Standards will include Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions to accompany each standard!

The NCCAS is revising the 1994 Arts Standards for the 21st Century!

The NCCAS has deliberately chosen to help teachers in both general music and performance classrooms identify the understandings that students need to be successful as musicians.

The “So What?” of Music Education

One of the biggest buzzwords in music education in the last few years is advocacy. Everybody knows that music education is one of the first things to go when budgets get tight. Music educators lament the diminishing position of formal music in our society and the National Association for Music Education has gone as far to establish whole organizations dedicated to music education advocacy like the Advocacy Groundswell or the Give A Note Foundation.

These organizations are established to “cultivate an online community of NAfME members from across the country interested in participating in advocacy initiatives, engaging in discussions about advocacy and regularly digesting advocacy news”  and “to expand and increase music education opportunities for all children. 

But why do we need advocacy? We haven’t always needed to defend our profession so vehemently to school boards and superintendents. Certainly the culture has changed, but I’m not sure that’s all. I think the main reason that music educators struggle with advocacy in their districts and schools is that the reason for music education is not evident in every single rehearsal.

It’s not just about budgets. No one doubts the necessity of math or social studies (though curiously only one is tested regularly). I think it’s easier for music educators to get caught up in planning for concerts, half-time shows, or competitions that we sometimes fail to communicate the purpose and reason for our work in music education. We still know what those reasons are, but we fail to communicate them to our students, parents, administrators and communities.

I believe that Understanding By Design has the potential to refocus the work of band and choir directors by refocusing on the “Why?” and “So what?” of music. When we structure our units, performances, and rehearsals around the enduring understandings at the heart of musical life, we argue for music in schools with every lesson we teach.

Three Stages of Design

McTighe and Wiggins offer a model for curriculum unit design to ensure that the whole design is aligned to the understandings students should have at the end of the unit.

Identify Desired Results

What musical understandings should students possess? What questions are central to musical understandings? What questions and debates have musicians, composers, or philosophers wrestled with throughout history? What are the understandings that link all of the associated musical skills we want our students to learn?

By defining our desired understandings, questions, knowledge, and skills, ensemble leaders can structure rehearsal planning not only around preparing for a specific performance, but for preparing students for a lifetime of creative music making! Identifying the desired results answers the “so what?” of daily rehearsals!

Determine Acceptable Evidence

Is performance enough? Is it possible for students to do well in a playing test without understanding the concept? What kind of evidence would I need to prove student understanding? How do I know they will use that understanding on the next musical challenge?

What real-world musical activities can students engage in to prove they have gained a deeper understanding of a musical concept? When music educators think more deeply about the kind of understandings they want students to achieve, they design authentic performance tasks for students to prove that understandings. These performance tasks for authentic assessment should relate to and inform the students musical performance. They should reflect the real challenges that musicians face in the world and evince the musical understandings achieved through musical practice. Again, when students encounter real musical challenges that result in deep understanding, the reason for our work as music educators becomes evident in the daily work of students.

planning learning experiences and instruction

How well do my current strategies foster student understanding? What doesn’t work? Where can I become more effective? Are my teaching strategies resulting in student understanding? How well are my rehearsal strategies pointing toward the enduring understandings I want my students to achieve? 

The daily rehearsal plan must evince the design work we have done as educators so that students come away with the skills necessary to perform in concert as well as the understandings necessary to make musical decisions in future musical experiences. When students are confronted with the questions at the heart of musical study, each rehearsal and practice session becomes a quest to deeper understanding.

The UbD Design Standards

In the world of UbD, it isn’t enough to use the system to design a lesson. The authors stress the importance of submitting designs to critical review by the designer, administrators, and peers using established standards that ensure that unit designs are truly aligned and best elicit authentic understandings.

This process of critical review also enables teachers to collaborate, refine their skills, and build their professional repertoire in order to better create learning experiences for their students.

UbD Design Standards by Stage

UbD Design Standards by Stage

Stage One: To what extent does the design teach musical concepts behind the musical skills and literature used in the design?

Stage Two: To what extent does the assessments measure understanding and not just achievement of skills or discreet knowledge? It is not enough to provide the musical experience. Assessment of understanding and for learning is vital.

Stage Three: How does the daily rehearsal engage students in meaningful learning for understanding?

This is what I failed to account for in my first UbD unit. I didn’t connect the performance to the musical experience. I relied on simple activities and hoped that enduring understandings would find their way into the lesson! I didn’t present students with the challenging questions at the heart of the musical experience. Not because I didn’t try, but because I don’t think I understood it fully myself!

That’s why I’m so excited to read through the K-8 Common Arts Standards! They have the potential to help music educators identify the understandings that all students should have in the arts.

How do your units and rehearsals match up? How successful have you been in structuring your rehearsals for enduring understandings and transfer? What specific strategies have you found successful in teaching for understanding and transfer? What enduring understandings and essential questions have caught your students’ attention?

Enduring Understanding: Units designed with the desired results of learning at the center are more likely to result in authentic student understanding.

From the Stage to the Classroom: Reflection on Patty Oeste’s MEJ Article

I’m not even sure we have one of these in this little college town!

I love getting mail! Unfortunately, 4 times out of 5 my mailbox is filled with credit card offers and flyers from the SuperSaver that got my address when I tried to win a big flat screen TV at their grand opening. Yesterday, though, I was happy to find this quarter’s edition of the Music Educator’s Journal published by NAfME. Usually, I scan through these and read one or two articles and let the rest sit, but this issue is packed full of great material and I’ve been totally absorbed in it for the last two days.

I loved Patty Oeste’s discussion of why she left the stage as a performer and became a music educator.

“Every student who enters my classroom is a story being written, and I am allowed to contribute a page or two. My pages are important, and I do not take this responsibility lightly. … I see the power of music in action every day. My students thrive. They learn to listen, and they learn to be flexible in their thinking. They take risks, and gladly. And what is truly amazing is that many students who enter my classroom don’t always shine in other classrooms. But, we can revel in their many successes in music. We laugh. We talk. We sing. We create.

I would have to say that I am not hear to teach music, but to surround my students with the beauty they may not find elsewhere.”

This description is exactly why I love teaching music! Teaching music is about giving students the chance to experience beauty that is not found elsewhere. We prepare them to encounter the world’s beauty wherever they might find it.

I also loved Ms. Oeste’s description of what leaving the performing stage was like:

“I found that the perfection and discipline demanded on stage is even more important in the classroom setting.”

Riga, Latvia after one of our last collegiate performances ever!

Riga, Latvia after one of our last collegiate performances ever!

The last five years I spent working toward my performance degree was not wasted. It trained me to be disciplined, to seek perfection, and to build an attitude of excellence that I will bring to my future classroom every day.

 

#etmooc Digital Story Telling Experiment: Animated GIF v. 2

Here’s a “prototype” gif for teaching students how to draw treble clefs, and learn the order of sharps and flats. Not perfect, but I think it has potential!

I know it is not a story per se, but I think it is a really interesting way to teach a concept like this!

I created this with the iPad app Moquu.

What other concepts or ideas could be taught using this kind of media?

EDIT: Here’s another one teaching intervals in the key of C!

#etmooc Digital Story Telling Experiment: Animated GIF!

I haven’t ventured into creating my own content for an animated gif just yet (I’m still tossing around ideas), but I thought I’d try making a gif of an awesome video with music by the Zurich Chamber Orchestra.

I love this video because of how perfectly the staff syncs with the music and how the animators chose to highlight the drama of the music with the intensity of the rollercoaster.

If I was an animator as well as an educator, it would be awesome to animate student performances! Maybe make it an after concert project option? So many cool ways to go with this!

Anyway, here’s the gif! I had a really great time making it, and it was very easy!

I followed Jim Groom’s super easy to follow tutorial on making gifs using Open Source Software which can be found here!

Check out my other digital storytelling experiments here and here.

For all my other #etmooc (Educational Technology Massive Open Online Course) postings, check out my ETMOOC category here

30 Day Blog Challenge Day 2

Day 2: What do you believe is your greatest strength as a teacher?

What’s the saying about “man’s best-laid plans?” One of the best lessons I learned in Student Teaching was that a well-thought out lesson plan will sometimes go south. That half of your students will be on a trip. They aren’t picking up something as quickly as you hoped. You weren’t informed about a fire drill. Someone tries to throw a chair.

I think one of my biggest strengths as a teacher is my ability to adapt to unusual circumstances and be flexible in my teaching and planning. As a student teacher I worked with four very different cooperating teachers, and an ever-changing landscape of student interactions. Many days my plans were fine and I think I taught some great lessons during student teaching. But there were certainly times where things did not go according to plan.

It’s easy to get frustrated. To let the students talk until the bell, to play a simple game. Certainly better planning is needed, but in those moments, when my best-laid plans have been laid waste (even by a Kindergartener!), I find that I figure it out. I don’t know if it’s intuition, training, or sheer luck, but the teacher in me comes out. You find ways to make it work and meet the students where they are.

Is it always perfect? Of course not. During one of my supervisor observations I realized I had not properly pre-assessed the knowledge of a group of late elementary students and had to completely revise my plan, but I saw their frustration and didn’t try to charge forward with my plan. It seems like such a small thing, but I recognize now that it was an important moment in my teaching. I messed up, recognized it in the students, and fixed it on the spot.

So my greatest strength as a teacher right now is flexibility (and content knowledge, and pedagogy, and student relationships, and a bunch of other principle friendly lingo). Maybe one day my planning will catch up to my teaching, but until then, I know I can adapt and adjust to any situation those students can throw at me!

30 Day Blog Challenge Day 1

Day 1: How did you decide to become a teacher?

When I started college I was a pre-seminary student pursuing an undergraduate degree in Vocal Performance. During my sophomore year, I decided to drop the seminary certificate and pursue education as a career.

Photograph of The Boxcar Children books on a shelf.

I loved The Boxcar Children books as a kid! Will need to find a set before I have children of my own! Creative Commons License 2011, janielle23, http://www.flickr.com/photos/janellie23/5557021621/

I’ve always loved school. In elementary school I would have my father drive me to school early to get everything ready and make sure I was prepared for the day’s learning. I’ve always loved to read. We joke in my family that my mother once collapsed in the library while pregnant with me, and that I’ve loved to read ever since. I’ve always loved music. I remember standing and singing in my classes at my first elementary school and being told I had one of the best voices in the class.

But I’m not a teacher because I love school, because I love to read, or because I love music. I’m a teacher because I believe education is the place that I can best make a change in this world. Teaching is the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done, and I’ve only been a student teacher! There’s something incredible about making music with students and helping them find their voice and their song.

As a student teacher I worked at two different schools, with four different cooperating teachers, and with close to 700 students from grades K-12. I will never remember all of them. But I will remember that it was there that I discovered my love for teaching. It was not a chore to get up in the morning and drive 30 minutes to school with coffee in hand.

Instead, I greeted my students cheerfully (even at 7am!) and asked how their weekend was, or how the One-Act was coming along. I decided to become a teacher because I think I already was a teacher. When I wanted to be a pastor, I was drawn to the teaching aspects of the office.

Keep Calm and Teach On

Copyright 2012 Ashley Kipp at Simply Designing http://simplydesigning.blogspot.com/

As I wrote in my post, Teacher to Student, I have felt a great loss in my transition back to being a college student. I don’t receive the same fulfillment as I did during student teaching. But a bit of that spark comes back each time I browse the classifieds of districts I’m hoping to apply for, and I look forward to the day when I have students of my own again.

I guess I never did really decide to become a teacher. Instead, I chose a major and teaching found me along the way. I’ll never look back.

 

NMEA 2012 Day 2: I Miss My Students?!

Only a struggling young teacher would be this excited about a book with a title like, “Classroom Management in the Music Room: Pin-drop quiet rehearsals and classes.”

Of all the really great sessions and performances I saw today (including a stunning performance by the University of Nebraska – Omaha’s Symphonic Wind Ensemble), my favorite was by far David Newell’s extremely practical, common sense approach to classroom management.

After the last few weeks of middle school choir and band, I was on the prowl for the best resources, strategies, and techniques for managing large numbers of middle school students. As soon as I saw the title of the session (the pin-drop quiet part seemed excessive), I knew I had to be there! Thankfully, we sat down just before they started turning away people due to capacity concerns.

I took pages of notes in Evernote, recorded audio of the whole session, and had to track down someone else’s copy of the handout to take a picture of it! I intend to purchase the book as soon as it is released. I don’t want to say too much, because I think Mr. Newell deserves every penny and ounce of credit for creating such a fantastic resource, but he managed to take the classroom management techniques I had heard described for years in college education courses and apply them to the specific challenges of music classrooms.

I can’t recommend his management sessions strongly enough, and I’m sure his work on teaching rhythm is just as fantastic. In fact, that will be some great reading while I await the publication of his new book.

One more day of professional development tomorrow including performances by my own Concordia University Nebraska Wind Ensemble, the Doane College Choir, and a Nebraska Choral Directors reading session and conducting/Alexander Technique Workshop with Dr. Courtney Snyder of the University of Nebraska Omaha (whose conducting took my breath away at the UNO performance mentioned above).

One more day of meeting professional educators as a young teacher, not just a student. My cooperating teacher was awarded the chair for Middle Level education, and it was great to meet some of his colleagues throughout the state, as well as various clinicians and professionals from the state and the nation (including current national NAfME president, Nancy Ditmer and the president-elect).

One more day of affirming experiences that remind me that I have chosen/been chosen for a profession that I believe in so strongly and love so much. In fact, all of this talking about teaching music has made me almost miss seeing my students (which is almost masochism at this point).

I know I’m not a master teacher yet by any means. But I know that the Mr. Jensen that will stand before his students on Monday is not the same Mr. Jensen they have known for the last 4 weeks. It’s a new day, and I’m ready to make music.