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.  :)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for a great post! I love the "try-again tree". It's truly difficult for some students to understand that musicians don't always get it right the first time, in fact, we rarely do! :)