Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Building Practice Skills in Elementary from the Ground Up in 4 easy steps.

My students cannot wait to take their recorders home!  From the minute we order them until the day finally arrives, they beg and plead and wheedle, trying to get me to let them take their recorders home.  But so far, I haven't ever been entirely pleased with the progress my students make once they go home.   I've noticed that 3 things often happen. 
1.  Some students keep practicing because they LOVE IT!  - They love music, they love me, they love playing recorder and they are enthusiastic in everything they do. 
2.  Some students struggle on if I reward them enough..... Recorder Karate and other such programs, is perfect for the type of student that benefits from constant feedback and encouragement
3.  Some students give up and sometimes get angry.  They might love music, they might even love me, but no amount of incentive will clarify for them HOW to transition from making noise to making music.  Sometimes these students have other learning issues going on that they bring with them to music and asking them to practice recorder when they have no idea HOW to practice is like asking them to empty the Atlantic with a spaghetti sieve.  These are the students who we work with most during class while the other students are working more or less independently.  Sometimes these students are perfectly bright and capable and often gifted learners, but they are perfectionists who struggle with the process of developing a new skill if it's not easy the first time. 

Regardless, one of the most valuable reasons to take recorders home and have students figure it out at home is because when we teach our children to develop any skill independently, we are teaching them not just how to play an instrument but how to succeed in life. 

I've decided that this year, when it's time to take our recorders home, it will be after we have had a lesson in building practice skills. 

These anchor charts were developed with that in mind. 

I plan on starting with a blank house with numbers..... 

1.  A beautiful tone is the __________________
2. Correct Rhythms create the _____________
3. Correct Pitches create the _________
4. Beautiful phrases and articulation add ___________ 

As a class we will discuss the chart and fill it out. 

This will be on a large tablet.  As we discuss each section starting with the foundation and moving up, we will gather ideas about how we could practice that specific skill at home. 
The 2nd step will be when we use post it notes, or pop corn ideas to create what will become a practice skills sheet that they take home with their recorders.     My version is cleaned up and it is what I will guide them toward, but you know, I bet they come up with some ideas and some ways of thinking about practice that will be better than my "summer brain" came up with. Once we've created the take home version, the large version can go up on the wall as a reminder.... we might even right key words around in the different areas. of the chart so that students can refer to the chart during class. 

One aspect that I am going to highlight is the "Try Again Tree" - persistence, doggedness, tenacity, determination.... those are the words that I use to describe the people who I know who are most accomplished in life.  I don't care if my 5th graders ever play another note on recorder after I send them home, BUT, I do want them to remember that good things happen when we try again. 

Once the ideas are gathered, the students will synthesis their knowledge and decide what should go on their class practice sheet.  I'll make regular 8.5x11 of our guided collection of ideas..... This is my "cheat sheet" to help me keep them on track to make sure that they end up with at least these tips to help them..... Theirs will probably be better. 

I also want my students to understand the illusively artistic idea that there is ALWAYS one more thing that can be more beautiful.  That is why my musical house has a "try again" tree in front.    Our tone can always be more pure.  Our rhythm can always be more accurate.  Our pitches and how we move between them can always been cleaner and our interpretation can always become more beautiful.   I'm hoping that this anchor chart and resulting home-practice sheet will not just build better musical practice skills in my students but build better people.  :)

Friday, July 18, 2014

New and Improved FREE! lesson plan printable!

Hey everyone! 

Lesson plans are like we are, they grow and change over time.  I've never used the same lesson plan format from one year to the next and every year, and I'm always motivated to  come up with some new way to frame my thinking in an effort to be both creative and efficient. 

Here is my latest effort.   - If this printable version is ALMOST it, but you REALLY want to edit, please email me and I'll send you a version you can edit. THANKS! 


Friday, July 11, 2014

Silent Practice - Anchor Chart

I love teaching recorder! Last year I developed an anchor chart similar to this one in order to help my students develop good independent rehearsal skills for those times in class when I need to hear a small group of students rather than the whole class.  When I am working with a small group I remind everyone to "go through their check list".  

Before expecting them to be independent at this I demonstrate with a sort of silent practice "think aloud".  I want them to get used to thinking of their recorder method book as a non-fiction text. Before setting them loose, I make sure thry know where to find the places in the book where certain rhythms are introduced as well as where their note name chart and fingering chart exist. 
Ocassionally I take grades on how they practice. Even when we practice "outloud" we refer to the chart

I noticed this year that my recorder classes were MUCH more productive and students were on task much more often because I was able to give them clear expectations about what to do when they need to be occassionally quiet.  

Thursday, July 10, 2014

7 Keys to Great Singing - Anchor Chart

I like to build my anchor charts with my students as a way to consolidate and represent our learning. However, I've found that I have a hard time using them well unless I've done some design work before hand. With that in mind I am developing some ideas on regular paper so that when I need them during the school year I'll be set and ready to go. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Yummy Award! - July 2014 - The Rockets Red Glare: Celebrating the History of the Star Spangled Banner

July 2014
The Rocket's Red Glare: Celebrating the History of The Star Spangled Banner (Book and CD)
by Peter Alderman

I just got this book yesterday and I've very excited about incorporating it into our study of patriotic music next year.   The book contains a CD with a recording of our national anthem as sung by Jo Dee Messina.  Her version is not as ornamented as some (which is good)  nor as true to the melody as I would like (which is bad), but on the whole,  it's nice enough, ESPECIALLY if this was part of a sub lesson.  I plan on using my own recording or having the students sing it themselves when we use it.  The biggest problem with her recording is that it is VERY VERY S-L-O-W!! 
The BEST part about this book is that it has a nicely recorded reading of ALL of the text in the book..... The recording is about 8 minutes long and even includes a spoken reading of ALL of the verses of the Star Spangled Banner.    I REALLY like this book because it retells many of the historical facts that I often forget to share with my students when I'm feeling low on time.